Widnes Vikings 28 Leeds Rhinos 38: Rhinos still to hit high notes

Carl Ablett in action against Widnes Vikings.
Carl Ablett in action against Widnes Vikings.
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LEEDS RHINOS sang after winning, but boss Brian McDermott reckons they still aren’t on song.

Rhinos – who had lost three of their previous four First Utility Super League games – returned to winning ways with a 38-28 victory at Widnes Vikings yesterday, but McDermott admitted: “We are still off in some areas.”

Said the coach: “We still weren’t good enough in some areas, but we were playing a very determined Widnes.

“I am pleased we won. It is good to sing our song afterwards and have a smile on our faces, but we have still got some work to do – we are still not there.”

Rhinos led 10-0 after 11 minutes and it took Widnes 21 minutes to get into Leeds’ half, but they scored three tries to take a shock 16-10 interval lead, before the visitors regained control.

McDermott insisted his team had not got complacent after their fast start.

“I thought Widnes were determined,” he said. “They thought ‘we’re not having this’.

“They have had two not so good results in their last two games and I thought it was more about them. We didn’t drop off. We had a good start, but it became a contest then.”

The Leeds coach said there was no great concern during the interval.

“It was a good contest in the first half and it was going to be that in the second,” he said. “I didn’t think either team was going to run away with it. We are missing some personnel and Widnes clearly were.

“I don’t want to say it was a scrappy game, because it wasn’t. Any end-to-end stuff was through teams being good attacking and in the main it was strong defences out there. At half-time we weren’t panicking.”

Leeds were lifted by the return of Jamie Jones-Buchanan (biceps tear) and Paul Aiton (illness), who had both been out of action since the end of March.

Carl Ablett made his comeback from a two-game ban and Danny McGuire featured for the first time in two games after a calf injury.

Aiton played an important role in two second half tries and McDermott observed: “It was between him and Jonesy to see who could least look like they’ve been injured for such a long time.

“They’ve both been out for weeks and weeks and fell straight back into it like they played last week and the week before.

“It was good to have Paulie back and I thought he had a good impact for us defensively, as well as some nice subtleties.

“It was good to have Jonesy back as well. He got a bit of a strain at the back of his knee, but hopefully that’s nothing – we took him off just as a precaution.”

Of other players. McDermott added: “I thought Robbie Ward was very good to start with. Liam Sutcliffe played the whole game, the vast majority at loose-forward and I thought he was great.

“Brett Delaney was outstanding and did a lot of work for us and was out on his feet at the back end.”

Props Jamie Peacock (twisted knee) and Kylie Leuluai (calf) weren’t risked, but are expected to be available to face Catalan Dragons on Sunday, along with Mitch Achurch, who has missed three games with a knee/ankle injury. Widnes were playing their third game in 10 days, following heavy losses to Hull and Wigan Warriors and were without key players including stand-off Kevin Brown and pack leader Danny Tickle.

McDermott said: “It is interesting that the teams we have struggled against this year, in the main – if you looked at their starting line up – they have been missing one or two people.

“If you go back through the losses, that’s the case as well. I am not sure if that’s an issue to do with us. I don’t think it is, but you could argue it is good for the competition. I remember 10 years ago if a team was missing three or four of their starting players, they’d lose.

“They would be well beaten as well. But that’s not the case any more. Most juniors at all Super League clubs are good, they are up to the standard.”

Jordan Lilley.

Catalans Dragons v Leeds Rhinos: Lilley only too willing to answer Rhinos’ call