WHAT A difference a year makes.
Perhaps no one will appreciate that sentiment more than Leeds Rhinos’ Ryan Hall on Sunday.
The England winger returns to Huddersfield Giants, the scene of his club’s famous victory and his dramatic score that sealed the League Leaders’ Shield last September. Now, of course, they are battling the same opponents but in the far less appealing Qualifiers having finished in the bottom four.
Back then, Huddersfield headed into the final game still with a chance of finishing top only to see Hall score a memorable try after the final hooter to snatch a 20-16 win and complete the second part of Leeds’s treble.
Now, although Rhinos have secured top-flight survival with five wins from five in the Middle Eights, their West Yorkshire derby rivals are in real danger of ending up in the Million Pound Game unless they win their remaining two fixtures.
Rhinos, meanwhile, want a win to maintain their bid to finish first in the table.
For all it pales into insignificance compared to last year’s exploits, it would be an achievement of sorts, probably decided in Thursday’s home game with Leigh Centurions, who also boast a 100 per cent record so far.
“It is a bit different this year,” Hall admitted. “We are playing for something else, but we have played ourselves into this position and we have to get through it.
“It would be nice to get seven out of seven. Being the team we are we would like to finish top of something.”
Leeds have finally found some form at last, winning their last eight games.
Many expect them to make that nine at John Smith’s Stadium, but Hall insisted: “We will need to be good this week because they are fighting for survival.
“They will really be going for it. It is always tough against Huddersfield and they are a good side.
“They have struggled like us this year, but we have started playing well towards the back end and they have got the potential to do that.”
Hall scored twice in last week’s 32-0 win over Batley Bulldogs but, during an injury-ravaged campaign, he has managed just six from 17 appearances so far.
“The team has been doing well, so I’ve not been too worried about it,” maintained the 28-year-old.
“We did enough to win, but Batley had a good go.”