Working on the right areas - coach Richard Agar pinpoints what Leeds Rhinos need to fix before big Super League derby against Castleford Tigers
Having reviewed the game, coach Richard Agar says he was “reasonably happy” with Leeds Rhinos’ first competitive performance of 2021, but admits some defensive areas need fixing before Friday’s meeting with Castleford Tigers.
Rhinos, without seven players because of injury, hit back from 12 down to beat Wakefield Trinity four days ago in Betfred Super League and Agar said he “didn’t expect to have a title-winning performance in round one”.
He stressed: “We have got a lot of strike and experience missing at this moment in time and, given our preparation, I was reasonably happy.
“I thought our ruck control for most of the game was very good in the middle of the field and I thought we looked like we’ve got points in us.”
But Trinity scored three tries in 11 minutes early in the game and Agar admitted: “Wakefield can come in waves and when they did that they attacked really well.
“Our right-edge against their left-edge, we very much came off second-best - we had some spacing issues, some missed tackles and some positional errors we’ve clearly got to spend some time working on.
“We can be majorly disappointed with their two long-range tries and the issues on our right-edge need ironing out.
“Apart from that, I thought there were lots of positives.
“I thought our attack in good periods looked very slick and, when we’ve looked at the stats, I think we’ve dominated the territory for long periods. There’s plenty to take out and bits to work on, which were fairly apparent. In round one, watching the other teams, I think a lot of them had similar issues.”
Tigers made a solid start to their Super League campaign with a 21-12 win over Warrington Wolves last Sunday.
“I was pretty impressed with them last week,” Agar reflected of this week’s opponents, at St Helens’ TW Stadium.
“I thought they worked really hard for each other and played with a really positive attitude, both in attack and defence.
“It is a derby game so we certainly wouldn’t expect any less from them this week, in fact we’d expect a bit more in terms of what they are going to bring in that aspect of the game.”
Ex-Leeds hooker Paul McShane was the official man of the match after switching into the halves to replace Gareth O’Brien, who suffered a head injury which will keep him out of this week’s game.
Agar warned: “They have got some outstanding players.
“They’ve got the current Man of Steel who is very prominent for them as a dummy-half and is a very clever player. Jake Trueman, after some injury issues towards the back end of last year, looked fit and confident and, in close, his touch on the ball and his kicking game and his vision was very intelligent.
“I think Niall Evalds is going to be a terrific addition for them; he is a very gifted attacking player.”
Rhinos are due to play Tigers three times in the regular season this year, which is Cas coach Daryl Powell’s last at the club.
He confirmed two weeks ago he will leave at the end of the campaign and Agar paid tribute to what he has achieved since taking charge in 2013.
Of Powell’s decision, he said: “I think we all come to that as a coach sometimes.
“I can only refer to myself; when I coached Wakefield - and I coached them for two and a bit years - I sort of knew four or five games into that season I needed a change.
“And probably, for them to be successful, they needed a change as well, because of how I was feeling at the time and the circumstances around the club. It is hard to talk about Daryl and what his plans are, because I have not had that conversation with him, but what I would say is his tenure there has been outstanding.
“He has got the best out of the players he has had and they played a terrific brand of rugby league the year they won the minor premiership and got to the Grand Final - and the year before that.
“He has done a wonderful job and it wouldn’t surprise me, if clubs are looking at making a coaching change, if Daryl isn’t high on the list.
“I just hope it isn’t mine - I’d best win some games!”
Support the YEP and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news and the latest on Leeds United, With a digital subscription, you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.