THIS EVENING’S derby at Wakefield Trinity could be pivotal in the race for the top-four, Leeds Rhinos ace Liam Sutcliffe reckons.
Rhinos began the weekend one place better off than Trinity – in third spot in the Betfred Super League table – thanks to a slight advantage on for and against.
That makes tonight a four-pointer and Sutcliffe predicted: “It is going to be a big one, especially how they’ve been performing lately. They’ve won their last seven games and they are up there in the top-four with us so it will be a tough game.”
Rhinos won 38-14 when the sides met at Headingley in March. That was Trinity’s heaviest loss of the year so far, but they have won 10 of their 13 games since and Sutcliffe warned: “That was a long time ago.
“They have improved a lot since then and so have we. We have trained really hard this week, we’ve previewed them and we’ll be ready.”
After a run of three games in a week, Sutcliffe reckons Rhinos will feel the benefit of an eight-day turnaround. He said: “That’s always tough, on your body and mentally as well.
“At least we’ve had a bit longer this week to prepare and get our bodies right again. Everyone was sore and tired after last week. Everyone was shattered, but we’ve had quite a long turnaround this week and we’ve been able to pick ourselves back up.
“We will be ready to go. We know we’ve still got a fair bit of improvement in us and things we can work on towards the end of the year, but it’s a good spot to be in, third place. Hopefully we can keep that position and keep climbing the table.
“We will be going for top spot, but there is a long way to go.”
Sutcliffe conceded Rhinos – who have won 11 and lost six of their 17 Super League games so far – need to be more consistent. But he added: “The best thing is that after a loss we have always bounced back and put in a good performance and got a win, which is the main thing.
“Hopefully we can put those losses behind us and go on a bit of a run now and get a few wins towards the end of the season.”
Sutcliffe has scored six tries and 52 goals in 15 appearances this year, having started games at full-back, centre, stand-off, scrum-half in the second-row and on the bench.
Of his Mr Versatility tag, he said: “While people are out you have got to fill in positions. You can’t really do anything about that, but I do really enjoy playing centre or full-back.
“They are the two positions I’ve been playing over the last month or so, so I’ve had no problems filling in there. I have been really enjoying the roles.”
Sutcliffe is also relishing being Rhinos’ first-choice marksman.
“Other that the Widnes and Leigh games I think I’ve been consistent and I’ve been striking the ball really well,” he reflected.
“Everyone has off days at kicking and last Friday was one of those, but I have been practicing again this week and hopefully it’ll go well in Saturday’s game.”