Brian McDermott: I knew my Leeds team would come good

Published: Saturday 26th September 2015 by The News Editor

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Leeds coach Brian McDermott says he never lost his faith in his players despite watching their Super League campaign threaten to unravel for a second successive year.

The Rhinos lost all four matches after lifting the Challenge Cup in 2014 to end the year with a damp squib, and there was a hint of deja vu when they lost consecutive league games to St Helens, Catalans Dragons and Castleford in the aftermath of last month’s 50-0 Wembley rout of Hull KR.

Another fourth straight defeat loomed when they trailed 16-8 in their final Super 8s match at Huddersfield on Friday night, but they stormed back with 12 points in the last seven minutes to win a thriller 20-16 and lift the league leaders’ shield for the first time since 2009 on points difference over Wigan.

McDermott had maintained all along that his players would come good when it mattered, insisting that a perceived loss of form was not an issue.

“I said it last year but, because we lost and bummed out the year, you can’t make too much of a noise about it,” he said.

“But to play the champions a week after a Challenge Cup final – and really tip your guts into it – and the week after fly off to France and get your backside smacked there, and we’re not the only team that’s happened to, and then four days later play Castleford, who had no pressure on them whatsoever, I don’t know if it’s been a lack of form. We’ve just been on the end of some tough results.

“The only issue I had with the last three games was the Catalans performance. I thought against Saints we were very good and against Cas we were just too tired.

“You can’t make too many noises until you actually win a game and you can reflect on it. So it’s always been in us.”

McDermott admitted his players went through the extreme range of emotions following their home defeat by Castleford, which gave Wigan the chance to take over top spot with one game to go.

However, the Rhinos lived to fight another day when St Helens scored a last-minute try to beat their arch rivals and set up a gripping final round of fixtures in which each of the top four teams could have claimed the league leaders’ shield.

“It was an unbelievably flat feeling when we all went home on Friday afternoon staring down the barrel of not being league leaders after, in my humble opinion, of being the best team all year,” McDermott said.

“Saints gave us a lifeline by beating Wigan, again in the dying seconds, and that gave us a “Meerkats” heads-up, thinking we’ve got a chance.”

Even then, it all came down to the very last seconds of the regular season, with Leeds winger Ryan Hall racing on to Danny McGuire’s kick over the Huddersfield defence to score his 200th try for the club as the final hooter sounded.

Captain Kevin Sinfield, who overcame a leg injury to play in the match and kicked a precious penalty a minute from the end to at least ensure a draw, said: “It shows the character within the group.

“We’ve had a really tough three weeks but we kept believing that we were still capable.

“Saints did a job for us last week against Wigan to keep everything alive and thankfully we were able to take advantage.

“Our celebrations are very muted, though. We’ve got a real tough game next week against Saints.”

Leeds’ semi-final will be at Headingley on Friday night, with Wigan hosting Huddersfield 24 hours earlier in the other tie .

Published: Saturday 26th September 2015 by The News Editor

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