Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith proud despite Super League defeat at Toulouse Olympique
Rhinos trailed 14-0 at half-time, but rallied with a converted try 11 minutes from the end before Toulouse Olympique sealed a 20-6 win in the closing moments.
Toulouse went into the game bottom of Betfred Super League, but the visitors were without both first-choice half-backs, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer, as well as four of their five props and lost Liam Sutcliffe to illness when the team arrived at Stade Ernest Wallon.
Smith said: “I thought it was a really hard-fought game in very taxing conditions for both teams.
“I thought we were full of running at the end of the game, which was testament to our performance staff and definitely the players for really buying into what we’ve done to prepare for tough conditions.”
The coach reflected: “They scored a couple of tries on the edges, which can happen, but we defended brave.
“We’ve had tons of experienced players pull out during the week, then another one just before kick off.
“The young players are tough kids and they are brave and the more senior players stepped forward.
“I am nothing but proud of the group.”
Smith was critical of his own contribution, admitting: “I need to do a better job to get our team to flow when we’ve got a few experienced halves not there.
“I need to work on that, but we asked them to keep turning up and they did that all the way until the end.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the efforts of our players.”
Smith felt the game was affected by a series of breaks in play.
“To be honest, it was a little disappointing the game stopped so many times for medical checks or whatever that didn’t result in interchanges,” he said.
“I think we stopped the game twice, for a head knock when the player [Mikolaj Oledzki, who later returned to the field] was replaced and for a serious ankle injury [Max Simpson], which was also replaced.
“Other than that, the rest of the stoppages weren’t down to us.”
Smith added: “There were a lot of stoppages.
“It is a difficult situation for the referee to be in, in trying conditions, for him to try and speed the game up.
“It’s not really up to him; I wondered what a lot of the stoppages were for and then they weren’t replaced on the back of it.
“I was a little disappointed we weren’t able to go end to end a bit more.”
Smith insisted Rhinos’ policy is to play on when they can, though he accepts that is not always possible.
“The way we are coaching our young players, if you can get up, get up,” he stressed.
“We had a couple that couldn’t and had to be replaced and that’s fine.
“What we want to see is attrition and the ball in play. It’s exciting when it’s going end to end, even if it’s one-out carries.
“That’s what people want to see. We certainly didn’t see enough of it and it has happened in other games as well, for sure.”