St Helens v Leeds Rhinos: Bentley determined to break bad habits

RETURNING FORWARD James Bentley plans to start “righting some wrongs” when he gets back into action for Leeds Rhinos at St Helens today.

Bentley has been suspended for as many games as he has played since joining Rhinos from Saints last autumn, serving three bans totalling eight first-team matches on the sidelines.

He has been named in Rhinos’ initial squad for today after completing a three-match suspension, one of which was a reserve-team fixture, following a yellow card for a high tackle in a home win over Wakefield Trinity.

The former Oulton Raiders junior admits the first few months at his home-city club have been “challenging”, but insists - with almost half the season still to play - there is ample time for him to turn that around.

James Bentley returns for Leeds Rhinos from a three-match suspension just in time to face his former club, St Helens. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

“It hasn’t gone the way I’d have liked,” Bentley said of the start to his Rhinos career. “It has been a bit frustrating, obviously, not getting as much game time as I’d like, but that’s in the past now.

“This is the back end of the year and I am looking to right a few wrongs and get out there and get playing some good rugby. I’m just taking it a week at a time, just focusing on doing my job and doing what Rohan [Smith, Rhinos’ coach] wants from me and we’ll build from there.”

His disciplinary issues mean Bentley will be in the spotlight tonight and for the rest of the campaign.

“It is part of my game being aggressive,” he said.

Leeds Rhinos forward James Bentley in recent tryscoring action against Wakefield Trinity. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

“But I just need to control it and play on the right side of that aggression and not let it spill over.

“I need to be just at the nice simmering level, rather than boiling over and getting myself in trouble. I am just focusing on doing all the little stuff I need to do for the team, that’s going to get us the job done.”

Bentley was in good form before his latest lay-off and clearly flourishing under Smith, who was his coach at Bradford Bulls earlier in his career.

He said: “I had a good chat with Rohan about what he wanted from me.

Leeds Rhinos head coach, Rohan Smith. Picture: John Clifton/

“We talked about doing all the little stuff and building my game around that, not having to do anything to stand out.

“I thought I was playing well; I had a decent game against Salford and against Wakey, unfortunately, I got that yellow card but, apart from that, it was probably one of my best games of the year.

“If I hadn’t done that, it would probably have been my best game of the year. I am just building from there and trying to stay on the right end of that aggression. I am really enjoying working with Rohan. Since he has come in, there’s been a bit of a buzz and I am really looking forward to getting back out there.”

Leeds-born Bentley spent four seasons at Saints and played in their 2020 Grand Final win over Wigan Warriors.

He featured in Leeds’ 26-0 home defeat by Saints in April, but today will be his first return to TW Stadium as an away player.

“This is one I didn’t want to miss,” he said. “When the fixtures came out it was one I was looking forward to, getting out there and playing against some familiar faces.

“I’ve not really thought too much about [what reception he might receive].

“They gave me a bit of stick last time, a few of their lads, when we played them at home, but I am just looking forward to getting out there and playing again.

“I keep in touch with a few of them so it will be good to go up against them.”

Of what he is expecting from the crowd, Bentley added: “I don’t know, I’ll have to wait and see. I’d hope it’ll be a good reception.

“I had a good time there and I’ve got some good memories, but I am going there with Leeds and focusing on getting the job done.”

With Rhinos eighth in the table, 15 points adrift of Saints who have beaten them in the last 10 meetings, a Leeds win today would be one of the shocks of the campaign so far.

“They are one of the best teams in the comp’ at the minute; we know how good they are,” Bentley said.

“But I think we’ve got a few boys back this week. We’re obviously wanting to go there and do a job and that’s our goal.”