Salford Red Devils v Leeds Rhinos: Coach Richard Agar insists his side's Super League campaign is still alive despite poor start

Leeds Rhinos are ready to get back on the horse - and boss Richard Agar insists he isn’t flogging a dead one.

By Peter Smith
Thursday, 17th March 2022, 5:45 pm

Agar cut a dejected figure after Rhinos’ 31-8 home drubbing by Hull eight days ago, when he admitted he was “struggling to get my head around why it was so bad”.

In the immediate aftermath, the coach insisted he was “past the point in my life and career when I’m going to flog a dead horse”.

But, speaking at his weekly press conference to preview tonight’s Betfred Super League round-six game at Salford, Agar was in far more upbeat mood.

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Rhinos coach Richard Agar. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

He stressed: “We are not writing the season off because we’ve had a disappointing start to the year.

“We know some of the stuff [that’s going wrong] is really fixable and the turnaround can happen really quickly.”

Looking back on the loss to Hull, Agar reflected: “Performances like last week, as a coach, sometimes you don’t see it coming.

“We had prepared pretty well, we were positive in the week and on the back of a good win, so it was a performance that left us all feeling mightily disappointed and deflated, but I could not praise the boys enough for the turnaround this week.

James Bentley has completed a four-game ban. Picture by Allan Mckenzie/SWpix.com.

“It is all right training well, we have got to back that up with a performance and I think we’ve got a bunch that are pretty determined to get back on the horse.”

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“We know there’s plenty of time left and we’ve certainly got the capability to turn around what’s a disappointing run of form at the moment,” he added.

The coach confirmed Rhinos have spoken about what they are and aren’t doing well, what they need to improve “and in particular, who needs to drive it”.

Rhinos need a collective approach after last week's disappointment says coach Richard Agar. Picture by Richard Sellers/PA.

He said: “We feel we have got a pretty good and honest bunch of senior players that want to assume responsibility for driving some of the collective-effort bits we don’t feel we are doing at the moment.

“It’s the collective-effort parts where we know we haven’t been up to the mark consistently enough.

“Understandably, there’s some parts of our game where we’re not quite in sync’ and we’ve got some guys not in the form they need to be in.

“That’s for us as coaches to work through too, but it’s the collective-effort part we want to really focus on this week.”

Of his “flogging a dead horse” comment, Agar said that was “an extremely disappointed coach” speaking and “an honest reflection of how [he was] feeling at that particular time”.

He stated: “In our game you have to ride some ups and downs and show some spirit and grit and resilience.

“I think we’ve shown that plenty of times in the past and, do I think we are at that point at the moment? Absolutely not.

“I’ve always tried to portray my feelings as honestly as I can at that moment in time, but I wouldn’t be sat here now if I didn’t think we had a situation that couldn’t change and change quickly.”

Rhinos, who have won 45 of their 50 Super League meetings with Salford, will be strengthened by the return from suspension of hooker/captain Kruise Leeming and forwards James Bentley and Cameron Smith.

Bentley was forced to sit out four games after being sent off on his debut, and Agar said: “We don’t want to rein him in to the point where his game alters considerably.

“One of his main facets and reasons why we signed him is he competes so hard. Occasionally that has overflowed into penalties and errors and there’s no doubt, in the current climate of the game, he is going to be watched keenly.

“He is going to be a marked man.

“He knows there are some levels he needs to find, aggression-wise, to come up with a good James Bentley performance, but also some boundaries he can’t step over.”

Salford are on a three-game losing run, and Agar noted: “They are probably in a similar position to us, on the back of a disappointing defeat [against Hull KR].

“It’s a game where both teams, I think, will be absolutely desperate to get the two points.”

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