Play-offs are still within reach for Leeds Rhinos says James Donaldson

SUCCESSIVE HOME defeats inside a week dealt a blow to Leeds Rhinos’ top-six hopes, but forward James Donaldson reckons the play-offs are still within reach.

Monday, 9th August 2021, 5:55 am
James Donaldson gets past Castleford Tigers' Paul McShane on Friday night. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Rhinos followed their last-gasp 27-26 loss to Warrington Wolves with a 32-18 defeat by Castleford Tigers in a game they dominated in terms of territory and possession.

They had briefly climbed into sixth place in Betfred Super League, but have dropped out again and their winning record is below 50 per cent.

With injuries still having an impact, particularly in the pack, finishing in the play-off spots is looking a tall order, but Donaldson is adamant it is achievable, if they get their finishing in order.

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Leeds Rhinos' Konrad Hurrell grapples with Castleford Tigers' Nathan Massey. Picture: John Clifton/

“I am confident we can do it,” Donaldson insisted.

“We are a great team when we get it right.

“I just think the chances we bombed [against Tigers] cost us massively.”

Reflecting on that defeat, Donaldson recalled: “We missed some chances and I think our contact was poor when we got fatigued,” Donaldson reflected.

“I think those early errors cost us.

“When they ran out of petrol at the end we just couldn’t come up with anything and when we did it usually resulted in an error.

“It’s really disappointing.

“Cas have come off the back of a lot of time off.

“We could see how gassed they were and we should have capitalised on that, but we never did.”

It was Rhinos’ third game in nine days, but Donaldson – who played in all of them – vowed: “That can’t be an excuse because the chances to win the game were there and we bombed them.

“We did do it tough, we had two subs left in the second half and the forwards were digging in hard to play those minutes, but it was really disappointing.”

Rhinos are facing mounting fitness problems in the forwards, with Alex Mellor (knee) and Mikolaj Oledzki (foot) both now on the long-term casualty list, Matt Prior missing last Friday’s game because of Covid and King Vuniyayawa suffering concussion in the opening quarter of the game.

They also lost stand-off Liam Sutcliffe to a knee problem, which meant hooker Kruise Leeming switched into the pack.

“Mik and Matty are two massive players for us and we missed Luke Gale as well, he directs us around the field,” Donaldson said.

“We will have to put some tough work in at training this week and try and put things right on Friday away at Leigh.”

Donaldson, more recognised as an impact player off the bench, played the full 80 minutes against Tigers and, having also had lengthy game time against Hull eight days earlier and Warrington three days after that, admitted: “It’s more minutes than I’ve been used to.”

He said “[On Friday] I felt a bit more comfortable playing the minutes.

“The last two games, my lungs have been screaming.

“Obviously, everybody’s carrying a lot of knocks, playing injured and putting their body on the line for the club.

“That’s what makes it more disappointing, that we are doing everything we can to try and get these results and they are not coming.”

Gale will be available this week after his one-match ban, but Donaldson is expecting a tough evening against Super League’s bottom club.

“We need a massive improvement,” he warned.

“Leigh have got some good players.

“They might be down on confidence, but they have got some good quality in there. We are going to have to be better than we were [on Friday] if we are going to get the win over there.”

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