Suspension of Super League halts Leeds Rhinos’ momentum

THE suspension of Super League could not have come at a worse time for Leeds Rhinos.

DEFENSIVE RESOLVE: Richard Agar has been impressed by Leeds's improvement in defence. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

After two seasons of struggle, Rhinos had finally found their feet and were on a four-game winning run when the coronavirus pandemic brought the curtain down a month ago.

Despite having two games in hand, Rhinos are the competition’s top scorers and briefly led the table following a 66-12 thrashing of Toronto Wolfpack before other results pushed them down to third.

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After being crushed 30-4 by Hull in round one, coach Richard Agar’s side went on to score 176 points, with only another 30 conceded, suggesting they could be on course for the play-offs for only the second time in five seasons.

RECOVERY: Stevie Ward has been given longer to return from injury. Picture: Steve Riding.

The shutdown will allow key players, including captain Stevie Ward and off-season signing Kruise Leeming, extra time to return from long-term injury, but Leeds will effectively be starting again, having lost the momentum built during their winning run.

“It’s a shame the season has stopped because we felt we were in a good place,” admitted Agar.

“But everybody’s in the same boat and we will build it back up again, just as I’m sure everyone else will.”

If Leeds can reproduce the attacking form they showed in February, a top-five place will be within their grasp.

Agar stressed: “I think it is important we play a good style of rugby.

“At Leeds there’s a certain style that’s in the heritage and DNA of the club and I think as a group we felt it was our duty to try and continue that, encourage it and express it.

“We’ve got some players who have those sorts of skills in their game so we felt that was important.

“We have got some structure, but we want to allow the players to showcase their individual talents within that structure and to be able to come away from that structure at times and play what they see.

“We have got the balance right so far on that.”

Leeds’ defensive improvement since Agar took over from Dave Furner last May has been arguably even more impressive.

“We have got a lot more consistent and I think it comes down to effort areas and a lot of the guys being committed to defence and to each other,” added the coach.

“The ways the boys have committed to it has been rewarded with some strong defensive displays. There’s tougher tests to come, but our average in terms of points conceded from the middle of last year is quite a healthy one.”