'One of my best wins': Zak Hardaker on Leeds Rhinos' new-found togetherness and why not listening to the little kid in his brain paid off

Star full-back Zak Hardaker says togetherness and belief are at the heart of Leeds Rhinos’ resurgence.

Twelve-man Rhinos hit back from 30-6 down to beat Catalans Dragons 36-32 in golden-point extra-time last weekend.

It was the sixth win in Hardaker’s 10 games since returning to his first Betfred Super League club in April and he admitted Rhinos were “staring down the barrel” when they trailed by 24 points, with Matt Prior having been sent-off.

“With the heat and being a man down, it was an uphill battle,” he accepted.

Zak Hardaker offloads during the win at Catalans. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

“But Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] touched on it in the changing rooms - the belief he has in us as players and we have in each other’s abilities, that’s what carried us over the line.

“We just kept chipping away, we didn’t look at the scoreboard and there were some special tries.

“We really took it to them and it was one of those games where we kept grinding, kept believing in each other and right at the end Seze [Aidan Sezer] came up with a special play.”

Hardaker, who paid tribute to travelling fans for helping pull Rhinos through, added: “It was a really good team performance, it really showed the belief and character we’ve got.

Hardaker - second from right - and teammates celebrate in front of their travelling fans after the win at Catalans. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

Read More

Read More
'Nothing short of amazing': Leeds Rhinos' Aidan Sezer relives golden moment agai...

“The togetherness we’ve got building at the club is really strong and that has got to be up there as one of the best wins I’ve ever had, in terms of things going against us, the scoreline, a man down, in Catalans in the heat.

“We had everything going against us, but we came out on top.”

The win, with 12 men in testing conditions, was also credit to Rhinos’ fitness and Hardaker insisted he had been confident they would win the energy battle.

Zak Hardaker felt Leeds' travelling fans in Perpignan helped pull the team through. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

“We are quite a fit team,” he reflected.

“We have got some older boys, but we are quite youthful, quite athletic and energetic.

“We knew that would work for us.

“It was a special moment when Seze scored and we were celebrating with our fans in the corner.

“I ran over, but I had no oxygen left to shout.

“We celebrated in the changing rooms, singing our song, but after that everyone just sat down and took a big deep breath.

“The effort was unbelievable and I was really proud to be part of that fantastic win.”

Hardaker’s pass gave Sezer possession for the winning try, after it initially looked like the full-back would attempt a drop goal.

“I was going to see if I had enough space,” the former Wigan Warriors man confirmed.

“[Sam] Kasiano was about five yards away and for a split second it entered my head, just kick it, just knock it over, because you do that in training all the time.

“But then I thought no, because if it went wrong I wouldn’t live it down.

“So I passed it to Seze and he did what he needed to do, so it worked out in the end.

“It did creep into my brain and sometimes you go with those, but from where we came from, I don’t think it deserved that.

“It deserved a bit more control and I think my maternity took over from the kid’s instinct that popped up in the last second.”