WATCH: Home comforts welcomed as Leeds Rhinos prepare for 10 ‘cup finals’
TEN CUP finals.
That’s what faces Leeds Rhinos over the final three months of the campaign according to interim-coach Richard Agar.
Rhinos begin the first of seven home matches during the run-in when they take on Catalans Dragons tomorrow.
Already a huge game, the fixture has taken on even greater significance for Rhinos since Thursday night when Hull KR’s win over Hull lifted them to 10th and left Leeds two points adrift at the bottom.
Points difference ensures Leeds will leapfrog Hull KR if they can end their two-game losing run tomorrow and while he won’t play down the importance of this weekend’s match, Agar says it is not do or die.
“They are all big games, it is a 10-game shoot-out,” said the stand-in coach. “We have got 10 cup finals left, but if we take care of our ends we will get it done before 10 games. It is one week at a time.”
Half of Rhinos’ six league wins this year have come at Headingley, with one on neutral ground and two in away matches.
“We have got seven out of 10 at home and you’d much prefer it that way,” Agar added. “There is close to a third of the season left.
“Most of the teams in the bottom half of the table have got to play each other so a lot can change, but I have said all along I reckon we will be the ones who decide where we finish.”
Agar insisted heads have not dropped in Rhinos’ camp, despite their recent results and the improved form of their main relegation rivals.
“We have got a positive squad,” he said. “I thought in the first half against St Helens last week we dropped our standards defensively from where we’ve been at, but we regained a little bit of that in the second half.
“It doesn’t take much, you only need two or three blokes to be off their game and it has a fair old impact on your team. I thought that was very much the case last Friday night, but we will regroup and every game from here on in is important.”
Three players - Kallum Watkins, Tui Lolohea and Matt Parcell - have left Rhinos this week with stand-off Robert Lui and hooker Shaun Lunt coming in.
Both could feature tomorrow and Agar said: “I am grateful to the players who’ve departed, they have been terrific in terms of their professionalism and what they’ve brought to the cause.”
But he added: “At the moment we need a different syle of half-back to what Tui brings.
“He is a stand-off who plays a bit at full-back and we need a six who is more like a seven. Robert will give us more direction around the field and he has settled in well.
“Matty is a terrific player and popular in the squad, but moving on gives him an opportunity to start more games and it also frees up a significant amount of space on the salary cap and a valuable spot on the overseas quota.”
Though Rhinos have set a target for how many wins they need to survive in Super League, Agar will not reveal that outside the camp.
“I will emphasise the players are pretty positive about getting this job done and trying to get it done as quickly as possible,” he said.
Catalans began round 20 in fourth place on the table, but have endured a disastrous run of three league defeats - plus an exit from the Coral Challenge Cup - this month.
“They are hard to pick,” Agar admitted. “They won three on the bounce and then lost four and some of the defeats have been by decent margins.
“But they are a dangerous team that’s got some real quality players in there. We know they will be desperate to turn it around to maintain their push for the top four or five spots.”