For the first time this season, Leeds occupy a place inside the top six and now that the destiny of a place in the finals is firmly in their hands.
Like the Rhinos, Hull KR will have experienced a timely boost of confidence with a win over Toulouse last week which has reignited their play-off hopes though a defeat against the Rhinos would be damning.
As for Leeds, they seem to be riding the crest of a wave at present with that wave called the Rohan Smith effect. They need to keep the ball rolling though if they’re to wrap up a play-off spot.
The Robins have lost another forward in the shape of Korbin Sims who coped a ban after the win over Toulouse. Making matters worse is the fact Lachlan Coote failed the return to play protocol test this week after suffering a head knock two weeks ago against Wigan. However, Ryan Hall and Kane Linnett are both nailed on to return whilst Mikey Lewis has a 50/50 chance of playing.
Leeds have crucially lost three players to bans as their discipline record takes another hit in a crucial blow ahead of this clash. Rhyse Martin, Aidan Sezer and David Fusitu’a are the players banned all of whom played key roles in the win over Salford last week. Like Hull KR, Leeds’ personnel woes could be ameliorated by the potential return of Blake Austin to the side though even with his return Leeds are only able to name a 19-man squad.
Match Preview – Key Battles:
Ethan Ryan vs Ash Handley: Both these men are criminally underrated especially Ethan Ryan. A top class finisher in top form, Ash Handley will have a big job on his hands to nullify his threat though based on the way he contained Ken Sio for the most part last week even turning defence into attack with a brilliant intercept, Handley could be key to the way Leeds managed Hull KR’s offence whilst being a threat himself.
Rowan Milnes vs Richie Myler: RM vs RM, an interesting tussle this between two players who most wouldn’t regard as their team’s first choice halfbacks though both have great halfback qualities like an astute kicking game especially in dangerous areas as well as an eye for a gap. There’ll be extra pressure on Milnes should Mikey Lewis be not fit enough to play.
Matt Parcell vs Jarrod O’Connor: Leeds’ former number nine meets the man doing a terrific job in the role even if he prefers playing loose-forward though you wouldn’t know it the danger he poses jumping out of dummyhalf showing the strength of a forward in bruising bursts. He also has a killer pass on him which created two of Leeds’ five tries against Salford. However, he’ll have his work cut out against the always dangerous and savvy Matt Parcell who is always a threat on the back of a quick ruck as Leeds fans will certainly know.
Where the game will be won and lost:
In their last six wins, Leeds have averaged 41 points per game so it’s clear that Danny McGuire’s men will have to fight hard to blunt the Leeds attack. If they can do so, Salford showed that Leeds can be put on the back foot. However, whilst on the back foot, the Rhinos scrambled really well demonstrating a steel we’ve not seen until Smith came in. This may be the key to another vital win in the play-off hunt.
Score Prediction: Hull KR 10-28 Leeds Rhinos