Our YEP Jury give their verdicts on the victory over Catalans Dragons and the derbies to come against Castleford and Wakefield.
It’s always a tough fixture in the south of France with the partisan crowd and the added bonus this year of a strong wind and setting sun.
As in the past, the team did the return trip in one day, though they did seem to be lethargic in the first quarter which makes me wonder whether it is still a good idea.
We did take a while to get into our stride, making several unforced errors even though Carl Ablett scored an early try.
Catalans then levelled it before we got our noses in front just before half-time. After the break three quick-fire Catalans tries whipped up the noise from the home crowd and the Dragons had their tails up.
One of the tries came after an error from Ryan Hall, who I feel is not playing with much confidence at the moment. This sparked yet another second-half revival, which we can’t keep doing!
The bench played a major part in the revival, especially Rob Burrow, whilst Mitch Achurch and Brett Delaney both steadied the ship, as well as some good leadership qualities from Danny McGuire, sporting two black eyes from last week’s game.
His try followed some good interplay between Hall (a glimpse of what he is capable of) and Joel Moon.
A Kallum Watkins try was sandwiched by two comical tries, one from a slip from Willie Tonga with an awkward bouncing ball for Liam Sutcliffe, the other from a weak goal line drop out giving Zak Hardaker a walk-in.
This was another game that we nearly let slip away from us due to a lack of concentration, causing unnecessary off-loading, instead of applying pressure.
Although the 28 unanswered points should have pleased (head coach) Brian McDermott more than his opposite number Laurent Frayssinous.
Both teams were missing key players and, hopefully, Sir Kev and Kylie Leuluai will be back for the busy two-game Easter weekend.
The first is the tricky visit to Castleford tomorrow who, no matter how they are playing, will always lift their game when they play us.
Let’s hope for a bumper crowd, a good performance and a win to keep us at the top of the league – and a repeat against Wakefield on Monday.
I said in my preview last week that we would score a fair few points against Catalans and it would be a comfortable win.
It turned out to be less than comfortable for a while but once we turned up the heat then the earlier problems were soon forgotten.
To win in France is always a tough ask for most teams.
I’m sure going there and back in a day helps; we seem to cope with it better than most teams.
We were outstanding, and some excellent individual performances from Rob Burrow, Ash Handley, Liam Sutcliffe and Stevie Ward combined for an excellent team victory.
I’ve said in earlier previews that we will improve as the season progresses in all departments of the team.
It doesn’t seem to be enough for some fans of our team, though. There’s panic for no reason.
So now on to the Easter programme. First up is a trip to Castleford, who will be revved up for us as usual, as will Wakefield on Monday.
I see us winning both games easily. Cas aren’t firing yet and Wakefield have a lot of injuries. Both can be dangerous opposition for us if our attitude isn’t spot on though.
We will need to be composed and keep our discipline, as local derbies can be spicy affairs.
The Wakefield game could be a chance to introduce some of the younger players.
As we know Catalans is always a tough place to visit and you never know what kind of performance the Dragons will produce.
They have been out of sorts of late and have a few key players out injured. I was confident the Rhinos would come away with the points, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for Leeds. We made too many unforced errors and put ourselves under pressure as Catalans went into a 22-10 lead and looked to be on course for victory. But, as ever, the Rhinos came to life in the last quarter of the game and played some fantastic rugby. Rob Burrow and Kallum Watkins sparkled on a windy night in France.
Castleford and Wakefield up next – surely that’s four points in the bag as we sit pretty at the top of the league.
We certainly didn’t make this an easy game making several errors, leaving gaps and allowing Catalans three easy tries in the second half.
But we rallied to score five unaswered tries. Kallum Watkins was my stand-out; his sheer speed and ability to move was brilliant to watch.
A trip to Catalans is never easy and they made us work hard to claim the win.
Rob Burrow was the difference-maker in what was, overall, a scrappy game in which we committed too many errors that could have cost us.
But after trailing 22-10, we dug deep and, thanks to 28 unanswered points, we turned it around and reclaimed top spot with our sixth win in seven games.
Back-to-back Yorkshire derbies are next at Castleford tomorrow before a home game against Wakefield on Monday.
Regardless of league positions, form goes out of the window when it comes to derbies, but that said, the Rhinos will finish the Easter period with two more wins and will remain top of Super League.
I feared the worst after the start of the second half, but another great comeback at one of the toughest grounds to play.
Stevie Ward was again very good, but I thought Rob Burrow was terrific in the final 25 minutes. A busy Easter period now, starting with Castleford’s cup final!