Richard Agar’s Leeds Rhinos side look to win their first game of the Super League season when they face Catalan Dragons at Headingley on Thursday.
Consecutive defeats against two tough opponents in the form of Warrington and Wigan have seen The Rhinos fall to ninth, but fans are unlikely to panic too much this early on in the season. In contrast, Dragons sit in sixth with one win and one defeat against Wakefield and St Helens respectively, but even the French sides victory wasn’t particularly convincing.
Although only two games in, Leeds are harbouring playoff ambitions and a win against last seasons table toppers would be the perfect way to get the Yorkshire side back on track. A defeat on the other hand, could see them having their worst start to a season since the infamous 2016 campaign.
Neither team are at full strength ahead of the midweek fixture, Leeds are missing David Fusitu’a, Richie Myler, Ash Handley, Harry Newman and Rhyse Martin whilst Catalan are without Dylan Napa, Gil Dudson, Julian Bousquet, Arthur Mourge and Mickael Goudemand. Despite these injuries, we’re certainly in for an exciting game, both teams will be desperate to gain some momentum and force themselves up the table.
Even without the missing players, Leeds will no doubt rely on the talents Blake Austin and Aiden Sezer to provide a bit of quality, despite a poor performance from the latter last week, Leeds boss Agar refused to single out the halfback: “There’s room for improvement across the board, I thought we were too deep, played before the line and our timing was off; we know where we let ourselves down and we know how to fix it up.”
“I want a much-improved display, not just from Aidan but our whole team – Aidan playing with 12 men in round one was magnificent for us.”
The Rhinos have also received positive injury news with returning hooker Brad Dwyer providing a huge boost ahead of the game but Dragons coach Steve McNamara believes his side have plenty of room for improvement following their disappointing performance against Trinity last week: “I thought we were dominant throughout, but we missed so many opportunities; we had so many chances to score tries but we just blew them. Wakefield showed great tenacity to stay in the game.
“Our discipline, when we had Wakefield in difficult positions, let us down too many times. It’s just not good enough. We’ve got a really short turnaround before Leeds, and we know what we have to work on.”