BOGEY CLUB Huddersfield Giants usually make life tough for Leeds Rhinos and winger Ryan Hall hopes that will be the case again tonight.
Rhinos close their Betfred Super-8s campaign with a trip to John Smith’s Stadium, where they have won only twice in their last eight visits.
The most recent of those was earlier this season, but Giants won the return and are one of only two sides – along with league leaders Castleford Tigers – to beat Rhinos at Headingley this year.
Giants will finish eighth on the Super-8s table whatever happens tonight and have been well beaten in their last two games, but Hall expects them to raise their game this evening and reckons Leeds need to be challenged a week ahead of their sudden-death Super League semi-final.
“We need a tough one,” Hall said of tonight. “You have to produce your best in games like that and that’s what we need to do.
“We need to think about our momentum and our performance going into the semi-final. We need to perform well and take confidence through into that and we have to carry some momentum forward because that means quite a lot going into these big games.
“We need to get our chemistry right between players and make sure we perform well as a team, because that will be good for us going into the semi-final and hopefully the Grand Final the week after.”
Rhinos ran in eight tries and kept their own line intact against Salford a week ago. They have conceded only one try and 10 points in their last two hours on the field and Hall added: “We have shown all year what we can do, now we just need to bundle it all together into this week, then the semi-final and the final if we get there.”
Rhinos have lacked consistency at times this season, but Hall insisted he is not worried by that. He said: “I’m quite mature as a player now, I’ve been among it for a long time – this is my 11th year – and that’s how Leeds are, either rocks or diamonds.
“That’s how we play the game and ultimately it has brought us quite a bit of success and hopefully we will repeat that again this year.”
Two years ago Rhinos won at Huddersfield in their final game of the Super-8s to snatch top spot from Wigan’s grasp.
They were trailing by eight points inside the final 10 minutes, but Tom Briscoe’s try and a Kevin Sinfield conversion from the touchline narrowed the gap, then the captain levelled the scores with a late penalty goal.
Giants kicked off with less than a minute remaining and on the final play Danny McGuire’s kick was taken by Hall to run in a sensational winning touchdown. That took Leeds to 41 points and they will reach 40 if they win tonight. After finishing ninth last year, Leeds have been the most improved team in 2017.
“It is a different yardstick this year,” Hall said. “In 2015 when we won the treble it was a lot tighter. Castleford have obviously been very consistent this year and they’ve not taken their foot off the gas.
“They are a good side and they will take some beating.”
On a personal level, Hall has scored 14 tries in 31 games this term. Coach Brian McDermott has said the England man is getting back to ‘world’s best winger’ form and that is despite a change of centre partner midway through the campaign.
With Joel Moon moving to stand-off, Liam Sutcliffe has taken over alongside Hall and the winger said: “Sutty is a quality player, that’s why he has always been in the side.
“He has never had a home, his own position, but he has been quality in every position he has played. He just needs to keep producing the performances he has been doing and he might make a full-time centre. You never know, but he knows how to play and he understands the game and that’s made it quite easy.”
Rhinos will need their outside-backs to shine if they are reach and win the Grand Final in 15 days’ time.
Castleford and Leeds have both already secured their semi-final place, but don’t yet know who their opponents will be.
“It doesn’t matter who we play,” Hall insisted.
“We are just glad we’ve got the home fixture.
“It will be strange without the South Stand being there, but home is home. We will be playing in our own environment and that’s what we like best.”
Capacity for the semi-final next Friday will be reduced to 12,500, with up to 3,000 away fans, but Hall still believes playing at Headingley is an advantage.
“You are comfortable at home,” he said.
“You know the routine and you don’t have to travel anywhere – you get up and do your thing and you feel more comfortable.
“The majority of fans will be our fans, they are passionate and they will scream the house down – they will make it an intimidating place for the other team to come and play.
“Talking to players at other clubs, when they mention coming to Headingley to play they say it is intimidating – it makes everyone else feel a bit more uncomfortable when they play here.”