Rhinos desperate to halt losing run by delivering Wigan shock

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REDEMPTION is likely to be a watchword for Leeds Rhinos as they prepare to face Super League leaders Wigan Warriors tomorrow night.

A season that had been flying along so comfortably has suddenly hit a bit of turbulence.

There is no sense of panic – the durable champions have endured far, far worse than this and still recovered to achieve success – but after consecutive defeats for the first time since last summer, they are keen to quickly restore order.

That will be no easy task given the impressive swagger of a Wigan side who are firmly ensconced in a 10-match winning run, remain three points clear at the top and are, also, safely into the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

Leeds do, though, boast recent intelligence on beating Shaun Wane’s side having been the last side to defeat them with an 
18-14 victory at Headingley in mid-March, one of only two losses for the Cherry and Whites all year.

That aside, however, it is closer to home where the West Yorkshire club will be concentrating ahead of their Magic Weekend date in Manchester.

That is because it is the manner of Leeds’s consecutive defeats that stings them; a meek Challenge Cup exit at Huddersfield Giants followed by Monday night’s surreal home loss to St Helens when they somehow uncharacteristically surrendered a 16-0 advantage to a confidence-drained side that had lost its previous five fixtures.

Talking to the Yorkshire Post, Leeds’s England winger Ryan Hall acknowledged the need for his side to respond immediately, especially if they want to fulfil their aim of finishing first for the first time since 2009.

Head coach Brian McDermott has guided Leeds to Grand Final success in each of his two seasons so far but both times from the onerous position of fifth.

The desire to prove themselves the finest side over the full course of a campaign and not only on an October night at Old Trafford has been spurring them on.

Leeds are currently in fourth, six points adrift of Wigan but with two games still in hand, yet given their rivals’ dominance so far they can ill-afford a third successive defeat.

“Wigan are the side we want to catch,” said Hall, who is just one try away from notching 150 for Rhinos.

“Every team in the competition is chasing them. They’re sitting pretty at the top.

“It’s a bit early to look at the league table and finishing positions but Wigan, if they’re going to carry on the form they are doing, seem like they could end up runaway leaders.

“After what happened against Saints, we’re definitely going to have to pick our game up if we are going to challenge them at all but we know we can do that.”

The world’s official greatest winger did not seek any excuses following that surprise 30-22 defeat at Headingley.

“Mentally we just put the cue in the rack after 20 minutes,” conceded Hall.

“We stopped doing what we’d been doing to get that 16-point lead.

“Saints turned it around a little and started playing a bit better but we have to mainly look at ourselves rather than at how good Saints were.”

There was the inevitable mutterings about a Challenge Cup “hangover” especially as Leeds – beaten finalists in each of the last three seasons – saw their latest attempt ended so early in the competition by Huddersfield.

But Hall, 25, countered: “The Challenge Cup didn’t have anything to do with it.

“I just think we played really poor. It’s not the first time this year but in weeks gone by we’ve played poor and still won.

“Obviously, the result has gone against us this week and the spotlight is on us a little bit now as we go into this Wigan match.

“We’ve got to find some answers but we are the sort of team that can do that. We’re not too worried.”

You know what he means; it seems to be an innate quality of this Leeds side that they can quickly rediscover the winning formula and often against the most testing of opponents.

They overcame Wigan in last year’s play-offs and Challenge Cup semi-final while Hall, also, speaks proudly of their record at Magic Weekend with Rhinos being the only side to have never tasted defeat in the six events so far.

On a personal level, he has particularly fond memories given he made his Leeds debut at the inaugural showpiece in Cardiff in 2007, that controversial last-second win against Bradford Bulls which is, of course, more commonly refereed to as Gansongate.

Hall, who has played every Magic Weekend since and scored seven tries including a Edinburgh hat-trick against Wakefield Trinity three years ago, is a keen fan of the concept.