Rhinos in need of big lift as Wembley trip looms

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AFTER witnessing a surprise defeat at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott expects an instant response when his side head to Hull KR tomorrow.

Monday night’s 38-18 reverse was only a first defeat in seven games for the Super League champions but one that left a sour taste for their manager.

Wallowing in ninth spot before the start of that six-match winning run, the West Yorkshire club have made remarkable progress to rise to fifth.

But the error-strewn Wakefield defeat, admittedly with a weakened side, saw them lose ground on Catalan Dragons and makes their task of recovering a top-four place all the more difficult.

“There was a combination of a few things,” said McDermott. “I’ve been paying Wakefield credit all week and it’s right to do that.

“They really had a dig and they did the last time we played, too.

“We weren’t good but these things happen.

“The manner in which we lost is not easy to take; losing is not the problem as long as you play all right but – for all Wakefield played very good – I don’t think we played well at all so that’s the hardest thing.

“I’m absolutely confident we’ll come straight back, though.”

With their Challenge Cup final date with Warrington Wolves looming at the end of the month, it is paramount Leeds do just that, not only to maintain their Super League defence but to get them in the right frame for that difficult Wembley test.

Hull KR are not in the greatest of form, although a 32-26 victory at Widnes on Sunday marked their first win in five outings.

That will have served Craig Sandercock’s side well and, traditionally, Rovers do perform well on home turf against Leeds.

They have not lost there since 2009 and inflicted a 38-28 defeat on the West Yorkshire club last season, enjoying a 25-6 win the year before.

McDermott added: “We’re mindful of that. We lost there last year and they’ve had some success before.

“They have had some performances this year, too, that warrants respect so we know it’s going to be a tough game.”

Australian play-maker Michael Dobson is normally the key man for Hull KR and the Leeds coach admitted: “Their half-backs are generally the big ones. They put some young fellas in against Widnes last week, though, who showed up really well for them. It was a great performance from their team.

“They may have one or two back on Sunday but certainly a lot goes through Dobson.

“We have to handle him but, at the same time, they’ve enough people across the board to trouble you.”

The likes of Academy winger Chris Heil and forward George Griffin made debuts while rookie full-back Louis Sheriff earned a rare appearance as Rovers showed some of the talent coming through their ranks.

The more experienced England prop Scott Taylor and ex-Rhinos Academy product Scott Murrell should return, however, to strengthen their cause against the champions.

Leeds are bolstered with England scrum-half Danny McGuire back from a one-game ban.

Fellow international Ryan Bailey is also likely to be recalled to add some steel to a middle that was strangely fragile at Wakefield.

The fiery prop, who has been operating at loose-forward of late, was rested on Monday but should be revived for what is always a bruising battle with Rovers’ sizeable pack.

“We’ve no new injuries and we may have one or two fellas back who were missing from Monday,” said McDermott, whose side beat Rovers 34-16 on the opening day of the season courtesy of Kallum Watkins’s hat-trick.

“Other from the disappointing aspect of that loss we’re in reasonable nick.”

Australian Brett Delaney – one of Leeds’ most consistent players this term – is hoping to return as well after missing the Wakefield game with a dislocated thumb which actually pierced through his skin.

“He’s going okay,” said McDermott. “He’s still got a lot of pain around his thumb but he should be available and has made some good improvement. Carl Ablett is still a doubt though and a bit more of a concern.”

McDermott paid tribute to scrum-half-cum-hooker Rob Burrow who has chalked up 350 appearance for the Headingley club and is just one try short of 150.

The Leeds star, who debuted in 2001, has won four Grand Finals and has also lifted the World Club Challenge twice and McDermott admitted: “He’s been a big reason why we’ve done some of the things we have over the last 18 months.

“He’s had a bit of a positional change but he’s been effective and looking as sharp, quick and as potent as ever. He’s still got a hell of a lot more years in the game.”

dave.craven@ypn.co.uk