THEY HAVE been inconsistent all year, but winger Tom Briscoe believes Leeds Rhinos are ready to hit their best form at the most crucial time of the season.
Rhinos have sealed second place in the table and will be at home to the team finishing third in a sudden-death Super League semi-final at Headingley on Friday, September 29.
It is a remarkable rise for a side who finished ninth last year and spent the final third of the 2016 season battling against relegation in the middle-eights Qualifiers.
Rhinos conclude their Super-8s campaign away to Huddersfield Giants on Friday and Briscoe, who has scored nine tries in 31 appearances this term, said their focus will be on building on last week’s 44-2 demolition of Salford Red Devils.
It was one of Rhinos’ most accomplished performances of the year, with and without the ball and Briscoe feels that is a level they will need to maintain over the next three weeks.
“Looking forward to the semi-final we know we need to be a bit more consistent in our performances,” said the former Hull and England winger who scored one of Rhinos’ eight tries against Salford.
“I thought it was a great response from the whole team [after the previous week’s defeat at Castleford]. Defensively we were great and we scored some good long-range team tries as well.
“We know we are in second and we’ve got the home semi’ already, but we want to be building into the semi-final,” he said.
“We can’t go into it on the back of bad performances and expect to get to the Grand Final and win it.
“We need to keep building and get our confidence and, I suppose, our teamwork together and make sure we are clicking for these last few games.
“With that [Friday’s] performance we have set a marker down for the last few games.”
On a personal level, Briscoe admitted to being “pleased” with his man of the match contribution, which earned praise from coach Brian McDermott after the game. Briscoe took the brunt of the blame when Leeds were heavily beaten by Hull in a Challenge Cup semi-final at the end of July and he has been targeted by opposing teams since then.
While warning he is “not out of the woods” yet, McDermott paid tribute to Briscoe’s “unbelievably strong character” under heavy pressure and the 27-year-old feels he is beginning to find his feet again after a tough period. “I think I’ve been building over the last couple of weeks and it was nice to put in a decent performance,” Briscoe said.
“There has been a lot said over recent weeks, especially from the semi-final, but personally I think I’ve bounced back as well as well as I could do and hopefully I can keep that up until the end of the season.
“When that much gets said you try not to listen, but it is hard,” he added.
“I just tried to put that to the side and concentrate on myself and not put myself under too much pressure and it is starting to pay off a bit now.”