ENGLAND centre Kallum Watkins says Leeds Rhinos will not under-estimate Super League strugglers Wakefield Trinity Wildcats this afternoon.
On paper, as a second game of the hectic Easter period goes, hosting the competition’s bottom side has to be a real plus for the team currently leading the table.
In-form Leeds opened a two-point gap at the top after their 26-12 Good Friday win at Castleford was coupled with champions St Helens’ 12-4 derby loss to Wigan Warriors.
With seven victories from their opening eight games, Brian McDermott’s side are showing all the signs of being able to return to Old Trafford and claim their first title since 2012.
“Of course it’s good that teams are chasing us now at this busy Easter period,” said Watkins.
“But we’ve got a big home game with Wakefield on Monday.
“They are struggling but we know they’ll turn up and give us a good match.
“To get two points at Cas was very good for us – it could have been a potential banana skin over there as they are a great side who will be up there or thereabouts at the end.
“But we can’t let that hard work be undone now.”
The return of captain Kevin Sinfield should certainly reduce the chances of any shock being inflicted on the hosts.
The former England stand-off, who announced last week he will join Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the season, has missed the last three games with a hamstring problem but is in the 19-man squad for a successive fixture.
Sinfield was not risked at Wheldon Road, but is thought to be ready to come back into the fold against Wakefield when, in all probability, he will pass 4,000 career points, given the experienced record-breaking goalkicker is just three shy of that latest milestone.
In the only other change, McDermott recalls young full-back Ashton Golding, who replaces Josh Walters, the second-row who damaged an ankle while playing for Hunslet Hawks on Good Friday.
Leeds, of course, have been stunned by Wakefield before, not least in their last meeting with James Webster’s side when they lost 16-14 at Belle Vue in July.
However, their record at Headingley is something else – they have not lost against Trinity there since 2007 – and everything in Friday’s display at Castleford suggested this Rhinos team is in particularly stingy mood.
The relentless manner in which the visitors scrambled to deny their hosts at times was impressive in heavy, sodden conditions.
“We did well with the ball, especially given those conditions, kicked pretty well and kept it where we wanted to be,” admitted Watkins.
“It was tough there especially in the second half when they were going for it and made plenty of breaks to try to get tries.
“But we got back to stop them regularly and that’s where we really won it.”
Ever-present Watkins, who has scored four times so far this term, added: “It was a great result from a very, very tough and physical game.
“It was probably a lot about hard work and attitude. Both sides showed that and each saved some tries but it was good to get on the end of the win in the end.
“In those types of conditions it was a little bit easier to stop their play out wide and both sides were rough and tumble in the middle but we capitalised more.
“We’re up at the top now and have got to keep going.
“We’re confident at the moment and going into Monday flying high, but we know tougher games will come as there’s pressure on for many to get into the top eight.
“It’s all great for the competition.”
If selected today, Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker will make his 100th Super League appearance.
Meanwhile, the outcome of the club’s internal investigation into his involvement in an assault is expected tomorrow.