Today was a huge win for Leeds. The Rhinos needed to back up their huge 62-16 win over Hull FC with a win over rivals Castleford especially if they wanted to shorten the gap between them and the Tigers and keep their play-off hopes alive.
That was always going to be easier than done with Kruise Leeming and Blake Austin missing the game through injury but a second half blitz from the Rhinos – despite the fact Zak Hardaker also went off injured – saw Leeds claim a statement win at the Tigers’ expense.
After the game, Rohan Smith opened up on two of those injuries firstly giving an update on Zak Hardaker who suffered a thigh injury: “He’s got a decent knock on his leg. He got it early in the game and it got to a point not long after halftime where he felt like he was going to be a bit of a passenger and not able to do his job so the medical guys made the decision.
“It won’t be too long. Those ones are always hard to tell. He’s in a fair bit of pain right now.”
Of course Blake Austin played no part in the game due to a thigh injury. Smith revealed when he knew Austin wasn’t going to play: “In my gut, Thursday morning but it wasn’t until he got out onto the field on training where he wasn’t right.”
He then went on to explain why Corey Johnson was the man asked to start at six despite the fact Leeds have a more natural halfback in the admittedly younger Jack Sinfield: “Corey’s been playing there a little bit there at Bradford in the Championship which are tough, hard physical games. He’s a bit older, a bit more mature than Jack. Jack has done a good job and he’s training well but he’s also been getting hit very hard after he’s passed the ball in other grades he’s playing in and he’s an 18-year-old kid so I’m conscious of taking care of him a little bit.”
With Austin, Hardaker and Leeming all now doubts for the game against Toulouse with Leeds only being able to name a 20-man squad for this game, the Rhinos squad is looking thread bare again.
When Jack Walker was allowed to join Hull FC on loan there was a belief that this would culminate in someone coming in especially in the pack.
When asked if these injuries would accelerate the recruitment process, Smith gave a cryptic response suggesting that work is still being done but nothing has been decided just yet: “Recruitment is always a pressing issue and retention. That’s a day to day, multiple conversations every day you’re always having those conversations even when there’s nothing going on.
“The outcomes of those won’t be discussed till there is an outcome.”