Leeds’ attack looked like costing them yesterday in their do or die clash with Castleford with one play-off spot remaining for the victor.
The Rhinos had a lot of ball but routinely knocked on and went on to trail 8-0 with 73 minutes gone. Remarkably, Leeds turned things around to win 14-8 and secure fifth in the table and a trip to Catalans in the play-offs next week.
It was, however, another game in which Leeds’ attack has struggled after it flourished earlier in the season against the likes of Hull FC and Warrington.
To coach Rohan Smith, it’s pretty clear why Leeds’ attack has struggled recently. The Rhinos haven’t had a settled side since Smith took over due to bans and injuries whilst time on the training field has been greatly reduced by the short turnarounds brought on by the double header weekend we’ve seen recently with Leeds playing three high pressure games in just over a week.
Smith believes these are the factors behind Leeds’ unsettled and inconsistent attack in another demonstration of why these double headers aren’t good for the game: “Every time we’ve had a couple of settled teams something happens and then you have three short turnarounds so you don’t do much practice so we’ve done very little team work.
“The focus has been on energy and being clear in our heads and I think we’ve done that really well. We’ve spent a long time playing essentially sudden death games as they’ve turned out has we dropped any of them we wouldn’t have made the six.
“We’ve done a really good job at mentally being fresh enough to stay in games but our cohesion fallen to bits so we’re going to have to rely on rolling up the sleeves and grinding away next week, it’s not going to get pretty in six days’ times.”
Interestingly, his opposite number Lee Radford also spoke in length about how the quality of games is reduced by these double headers: “It was just a continuation of having nobody really. I think you’ll probably see the outcome of these games in the next few weeks in the play-offs.
“With the ball there was a lot of errors and I can understand why, we were clunky. Over the next couple of weeks it’ll be interesting what sort of effect it has. Some teams had the ability to freshen up playing some squad members.
“I thought that was a poor quality game, but it was exciting. Warrington last week was one of the worst games I’ve seen but in the end very exciting. It can be a bad game but still exciting and that epitomises that today.
“I’m a coach so I’m going to look at it from a coach’s perspective: I want less games, less suspensions, my best players on the field more often.
“You can’t do all of that, you can’t continue to suspend players and play more games. So there’s got to be a bit more common sense if there’s any in the sport.”