LEEDS RHINOS are on a high, but boss Brian McDermott reckons they need to reach another level this week.
McDermott’s injury-hit side pulled off one of the club’s best wins of the full-time era when they ended Betfred Super League leaders St Helens’ 100 per cent record last Friday.
The Grand Final rematch with Castleford at Elland Road in three days’ time will be another massive test of the champions’ mettle and McDermott admits if Tigers are good, Rhinos will need to do something special to beat them.
Speaking at a press conference to promote this week’s game, McDermott said: “It was was a really good win against St Helens, but I don’t think Saints were crash hot that night.
“They let us off the hook a couple of times. We could beat Cas with a seven out of 10 performance if Cas are still a bit clunky, but I’m sure they’ll bring a level of intensity we’ve not seen this year.
“If you’re talking about that sort of landscape, then we’ll have to be really good to beat them, but it’s one of those occasions during the early part of the season where you have to test yourselves to find where you’re at.
“Even if we get beat by Cas we’ll get something from it. These things improve you – the losses improve you, not the wins.
“Certainly when we get beat by Cas we all sulk for a couple of days and then the desire to improve is increased.”
Rhinos were sulking after losing eight successive games against Tigers before turning the tables in last October’s Grand Final.
“I know how good they can be,” said McDermott of the 2017 league leaders. “By [Tigers coach] Daryl Powell’s own admission I don’t think they’ve hit their straps yet.
“I don’t think any team has. It has been a clunky start for everyone, really, as the weather has had such a bearing on it.
“When they’re good they are an extremely hard team to defend against and even when you defend them - don’t concede a line break or a try - they stretch you so much that by the time you get the ball you’re still putting yourself back together.
“They’ve been doing that for the last two or three years, certainly against Leeds. Their attack has been really good so that will come this year for them, but we’re hoping they’re still clunky on Friday night.”
Rhinos are aiming for a Super League record crowd of more than 25,000 and McDermott admitted the game has a big-game feel.
I don’t think they’ve hit their straps yet. I don’t think any team has. It has been a clunky start for everyone, reallyLeeds Rhinos’ head coach, Brian McDermott
“I think both players and coaches are intelligent enough to work out you’re only playing for two points, but it’s a decent venue to play at and something other than the norm,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Leeds boss is hopeful full-back Ashton Golding and captain/centre Kallum Watkins will be available for Friday after suffering concussion against Saints.
“They are going through the protocol now,” McDermott confirmed.
“Fingers crossed they get through.”
Brad Dwyer was 18th man for the game four days ago and could be in contention to face Tigers, but McDermott said: “Mitch Garbutt won’t be right.
“Brett Ferres, even if he puts his hand up and says he’s rehabbed from his injury, he has not played any warm-up games so I don’t know if we’ll play him.
“Stevie Ward, Sutty [Liam Sutcliffe], Jimmy K [Keinhorst] and Nathaniel Peteru are all still a number of weeks away.”