THE GAP was 56 points when they met in March and 11 last month and winger Ryan Hall believes Leeds Rhinos are now capable of getting to grips with Super League leaders Castleford Tigers.
The near-neighbours will meet for the third time this season on Friday night in a game which appears more important for the home side, Leeds.
We need to learn some lessons from the first half at Magic and put an 80-minute performance in because they are a very good side. They know what they are doing and what they do works for them.Ryan Hall
They are already six points behind Castleford in the table and another loss would effectively end their hopes of mounting a late challenge for the league leaders’ shield.
Leeds have not beaten Castleford since April, 2015 – a run of six straight defeats – but Hall feels they can go into this week’s game in confident mood.
Playing at centre he was among the try scorers in the 58-0 Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Championship team Featherstone Rovers three days ago and said: “It’s a massive game.
“It’s the third time we’ve played them this year and they’ve done a job on us twice.
“The first time was an annihilation, but the second time – at the Magic Weekend – I thought the first half was how we need to play against them.
“I thought we were unlucky not to be in front at half-time and ultimately I think that’s why we didn’t win the game, because they came out and blew us away in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“We need to learn some lessons from the first half at Magic and put an 80-minute performance in because they are a very good side.
“They know what they are doing and what they do works for them.”
Integral to Castleford’s success this year has been winger Greg Eden, who could be a team-mate of Hall’s for England at this year’s World Cup.
He is on course to break Denny Solomona’s club record of 42 touchdowns, set only last season and Hall said: “He has scored a mountain of tries.
“When Luke Gale plays, the left-winger of Cas scores tries. The way he plays he creates chances, but you have to be good to score them. I’m not taking anything away from Greg, the tries he has scored take some finishing, but he is getting a lot of opportunities.”
Rhinos expect to have Rob Burrow back from a shoulder injury on Friday and Ashton Golding following a hamstring problem.
Jamie Jones-Buchanan served a one-game ban against Featherstone and only Jimmy Keinhorst (hand) and Brett Delaney (knee) remain on Leeds’s casualty list.
The Cup tie was the first of three games in 10 days for Rovers who play host to Swinton Lions on Wednesday and visit second-placed London Broncos on Sunday.
Rovers were upset at being ordered to play the midweek match, which was rearranged from last Friday, but coach Jon Sharp feels the experience of a Cup quarter-final at Headingley will stand them in good stead.
“We put ourselves under far too much pressure with our completion rate and penalties as well,” Sharp said of his team’s performance against Leeds.
“There are lessons to learn.
“Leeds were patient, they kicked out their sets and kicked extremely well.
“We were a little bit erratic at times. We worked hard all week on a kicking plan, but it did not resemble what we practiced.”
Sharp added: “That is part and parcel of the occasion and coming up against a good team who are putting you under the pump.
“That’s where we let ourselves down a little bit.
“We didn’t make them work as hard as we should have done.
“That’s disappointing, because we can play better, but the experience is absolutely invaluable.
“The middle-eights last year was good for us and has had a good influence on how we are playing this year.
“Being in the top-four all year has been a by-product of having had those middle-eight games.
“Playing some good Super League teams helped us and I think Friday will as well.
“I talk about completing and being patient and building pressure and kicking well and Leeds showed how effective that can be.”