Leeds Rhinos boss Rohan Smith says injuries not to blame, admits performance poor in Castleford Tigers loss

Injuries were not to blame for Leeds Rhinos’ 26-24 defeat by Castleford Tigers at Magic Weekend, Rohan Smith stressed.

The coach admitted Rhinos simply weren’t good enough as they suffered their second loss of the campaign to their fierce rivals - who have won just three games all year.

Leeds led 12-10 at half-time and went 10 points clear with 16 minutes remaining, but Tigers rallied to snatch a deserved victory with two late converted tries.

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Rhinos were without seven first-choice players through injury, including four who had featured in the previous week’s golden-point loss to St Helens.

Mikolaj Oledzki's converted try gave Rhinos a 10-point lead over Castleford, but they couldn't hang on. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Mikolaj Oledzki's converted try gave Rhinos a 10-point lead over Castleford, but they couldn't hang on. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Mikolaj Oledzki's converted try gave Rhinos a 10-point lead over Castleford, but they couldn't hang on. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.

And though Blake Austin and James Bentley both returned after a two-match layoff, Tom Holroyd dropped out after being hurt in the warm-up.

“I am not going to put it down to who wasn’t playing,” Smith insisted. “Sometimes the result of the game can be influenced by who plays and who doesn’t, but the performance wasn’t of a standard.

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“I haven’t said that very often, but the performance wasn’t there and I am not going to [blame that on] who wasn’t playing.”

Derrell Olpherts celebrates scoring Rhinos' first try against his former club. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.Derrell Olpherts celebrates scoring Rhinos' first try against his former club. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.
Derrell Olpherts celebrates scoring Rhinos' first try against his former club. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com.
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Holroyd was named on the team sheet, but his absence meant Sam Walters, due to be on the bench, started and Liam Tindall, originally 18th man, was among the substitutes, not coming on until the 79th minute.

“He has a lower leg issue,” Smith said of Holroyd. “He wasn’t quite right. It is one of those that sometimes happen.”

Assessing where his side went wrong, Smith felt Rhinos were “disjointed” in defence and “didn’t take care of the ball” on attack.

“Respect for possession just wasn’t there,” he reflected. “Overall, I thought it was a very slow game, but their shift plays had some energy to them and we didn’t have our usual; level of connectedness and discipline and trust. Certainly, they created more opportunities than we would have liked.”

Rhyse Martin touches down for Rhinos against Castleford at Newcastle. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Rhyse Martin touches down for Rhinos against Castleford at Newcastle. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Rhyse Martin touches down for Rhinos against Castleford at Newcastle. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
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It was Leeds’ third successive defeat and they led at half-time of all of them, but Smith added: “I am not concerned with managing the lead as much as playing good, solid, complementary footy where the attack helps the defence, the defence helps the attack and the transition stuff is strong.

“That’s more the area we need to manage, but clearly we can perform and execute better at the back end of the game.”

Smith stressed practice and repetition is the key to cutting out errors, but he is also clearly growing increasingly frustrated with the speed of the ruck.

“Every player in every team in every game of rugby league anywhere in the world is trying to find a quick play the ball,” he said.

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“When you’ve got two flops landing on plenty of plays, you can’t get one. So everybody fights that little bit harder to get one and that’s generally where those errors come from. It was a flop-athon.”

Eliminated from the Challenge Cup and outside the play-off positions in Betfred Super League, Leeds’ season is in danger of falling apart, but the coach stressed he still has faith in Rhinos’ squad.

He pledged: “Our recruitment and retention is an on-going process. We would look at things if there was the right person [available], but I believe in our group.

“I believe in the players who played today and that performance won’t shift that. That was today’s performance and we need to get better and get ready for next week.”