Despite another improved performance, Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s Leeds side were left heartbroken as they gave up a 20-10 lead over Huddersfield to draw 20-20.
It was the first draw at Headingley since 2018 and left the players feeling “like they’d lost a final” according to interim boss Buchanan. However, he himself was pleased with the performance.
“I thought we were really good right until the end of the game,” Buchanan said after the match, “I’m really proud of the boys.
“I just said to the boys, I’ve been on some journeys with this club and I’ve had some successes. But it’s alright to be courageous and brave when you’re winning but when it’s been the way it has for the last few weeks and you have to put up with the questions we have, that’s when you’ve got to be courageous.
“I’m proud of the boys and the courage they’ve shown not just tonight but this whole week. I’ve said, we’re going in the right direction. There’s some smiles on the faces.”
When asked if he felt Leeds deserved to win, he was very diplomatic about it: “We deserved to draw it because it was a draw. If we deserved to have won it, we would have won it. If it was down to effort, then maybe but credit to Huddersfield.
“I’m disappointed because our boys are disappointed, they’re hurting but at the same time there’s a small smile on my face because I’m proud of them.”
The draw was not a terrible result for Leeds but it still leaves them 11th in the league and three points behind 10th. Buchanan was pleased to get the point rather than nothing but stressed that this is not where he wants the club to be: “I’ll take the draw over a loss any day but at the end of the day we’re Leeds Rhinos and we want to be winning games.
“Our fans can see that we’re working hard and doing our best to turn things around.”
Worsening the dropping of a point, Leeds also lost fullback Jack Walker to injury. Buchanan gave an update on him and how he will address the position moving forward: “We talked about how we missed Richie Myler and how significant the fullback role is and he [Jack Walker] has had a pretty significant twang on his hamstring. We’ll have to scan that in the next couple of days. I’m trying to articulate how important it is he keeps his head up.
“Liam Sutcliffe is more than capable at fullback. He’s exceptional with the ball in his hands, it doesn’t mean he’ll lose much from his game. It does mean maybe Kruise Leeming or maybe we’ll get Aidan Sezer back in at halfback.”
He also spoke about what he knows of the Head Coach situation at the club after Gary Hetherington revealed in a meal for members who donated their season ticket money to the club during the pandemic that a new coach would be appointed next week.
He said he didn’t know when a new coach would be appointed and that it wasn’t his priority: “I had a sit down with Gary. He keeps his cards close to his chest. We’re trying to impress upon the team a fair bit in terms of values and hard work.
“When he makes his announcement, he makes his announcement. Until then I’ll keep the boys positive and going in the right direction.”
Buchanan also explained the decision to leave natural centre Jack Broadbent out in favour of second-row Alex Mellor: “He [Broadbent] needs to keep developing and growing. We have a great history of top centres and Jack’s a great player and has a real aptitude for learning and he had some amazing games last year. I just felt he’s been a tiny bit off the mark, off the standard. Where we’ve been we just needed a bit of solidarity and consistency and Alex Mellor will give you that all day long.”
Speaking of young talent, Jack Sinfield shone for the under 18s as he nailed the winning drop goal against Wigan in the curtain raiser. Buchanan spoke highly of him and explained whether he was now an option with Aidan Sezer still out and now Jack Walker injured as well: “These are all messages we’re giving the young kids when we get 26 on the training field those young boys, Jack Sinfield and the rest of them are getting fed the same information and I’m so proud of them tonight.
“I’ll make a fuss of Jack because I believe he’s had a big influence on the end of that academy game and that’s what we need and what Rhinos players do. Our youth are really important.
“I’d love for Jack to be an option. You’re always thinking about his dad because he’s in his image because he’s the double of him in everything that he does. I’ve admired Kev for years and I look Jack and think wow. When Jack does something that Kev doesn’t do like forget his diary I’m like ‘Jack don’t forget your diary’ but at the same time I’m like ‘he’s not Kev.’ He’s got to be Jack Sinfield, he’s got to be somebody different.
“As much as we love Kev, he’s got to be his own man and he’s come up with some special moments today and I’m really pleased for him.
“He’s working really hard, physically he’s a young man and he’s going to be a gem and we don’t want to break him. We’ve got to be careful with Jack.”
Watch the presser here: