Leeds Rhinos’ youngsters have proved they are ready to step up when asked to, assistant-coach Chris Plume reckons.
Rhinos completed an unbeaten pre-season when a team made up largely of fringe players and under-19s won 42-14 at Kingstone Press Championship outfit Doncaster yesterday.
Leeds will have to rely on some inexperienced youngsters if injuries strike this year and Plume said: “I have always said to the young players they are never as far away as they think they are. What they need to do is work hard, so when the knock on the door comes they are ready. I think some of these boys are now.”
Rhinos trailed three times, but scored 30 unanswered points in the final half an hour and Plume was pleased with how they handled a tough test.
“I think Doncaster were very good early on,” Plume said. “They got a bit of a touch-up last week against Hunslet.
“I was reading their coach Paul Cooke’s programme notes before the game and he was speaking in there about how disappointed he was and that they had been out-muscled and out-enthused. I expected that kind of reaction. They really pressurised us into making errors and coming up with uncharacteristic things which we hadn’t planned to do. That’s credit to them, but when we had weathered that storm we started to show what we could do.
“We threw the ball around a bit and played some nice stuff. We defended smart as well and in the second half we eventually ran away with the game a little bit.”
Rhinos’ youngsters conceded three tries – one of them an intercept – to an experienced Doncaster outfit and Plume added: “They were full of enthusiasm and the only way to combat that is to move fast in defence and make tackles. We did that, especially with our goalline defence, we had to hold out for some back-to-back sets. We were pretty solid in defence throughout.”
Full-back Zak Hardaker played the full 80 minutes in his first pre-season appearance after England duty and illness.
“He hasn’t played for a long time, so it was good for him to get 80 minutes under his belt,” Plume said. “It was a good game for him to do that and I thought as the game went on he looked better and better. He looked like he was finding his feet, so it was great for him and there were some good signs.”
Stand-off Liam Sutcliffe orchestrated Rhinos’ dominant second half display.
“When he gets in the groove he’s a big, strong thing,” Plume said. “He carries the ball in two hands and you don’t know if he’s going to run or pass.
“He had Jordan Lilley next to him, helping him out and I think we’ve got a good half-back partnership there.
“They worked out a way to get through their defence.”