Leeds Rhinos v Team Bath: No margin for error as Rhinos chase top-four finish

LEEDS RHINOS need to win each of their remaining five Super League games if they are to gatecrash the top four and secure a play-off spot.

That is the challenge that has been laid down by Liana Leota, Rhinos’ director of netball, who was pleased to see her team respond to a similar rallying call last Friday night by defeating Saracans Mavericks, one of the teams they have to overhaul in the race for the top four.

With five games remaining, starting against struggling Team Bath at Canon Medical Arena in Sheffield on Friday, Rhinos sit seventh in the 10-team Super League on 15 points.

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They trail fourth-placed Severn Stars by nine points. With three points awarded for a win, Leota knows there is absolutely no margin for error.

BIG ASK: Liana Leota, Leeds Rhinos’ director of netball. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty ImagesBIG ASK: Liana Leota, Leeds Rhinos’ director of netball. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
BIG ASK: Liana Leota, Leeds Rhinos’ director of netball. Picture: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

“We have to play each week as if it’s our last because we have to win all of our games going forward to keep that top-four dream alive,” she said.

“Even when we play (leaders) Manchester Thunder game (final game in Hull on Saturday, June 15), which will be our hardest and toughest task, we may well have to win that one too.

“We’ll try to take it one game at a time. From the Loughborough game at the First Direct Arena I feel we’ve been really building so I think that win on Friday will have given the girls confidence that we can win all those remaining games over the next four to five weeks.”

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One of those games is against the Stars at the University of Huddersfield on Saturday, June 1, a fixture that has all the makings of do or die.

And Rhinos can at least take confidence into the sprint to the finish given how well their performances have picked up in recent weeks, culminating in a 59-49 win over Saracens Mavericks at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport.

“I had to put a rocket up them after the first quarter to sort out their behaviours and all that sort of stuff but once they found their tone they were much better, they exerted more control,” said Leota.

“Our starts remain something we have to work on but once we got into the second quarter and found our rhythm and controlled the tempo I felt very confident.

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“They love playing fast and furious, but it was definitely a more composed and complete performance after that.

“There weren’t many errors, so we’re slowly eradicating that from our game which is pleasing to see. It was just the huge team performance we needed.”

And they were boosted by a 100 per cent shooting performance from Malawi international Joyce Mvula, who converted on 40 of 40 shots.

“Joyce had a big task up against Roses defenders current and former, so she had a fantastic 60-minute game,” said Leota.

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“It’s her physicality as well, she did a little bit of everything, which I haven’t seen from Joyce yet.”

Leota wants her team to carry that momentum into Friday’s game with Bath, a team that has won just one game all season.

She said: “It’s another one where we’ve got to work hard, although we’ve beaten them the last couple of games we still need a good team performance.

“We need to tick a lot of boxes this Friday.”