McDermott: Rhinos will bounce back
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott is confident his side will not suffer a Wembley hangover when they take on Salford City Reds in Stobart Super League at Headingley tomorrow.
The Rhinos are still smarting from last Saturday’s 35-18 loss to Warrington Wolves, a third consecutive Carnegie Challenge Cup final defeat that earned them an unwanted place in history.
They bounced back from their Wembley losses to post victories in their next league matches in both 2010 and last season, when they famously went on to win all their remaining six games and make history by taking out the Grand Final from fifth place.
McDermott’s men are currently sitting fifth but, with two games left of the regular season, can finish anywhere from third to sixth, not that the coach is looking too closely at the table nor relying on last year’s heroics to motivate his players.
“I haven’t a preference, although playing at home would be nice,” McDermott said. “There’s no real strategy.
“We’ve just got to make sure that, for the next six games, we’re as good as we’ve been all year, if not better.
“Last year is history and we’re not hanging our hat on it but we have that experience and it’s good to know that it can be done.
“We talked about this as a group, even before the season started, that we won’t be relying on what happened last year. We know we’ve got some work to do. We also know there’s a lot to play for.”
McDermott will make some enforced changes, with back-row forwards Chris Clarkson and Weller Hauraki almost certain to earn recalls after missing out on the Cup final, but he has been delighted with how his players have responded to the Wembley setback.
“I won’t tell you we’re all bouncing at the moment because we’re not but at the same time we’re ready to play,” he said.
“There will be a few changes - we’re still waiting on one or two blokes - but every single one of those who played at Wembley have said ’don’t rest me’.
“Everyone is ready for the challenges ahead and that bodes well for what we can do over the next few weeks.”
Half-back Danny McGuire is still a fortnight away from making his return from a knee injury but second rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan is set to face Salford despite suffering cartilage damage in the final.
“It’s amazing what physios can do nowadays,” McDermott said. “They pushed the cartilage back in and he’s ready to go.”
Salford are resigned to finishing the season in a disappointing 11th place but McDermott is expecting his side’s defence to be tested by the Reds’ exciting backs.
“They’re a very challenging team,” he said. “It’s not just about completions with Salford. They don’t mind using the ball and attacking you. They will provide a stern test for us.”
St Helens, last year’s Grand Final runners-up, can effectively secure a top-four finish if they beat a rejuvenated London Broncos tomorrow.
“We want to sign off the League programme at Langtree Park well but it will be a tough game,” warned Saints acting head coach Mike Rush. “We still need the points to finish in the four and getting four points will likely see us finishing third.
“There is still a lot to play for and we have to make sure we keep on winning.”
London have won their last three matches to give themselves real hope of avoiding the wooden spoon and they have Dan Sarginson back from an ankle injury.
Broncos’ newly-appointed head coach Tony Rea said: “Dan has been very diligent in his rehab and got himself back for the final two games. He now needs to transfer that same energy into the game.”