Following the recent Qualifiers fixture release, Salford discovered that they will face Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings, Halifax RLFC, Toronto Wolfpack, Leeds Rhinos, London Broncos and Toulouse Olympique. Here we take an in-depth look at the last year’s Betfred Super League winners who now find themselves in the Qualifiers – Leeds Rhinos.
Season so far
On the back of a hugely successful 2017 season which saw Leeds Rhinos pick up their eighth Betfred Super League crown, defeating Castleford Tigers 24-6 in the Grand Final at Old Trafford, Leeds have struggled in 2018 and now see themselves back in The Qualifiers for the second time in three season.
Wins against Warrington Wolves and Hull KR ensured that they started the 2018 season well but a loss to Widnes Vikings ended February on a sour note. March started with hard fought victories over Hull FC and St Helens before falling 25-24 to Castleford Tigers despite a spirited resurgence coming back from a 24-point deficit, this unfortunately proved to not be enough on a day when a late Kallum Watkins conversion attempt drifted agonisingly close to sealing an impressive comeback for Leeds.
April followed a very similar trend to past months, early victories over Wakefield Trinity and Salford however were followed by defeats to Wigan Warriors and Hull FC, before a second victory of the season against KR.
This victory was followed by one of the worst runs in Leeds’ recent memory, seven consecutive Betfred Super League losses against the likes of Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, St Helens and two losses to Catalan Dragons.
This run of form lead to the dismissal of Head Coach Brian McDermott after six years and eight honours. The replacement for McDermott was the coaching team of James Lowes and Kevin Sinfield who would take the roles of Head Coach and Leeds’ first ever Director of Rugby, respectively.
Since Sinfield’s appointment Leeds have won just one outing – a 34-0 thrashing of bottom placed Widnes Vikings. This coupled with a 42-10 defeat at the hands of Castleford Tigers, a 38-22 loss to Salford, avenging the reverse fixture, and a 20-20 draw versus Wakefield Trinity meant Leeds would enter the Qualifiers, placed a disappointing ninth in the Betfred Super League.
Director of Rugby
Leeds Rhinos First Team Coach is former Bradford Bulls hooker James Lowes. Lowes won two Betfred Super League titles during his time at the Bulls. Lowes has spent time coaching since his retirement from the game in 2003, including spells in the backroom staff at Salford, Warrington Wolves and England. He was also first team coach at Warrington and Bradford Bulls prior to his current spell in charge of Leeds.
Overseeing Lowes is the new Director of Rugby, Leeds Rhinos’ legendary captain Kevin Sinfield. Sinfield made over 500 appearances throughout a glittering career with Leeds where he was a seven-time Betfred Super League winner as well as earning two Ladbrokes Challenge Cup crowns.
Sinfield proved a highly popular appointment last month when he re-joined the Club and will be looking to keep the Rhinos in the Betfred Super League.
27-year-old England regular Kallum Watkins is the Rhinos current captain. However, Watkins suffered a nasty anterior cruciate ligament injury in Leeds’ defeat to Castleford Tigers in May, ruling him out for around eight months.
In his absence Leeds have several experienced players they could call on to try to replace the leadership void left in Watkins’ stead. The man they are likely to look to though is 25-year-old prop forward Brad Singleton. Singleton has captained Leeds a few times since Watkins was ruled out, including this past weekend in their 48-12 loss to Warrington Wolves in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
Singleton has been at Leeds for his entire career, making his debut in 2011 against Salford in a 48-12 win. Since then he spent spells out on loan at Dewsbury Rams, Wakefield Trinity and Hunslet Hawks. Since his time away Singleton returned to Leeds and became a regular for the Betfred Super League side, playing a major part in their treble winning side of 2015.
If Leeds are to put an end to their slump they will sorely need payers like Brad Singleton to stand up to the pressure.
One to watch
28-year-old scrum half Richie Myler started his career with hometown side Widnes Vikings, making just two fleeting appearances before making the short move across to Salford. Myler had a successful spell with the club. In his first season he scored an impressive 25 tries in 32 matches helping the Red Devils to the 2008 National League One title, earning himself the opportunity to play in the Betfred Super League for the first time the following season as well as gaining the Co-Operative Player of the Year award.
Ahead of the 2010 Super League season Richie Myler found himself on the move again, this time to Warrington Wolves for £200,000, a record for a teenager in the Rugby League.
His spell at the Halliwell Jones stadium can be regarded as a lucrative one. Myler quickly found himself one of the league’s best halfbacks. In his seven years he scored an impressive 77 tries in 139 games. He did miss out on the 2010 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final due to injury but made up for it by helping his Warrington side beat Leeds Rhinos in the 2012 final.
Myler left Warrington following the 2015 season, joining Catalan Dragons where he spent two years, his new side would go on to win the 2017 Million Pound Game to retain their place in the Super League. A few months later he would be on the move again, this time to Leeds Rhinos where he’s enjoyed an entertaining first season despite sides struggles. Myler has scored four tries and leads the Betfred Super League in try assists with 23 in 19 games.
It is this creativity which will make Myler Leeds’ dangerman throughout The Qualifiers.
When’s the game
Salford will make the trip to the Emerald Headingley Stadium on Friday 14th September with kick off time at 7:45pm.
Ticket details and coach travel will be released in due course.
Written by Matt Tandy.