LEEDS RHINOS have gone from hunters to hunted and it will take “a bit of steel” to keep them in Betfred Super League.
That is how veteran forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan sees what is set to be the most crucial month in the club’s history.
Last week’s 38-36 home loss to Hull KR in the Qualifiers left Rhinos battling for their top-flight lives and piled on the pressure ahead of Sunday’s visit to Widnes Vikings.
The top-three at the end of the eight-team Qualifiers will play in Super League next year with the final spot being decided in a one-off shoot-out between the sides in fourth and fifth.
Rhinos are one of a quartet of teams on four points, two behind Salford Red Devils.
Defeat in four days’ time would not be the end of the road, but – with in-form Salford next up – would leave Rhinos facing the prospect of sudden-death in the million pound game.
Rhinos led by 10 points for a spell in the second half against Hull KR, but defensively they carried on from where they left off in the previous game at London Broncos when they conceded 22 points in the final 20 minutes.
“It is symptomatic of what has escalated all year, we’ve been exponentially poor,” Jones-Buchanan said.
“We have got a bit worse as the season has gone on.
“People are a bit jittery and lacking in confidence and we’ve just not got that ruthlessness in us. That’s symptomatic of being the hunted instead of the hunters which we have been in the past.
“These are new experiences and things we have got to go through and we have got to show a bit of steel to earn the right to stay in Super League.”
The 37-year-old, a seven-time Grand Final winner, stressed: “We have got to turn it around.
“We have got to get our head on the next game because that (last week’s performance) wasn’t good enough.
“Offensively we scored some points and there was a lot of good stuff to look at, but to concede 38 points in a play-off competition like this is nowhere near enough, it is soft and we need to clean it up really quick.”
Widnes have lost all three of their Qualifiers fixtures, including defeats by Championship sides London and Toulouse Olympique and look to be heading for automatic relegation.
Jones-Buchanan said: “It is a huge game. We have not had much joy over there when things have been going well.
“We had a really narrow win there in the Challenge Cup this year, but that means nothing now. They are a desperate side and we have just got to put our best foot forward and go there and compete because the consequences of not winning are absolutely dire.”
The former England man insisted Rhinos can still pull through. He added: “We have got some good lads, great coaches and people committed to the cause. We will pull together this week, look at what we are good at and see what we can clean up and, hopefully, go over there with a strong side and get a result.”