Most sides losing their equivalents of Pat Richards, Paul
Prescott, Lee Mossop, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Stuart
Fielden, Chris Tuson and Ben Flower would be on their arses ready
to roll over and die before most games, never mind a trip to Leeds, but yet I'm still
very confident we will go there an compete.|
I mean, I don't
think our 19 man squad is too bad considering. I think "Henderson"
Gil Dudson has looked more that capable in the last few weeks and
we still have Jeff Lima and Eric Lauaki up front. I'm quite
content that either, or bothm Dom Crosby and Tom Spencer can do a
job and Rhodri Lloyd has been Under 20s Player of the Season for
me so far. He's scored 9 tries in 11 at that level and although
perhaps still a bit raw for regular action, I think he is capable
of a big one off, needs must, appearance. Put it this way, I'd be
far more worried if we were suffering in the backs.
Don't get me wrong, I think a victory will be a big ask, but
it's always a big ask at Headingley anyway. We do however have a
good record at Leeds in recent times and also when the absences
have been large.
Remember Huddersfield away last season? Sam Tomkins, Martin
Gleeson, Pat Richards, Paul Deacon, Stuart Fielden, Joel Tomkins,
Brett Finch and Eamon O'Carroll were all missing but we
won quite comfortably by 20 points to 6.
Then on Good Friday this year we were missing Lee Mossop, Liam
Farrell, Ben Flower, Eric Lauaki and Sean O'Loughlin from the pack
again won pretty comfortably by 28 points to 10.
So the omens are good in that regard but my actual gut feeling
is that our poor goal kicking will catch up with us this week.
Josh Charnley has certainly hit the wall with it following 9
failures from 14 attempts in the past fortnight. It's pretty
remarkable that we've been able to get away with that, but I think
the time has come for a change of goal kicker. Conversions are
going to be important in the next fortnight so I think Sam Tomkins
needs to step up. He can hardly do any worse surely?
Interestingly Wane has called up Under 20s goal kicker and top
try scorer Jack Murphy to the 19 man squad, but I don't see him
being involved unless someone is injured in the three quarters.
I'd personally omit him and Logan Tomkins and go with Jeff Lima
and Gil Dudson as starting props with Dom Crosby and Tom Spencer
backing them up.
Then I'd start Jack Hughes and Liam Farrell in the back row
with Eric Lauaki and Rhodri Lloyd as interchange options for them.
Eric has been very much a "do a quiet job" type player this year
but he needs to step up and really have a big game on Friday if we
are to have a chance. The reason I'd start him on the bench is
because I don't think we should put all our experienced options
out to start with.
Bench impact is certainly important and it's been around the 20
minute mark in the past fortnight, when interchanges are coming
into effect, that we've took control of those games. Huddersfield
held us to nil for 20 minutes but by half time we had scored three
tries. Last week just after Jeff Lima came on we claimed three
quick tries on 19, 21 and 24 minutes that really took the game
away from Saints. Granted we were already 12-0 up, and perhaps
Lima's introduction was just co-incidence, but the point I'm
making is that standards in intensity haven't been dropping when
bench options have been used and that might not be the case this
week. We might just have to hang in this game for a while and see
As for Leeds, well they are making a mockery at the moment of
their "champions" tag. I still would argue they got far too easy a
run to Old Trafford than a fifth place finish should warrant but
the bare facts are that they have only won 23 out of 41 regular
season games since Brian McDermott became coach. That's just a 56%
Don't get me wrong, you can't argue against the fact that Leeds
have won 4 of the last 5 Super League titles, you don't do that by
fluke, but to me their appearances in both finals last year is
masking that McDermott isn't doing a good job. Think you can
easily argue they made those finals in spite of him rather than
because of him. They wouldn't have come close to doing it had they
not had the experience of doing it before.
I mean they obviously meet us in the cup semi finals again this
year but they've barely been tested in progressing to meet us in
that competition both this year and last. Cup draws for them have
included Crusaders, Harlequins, Hull, Castleford, Wakefield,
Salford and Leigh in the past two years whilst we've met St Helens
twice and faced Warrington away. Would Leeds have got past both
Saints and Warrington last year in the cup with McDermott as
coach? I doubt it.
On their day though they are extremely formidable. I mean last
year at Headingley they did a proper job on us really, and somehow
we scratched an underserved 22-22 draw. Headingley is never an
easy ground to go to but this current Leeds side don't look like
they are being coached well at all mentally and I hope they are
going to come out thinking they will just roll over our weakened
pack. If they do I think they will be in for a big shock! We shall
see! I'm certainly not going over to Leeds with any fears myself.
Bring it on!