WINGER TOM Briscoe expects Leeds Rhinos to come up against “the best of Wakefield Trinity” in this evening’s crucial derby.
Rhinos have beaten Wakefield twice already this year and Trinity will go into the game on the back of some disappointing recent form.
But Briscoe knows Leeds rarely, if ever, have it all their own way against Wakefield and believes they will have their hands full tonight.
Rhinos won 18-16 at Beaumont Legal Stadium, Belle Vue, two months ago and Briscoe said: “It’s always a tough game against Wakefield.
“We went there no so long ago and that was a really tough game
“We got the win, but a really hard-fought one.
“We will be expecting much of the same this time.”
Trinity’s recent results will make Rhinos’ task even harder, Briscoe reckons.
Wakefield went into their final game of the regular season with a chance of finishing third, but a 41-16 loss to St Helens meant they dipped to fifth, missing out on the top-four – and an extra home game – on points difference.
They were crushed 36-6 at Huddersfield Giants in round one of the Super-8s six days ago and another defeat tonight would be a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.
But, with their closest rivals playing tomorrow, a win tonight would lift them into the play-offs places – for 24 hours at least – and Briscoe predicted: “That will make them a tough team to play against.
“Obviously they will throw everything at us in order to get into that top-four.
“The way they went against us in the normal league season, they were tough and threw a lot at us.
“We are expecting the best of Wakefield this week.
“This is the business end of the season now and everyone’s trying to get into the top-four.
“Wakey just being outside that is big motivation for them to beat us and it is a local derby as well.”
Briscoe is from Featherstone, which makes games against Wakefield extra-special.
He played his junior rugby for Featherstone Lions and turned professional with Hull, having not had any offers from Wakefield, Castleford Tigers or Featherstone Rovers.
But he said: “I played there a few times when I was younger.
“If there were ever any tournaments or anything like that I got to play at Belle Vue.
“I enjoy playing there. It is an old-school stadium, the crowd is pretty close and it’s a good atmosphere and enjoyable to play there.”
Rhinos will go into tonight’s game buoyed by last Friday’s 32-16 win over champions Wigan Warriors.
They produced one of their best all-round performances of the season just six days after being out-played by Hull in a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final.
That inconsistency has been a problem for Rhinos all year. Briscoe said: “We will all hold our hands up and admit we didn’t put in our best performances in the Cup, but to get a response like we did is pretty pleasing.
“We do need to be more consistent. I am not sure what happened in the semi-final, but we were off our game.
“On the flip side of that Hull were very good and that had a part to play, but consistency is going to be key. For us to maintain that second spot we are going to have to get some good wins and keep building on what we did last Friday.”
With six games to play in the Super-8s, Rhinos are three points clear of third-placed Hull, five ahead of St Helens and six above Salford Red Devils and Wakefield.
They are in a good position, but Briscoe doesn’t believe a semi-final place is in the bag.
“There’s no complacency,” he insisted.
“They way we lost against Hull, we’ve still got some work to do.
“If we keep concentrating and doing our jobs to the standard we can I am sure we will be there or thereabouts.”
Rhinos have improved from last year, when they finished ninth, but Briscoe believes they can get better – and he reckons there were aspects of last week’s performance which did not come up to scratch.
“Looking back at the video from the weekend we saw a few opportunities we missed,” he said.
“There were a few defensive lapses that led to tries.
“You can’t be perfect so there’s still things to work on and we are doing that.”
But Rhinos will be a tough team to beat if they can reproduce the form they showed for most of last week’s match.
“I thought the way we played stifled anything Wigan had,” he said.
“Towards the back end our dominance told and we pulled away a bit.”
On a personal level, it was also an impressive response. Briscoe had a tough afternoon against Hull in the semi-final.
And he reflected: “A lot has been said about that and it was just nice to get back and get a bit of form.
“The key – like the team – is consistency now, to try and maintain that standard. I tried to get involved a bit more and to do what I do best.
“I am going to concentrate on that and try and do my bit for the team.”