LEEDS RHINOS’ Wembley hopes are still alive and kicking, winger Tom Briscoe insists, despite their latest setback.
Rhinos will go into Sunday’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final, against Warrington Wolves at Bolton’s Macron Stadium, on the back of a dismal 38-22 loss away to Salford Red Devils.
That was Rhinos’ fourth game under director of rugby Kevin Sinfield and first-team coach James Lowes. They were beaten heavily at Castleford Tigers, but seemed to be improving when they drew with Wakefield Trinity before crushing Widnes Vikings 34-0.
“Obviously last week was a setback,” Briscoe conceded. “It’s not something we wanted.
“We talked about making little improvements each week since Kev’s come back and unfortunately at the weekend we fell away from that.
“We had a good performance against Widnes and defensively we were very good to keep them to zero, but on Friday we didn’t do the things that built that performance against Widnes.
This is the biggest game of our season and we’ve got to look at it that way and make sure everyone’s performing at 100 per cent.Tom Briscoe
“We know we’ve got a big challenge to get back to where we were and even better.
“This is the biggest game of our season and we’ve got to look at it that way and make sure everyone’s performing at 100 per cent.”
Warrington are in much better form, but Briscoe reckons at this stage of the competition every tie is a 50-50 game.
“That’s the beauty of the Cup,” he observed. “The sort of team we are, we know what we are capable of.
“We’ve had a bit of bad luck and inconsistency in the league, but we know what we can do and, if everyone gives it everything and has a good game, we know we’re capable of getting through to Wembley.”
Briscoe has been one of Rhinos’ most consistent performers in a tough campaign.
He is the team’s top try scorer, with 13 in 25 appearances and has his sights set on a fifth Wembley final having been a winner there with Leeds in 2014 and 2015 and runner-up in 2008 and 2013 when he played for Hull.
Briscoe scored a record five tries in a Lance Todd Trophy-winning performance when Rhinos crushed Hull KR 50-0 in the final three years ago and is keen to make up for the disappointment of last season when both he and the team underperformed in the semi-final and were beaten 43-24 by Hull.
“I’ve put it behind me, I feel like I’ve forgotten about that and I am playing well at the minute,” he said of Rhinos’ Cup exit in 2017.
“To get a good performance in a game that last year didn’t go so well would be nice, but to be in good form in the league, I am happy with that.”
Leeds Rhinos will begin their battle against relegation next week when the Betfred Qualifiers kick-off. They are the only middle-eights side left in the Cup, but Briscoe insisted: “I think distraction’s the wrong word.
“The Cup’s something we are looking forward to.
“It is a change and it’s chance to freshen things up.
“We’ll enjoy the week and enjoy the build-up and enjoy playing at that stadium.
“It will be a different experience for everyone and the double-header as well.
“Hopefully the stadium will be packed out, there’ll be a good atmosphere and we can put on a good game.”