Rugby League: Leeds Rhinos in bullish mood for Saints test

Kevin Sinfield. PIC: Steve Riding
Kevin Sinfield. PIC: Steve Riding
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LEEDS RHINOS’ tough Tetley’s Challenge Cup fifth round draw received a defiant response from coach Brian McDermott.

Rhinos were paired at home with Super League leaders St Helens – the only team to beat them so far this year – in a tie to be played over the weekend beginning April 27.

It will be the 16th time in 17 Challenge Cup ties Leeds have faced top-flight opposition, but McDermott refused to bemoan their bad luck.

He said: “It’s a good one for us. We are looking forward to it. If we are not going to get a so-called ‘easier’ one, let’s go for a big one and have a big build-up to what looks like being a cracking game.”

Rhinos earned their place in the fifth round draw with a 60-6 romp at neighbours Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, which saw them run in 11 tries.

It was Leeds’ biggest Challenge Cup score against their old rivals, but McDermott admitted to some anxious moments. He said: “I thought it was a tough opening. In the first quarter, first 15 minutes, we bombed a few chances. While it appeared we looked dominant, I have been in enough of those games to know it just needed one thing to go their way.

“You have got to admit Wakefield probably did not challenge us as much as we thought they would do, but in the early stages I was concerned we weren’t nailing our chances. We bombed three tries early and I had a scenario going through my head where Sammut comes up with a big play, or Godinet does or Richard Moore gets an offload and then they get a bit of ascendency, some anxiety kicks in and then it is a completely different game.

“I think we were all feeling that until about the 15-minute mark, but after that we were very dominant and very switched on and I thought our mentality towards the game was where it needed to be.”

It was a memorable afternoon for Ryan Hall, who touched down twice on his 200th appearance for Leeds. After a slow start, that took his tally for the season to seven, making him Leeds’ top try scorer.

“As I said beforehand when he wasn’t scoring as many tries, his contribution to what we do is very good,” McDermott said.

“You have got to look at some other numbers in his game: how many metres he makes, how many carries he has, what he is like defensively. All those areas were very good, he bagged two tries and 200 games is a great milestone to have. I am sure he will notch up a fair few more games and a fair few more tries in the coming years.”

McDermott was also pleased with the contribution from his play-making triangle: “Kevin Sinfield, Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow were very pivotal, very strong.

“Our forwards did a good job and sometimes they need the halves to play to the script as well. Rob was a threat for the majority of it.

“Magsy got brought off at half-time as a precaution – he got a bang on his backside – and then Kev marshalled it with Rob.

“I thought that triangle stepped up and we brought Joel Moon, Ryan Bailey, Mitch Achurch and Liam Sutcliffe back and they all did a good job and all contributed. When you get so far in front it can get a bit scrappy. I thought the game did get a bit scrappy, but that was less to do with us – I thought we stayed controlled.”

The draw for the fifth round of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup in full to be played April 25-27: Wigan v Hunslet Hawks, Leigh v Featherstone Rovers, Leeds Rhinos v St Helens, Warrington Wolves v Doncaster, Salford Red Devils v Widnes Vikings, Bradford Bulls v Catalan Dragons, Swinton Lions v Keighley Cougars, Castleford Tigers v Sheffield Eagles.

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