After Friday night’s defeat to St Helens, there was very little for Leeds interim coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan to be happy about.
They’d just been nilled at home for the second time in three years by the Saints having lost 48-0 at Headingley during lockdown in 2020.
That said, Buchanan was pleased with what he felt was an improved performance after weeks of struggle for the eight-time Super League Champions.
He also spoke highly of a couple of individuals including Liam Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe, wearing the number four jersey in 2022, was forced to play at seven with Aidan Sezer unavailable owing to a groin complaint.
He stood up well in the role testing St Helens with some high kicks and moving the ball alongside Blake Austin.
That said, he did gift St Helens a try with an overly ambitious pass which led to a Tommy Makinson intercept try which ultimately killed the game at 14-0.
Nonetheless, Buchanan was pleased with how Sutcliffe stood up in the role when speaking after the match.
“I’ve always rated Sutty as a half,” Buchanan said, “I think he’s really silky, he’s intuitive. He’s really disappointed with himself when he’s thrown that ball behind his back, I think young Jack Broadbent has done one as well, they’re the sort of bits we need to cut out and be patient with.
“He’s class. I remember the first time I came across him I was coaching under 16s and Rob Burrow had him in his 15s and he sent him up to play with us because we were a bit short and I was thinking ‘he’s got all the attributes’ because he’s a big lad and can bang them. He’s home grown and he cares.”
He also spoke about Sutcliffe’s capacity to be a leader alongside the likes of Ash Handley and said: “Great leaders create leaders and good leaders have the ability to follow as well sometimes and that’s what we need.”
Another player he singled out was former St Helens backrow James Bentley. It’s been a rocky start to life at Leeds for Bentley after he was sent off in Round One against Warrington and subsequently given a four-match ban. However, he showed great energy in the game against St Helens on Friday and Buchanan was pleased with him not least because he improved his discipline.
“I’ve been into him a lot because he’s got a lot to give,” Buchanan said of Bentley, “I love his application to our game and he’s really useful to have but his discipline has been horrendous. But I thought he had some real control about him tonight. There’s a few more little improvements I’ve asked players to ‘sort this out’ in the short term and they’ve done it.”
Bentley did go off for a HIA assessment and on this Buchanan stated: “He passed it. He had a bad neck but he’ll be fine tomorrow because he’s hard as nails. The game had gone by then and I wanted to get young Muizz Mustapha on and give Jarrod O’Connor some minutes.”