Huddersfield Giants v Castleford Tigers: Underdogs keep eye on gatecrashing top four
Kruise Leeming is refusing to abandon Huddersfield Giants' bid to gatecrash Super League's top-four.
The Giants sit eighth, five points adrift of fourth-placed Salford Red Devils, with four games remaining.
To clinch a Super 8s semi-final spot, and to keep alive their faint Grand Final hopes, Huddersfield realistically need to win all four remaining games.
First up is tonight’s visit of league leaders and the season’s outstanding team, Castleford Tigers, before trips to Salford and St Helens ahead of Leeds Rhinos visit to John Smith’s Stadium.
Eight points from those four games and Rick Stone’s Huddersfield will deserve a semi-final place.
For hooker Leeming, part of the Giants team who thrashed Challenge Cup winners Hull FC 46-18 last time out, the season is not over yet.
“We need to win the last four,” he said. “We’ve come too far to turn back and not have a crack.
“Personally, it’s been a good season. The team have come together and the cultures are working together.
“What Rick has brought in, and the way that he coaches and the things he demands, is really good. Hopefully, I can carry this form on to next year.
“It’s just getting to know your players. As soon as you start swapping around two or three players it changes the whole dynamic of the team sometimes.
“With the defence, when they come from different clubs, they have different methods but we’re starting to buy into all the same principle now. When you work on something in training and it comes off in the game, then you get more belief in that. The belief is what carries us in games.”
Giants impressed at Hull, but then had a weekend off due to the Challenge Cup, and will hope to carry on that fine form against Castleford.
“We’ve got a big challenge ahead,” said Leeming.
“Cas have been the in-form team and they are where they are for a reason.
“I think their attacking shape is really testing but we’re going to give it a really good crack and see what happens.
“It’s nice to have a break but it’s nice to have momentum, too.
“The way that we’re training is good and we’re enjoying winning. I don’t think it will make too much of a difference.”
One of the positives for Huddersfield this season is the emergence of Academy product Leeming as a quality hooker.
The 21-year-old believes he has benefited from working alongside Australian Ryan Hinchcliffe.
“Hinchliffe has been a massive help,” he said. “The way he trains and the experience he’s had from Melbourne has rubbed off on us all.
“It’s not always how skilful you are but it’s how you do the smaller things and he’s testament to that.
“There’s a lot of competition. You don’t want to let down your team-mates when you’re out there and if I can avoid doing that then I’m happy with how I’ve played,” he added.
No-one can question the calibre of Stone as a coach, but the Giants have not reaped immediate dividends under his stewardship.
However, the 50-year-old Australian – who has previously coached Newcastle Knights in the NRL and the Fiji national team – believes graft on the training ground is finally starting to pay off over the last couple of months.
“It’s been a while for the penny to drop for some of the players,” he said.
“But we have learnt some lessons and learnt the process of the game, how to build and maintain pressure a bit better and how to be a bit patient and more composed offensively.
“Also how to have a bit more steel defensively on your own line, because, invariably throughout games, if you match it with the big boys your defence is going to be under pressure to stand up.
“So we have worked on our spacing and our goal-line defence and we are harder to score points against now, that’s for sure.”