YEP Jury: It’s only round three but Leeds Rhinos v Catalans Dragons looks like a must-win game

Leeds Rhinos will go into Thursday’s visit of Catalans Dragons on the back of successive defeats and the YEP Jury are worried. Here’s what they made of last week’s loss at Wigan and their thoughts on the tough task next up for Rhinos.

By YEP Sportsdesk
Monday, 21st February 2022, 4:45 pm

TOM RHODES

Do we play better with 12 men?

Going into the game on Friday night at Wigan, I believed we were on the right course after just missing out on two points against Warrington the week before with 12 men.

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Leeds Rhinos captain Kruise Leeming is being encouraged to have more faith in his half-backs Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

How wrong I was. The first 20 minutes of the game we played excellently but suddenly, as soon as Wigan got a try, we just fell asleep.

The defence was poor and fair play to Wigan for taking every advantage. Chucking the ball about, offloading it whenever their arm was free, it reminded me a lot of Leeds back in the ‘old days’, with runners either side ready to pounce on that free ball.

Thursday’s game against Catalan Dragons is going to be tough but we need a win from this, not just to boost the confidence of the players, but boost the fans who travelled across on that night to Wigan in horrific weather conditions.

Thankfully we’ll have Brad Dwyer back after his one match ban.

Leeds Rhinos are missing the influence of injured full-back Richie Myler. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Lastly, I hope Richie Myler’s operation went well yesterday and hope we get to see him back soon.

KHYA GOTT

That 10 minutes at the start of the second half from Leeds Rhinos at Wigan Warriors was quite abysmal.

It was hard to watch. Where was the fight from the first half and the Warrington game?

Blake Austin starts another attack at Wigan Warriors. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

A number of players had a poor game and, generally, just made one too many mistakes.

But, factoring in the weather and the opposition, it was never going to be easy.

I just thought we would do better, given the resilience in this team.

Sam Powell’s try really was the icing on the cake for the hosts but, for us, just more heartache.

Leeds Rhinos Aidan Sezer. Picture: Tony Johnson.

With last year’s league leaders, Catalan Dragons, travelling to Headingley on Thursday it is not going to be a quick, easy fix.

However, I’m hoping for more fight from the team in midweek.

And the fact that the Dragons lost their opening game of the season and just about beat Trinity last weekend should, hopefully, encourage the team.

Plus, it feels a lot like the Rhinos will need our support given the amount of injuries and suspensions piling up already.

JOSH MORROW

Leeds travelled over the Pennines after a gutsy, 12-man opener against Warrington to face their old rivals Wigan Warriors who were coming off the back of a win at Hull KR.

The starts to both games were almost identical with the Rhinos’ pack once again dominating early on and forcing errors. Despite the early dominance, they went into the sheds at half-time 12-6 down. My takeaway from the first half was that Kruise Leeming needs to start to use and trust his half-backs.

A few times, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer had the team set up for a big spread play to the left only for Leeming to run the ball to the blindside, which rarely pays off. A quickfire double from Jai Field put the game to bed for the Warriors. Leeds, once again, lost players to injury with Cameron Smith and Ash Handley joining the likes of David Fusitu’a, Richie Myler, Harry Newman and Tom Holroyd.

This, along with the suspended Brad Dwyer and James Bentley missing the game, and Rhyse Martin returning home on compassionate leave.

There is no need to panic just yet; even with the missing players, Leeds will come good.

OLIVER LIMON

Storm Eunice threatened to stop the Rhinos even reaching Wigan.

However, it was Jai Field who blew Leeds away with his blistering place doing most of the damage. For the opening 20 minutes, Leeds continued in the same rich form as the previous week, Blake Austin scoring with a trademark show and go.

Wigan levelled up with a bizarre ‘try assist off the heel’, Leeds waiting for the whistle allowed Wigan a ‘walk in’ try and they then went in front with Field’s first try.

After half-time, it was painful to watch as Field broke a static defence for his second and then, receiving from the kick off, produced a world-class 90-metre try. This proved to be game over and 28 unanswered points eventually countered by Matt Prior’s try was too little too late. There was a hint of irony with Field being a Leeds transfer target, and he already looks a contender for Man of Steel.

Leeds’ defence needs to step up; there were some uncharacteristic errors and performances.

Catalans Dragons’ visit to HQ has the feeling of a must-win game.

However, with Brad Dwyer and, hopefully, David Fusitu’a back and a recreation of the atmosphere and performance from the Warrington game, Leeds’ season should be ‘alive and kicking’.

KENDLE HARDISTY

The less said about last Friday the better.

Apart from the first 20 minutes, it looked like the Rhinos of last season.

There were too many individual performances that just weren’t good enough.

It really is baffling that two weeks ago we had a fully-fit squad bar one player and now, going into Thursday, we could be without nine first-team players.

It’s not an excuse we should look at because this year’s squad seemed to have depth to deal with the injury issue but, if we perform like we did on Friday, then it’s pointless.

I am gutted for Richie Myler being out for three months; he has been a top player for us.

Catalans at home is next for the Rhinos and it’s a game that really could go either way. Catalans only just scraped past Wakefield but will be confident after getting their first win of the season.

I know it’s only round three but it really feels like a must-win game for the Rhinos. There was a lot of optimism before the start of the season and, if we start with three losses, then I think that will disappear.

IAIN SHARP

Well done to the Leeds fans who made the effort to get to Wigan, braving Storm Eunice and proving that ‘the powers that be’ have scant regard for the safety of travelling fans using a perilous M62 over the Pennines.

Once there, Leeds were ‘blown away’ by Jai Field in a game that proved to be a poor night at the office for the Loiners. A midweek reshuffle was required thanks, in part, to the decisions of tribunal, an organisation with a level of transparency last seen in the old Soviet Union.

The opening rounds suggest that match officials are under the sort of pressure that leads to potentially crucial mistakes. When the video referee was first introduced to Super League 26 years ago, it was innovative and cutting edge.

Other sports have both adopted the idea and taken it further.

Rugby league needs to adopt a heightened use of technology to provide better support for the on-field referee, perhaps with assistance of someone watching via video, with the ability to clarify or overturn mistakes, or risk games being decided on avoidable human error rather than player brilliance.

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