After Leeds Rhinos were thumped 42-10 last night by the Warrington Wolves, many were left questioning how this had happened to last year’s Grand Finalists.
It is easy to forget that the Rhinos had a selection issue going into the game.
Without Harry Newman and Nene MacDonald, Leeds were thread bare at centre with wingers Luis Roberts and Ash Handley operating in the roles.
After the game, speaking on the Rhinos’ YouTube channel, Smith conceded that the duo didn’t look comfortable in the role: “It wasn’t a day for combinations but I think Luis and Ash both looked not comfortable, but they looked ready to play that position and we’ll keep assessing. I feel like it will evolve and people will put their flag in the ground, but at this point it’s picking our best players and then working out the positions after that.”
One problem many have pointed out is the metres Warrington made, on this Smith said: “I think we read a lot into that, there was plenty of times last year when we won games and teams struggled to score tries against us, but they were making metres. So it’s really the execution of the opposition big play, hand or kick.
“The momentum of going backwards isn’t something we’re striving for, but you’ve got to be able to tolerate it at some point. We just couldn’t get anything going back the other way, because then the opposition attack doesn’t have as much energy if you’re attacking against them. But we just couldn’t get the ball back off them and that was partly because we weren’t defending well enough to earn the ball back, so it’s the ebb and flow and complimentary nature of attack and defence complimenting each other.
“When we got a little bit of that going near the end we looked fine, but it’s getting that bit first that will be the focus I’m sure.”
Smith also spoke about debutant Sam Lisone and how being in limbo hasn’t helped the prop: “It’s a bit thing to have a few months in limbo when the season has ended, waiting for visas and work permits.
“You get here in December and the weather’s different and it’s a much shorter pre-season than what he’s used to in the NRL.
“There’s a lot of things that are different for Sam this pre-season, waiting for his missus to come over and getting a house sorted so I was under no illusions that it would take some time for him to get to his best. He got started tonight and he’ll be better for it.”
Lastly, Smith spoke about why Leeds are starting games slow having started slow in pre-season games too: “I find things very hard to separate the physical from the mental because they both influence each other. It’s important to start games well but you’ve got to know that you won’t start every game well, you’re going to be down 6-0 or 12-0, and you’ve got to be able to recover if you want to be a good team. That’s how we played today, next week will be another week.2