Wakefield Wildcats go into tomorrow night’s clash with the champions at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium looking to make amends for the 44-40 defeat at Headingley just six weeks ago.
Richard Agar’s men caused Leeds all sorts of problems on that occasion as the sides evenly shared 14 tries. That was the start of a six game winning streak for the Rhinos which has seen them climb to fifth place in Super League and a Challenge Cup final.
Trinity themselves have had an upturn in performances over recent months which has seen the club produce results on a more consistent basis compared to the first half of the season. A 35-14 victory at Huddersfield last weekend saw a return to winning ways and Agar says in attack his team can cause problems to all comers.
“We’ve scored points against most teams for quite a while now and defensively that is of course the area we need to tighten up,” he said.
“When we played Leeds last time I feel there was some really strong elements of our defence and I think the way we got caught on the hop on the back of some kick plays was what blew the score out to 44.
“I thought last Sunday we defended really well, they scored on a loose ball and a kick play so I thought Sunday was as good as we’ve defended against a top eight team all year. A little bit of the continuation of that and while we acknowledge some of the great players and speed that Leeds possess, we are looking to work to our own strengths as well.
“For the second season they are hitting their straps at the business end of the year so we know it is going to be a tough game. They may have one or two changes in their team but we will give them their due respect and hope our defence holds up for well enough for long enough periods to give us opportunities with the ball.”
The visitors will have to do without the talismanic figure of stand-off Danny McGuire who is suspended after making dangerous contact with Bulls full-back Brett Kearney and Agar insists that will be a big loss for Brian McDermott’s men.
“He is a very instrumental player, a very, very good player. Although it is pretty handy when you have Brent Webb sat on the touchline or you could drop Burrow into the halves and bring Shaun Lunt in at hooker. I might be wrong with both my guesses there but they have got plenty of strength and depth.
“Weller Hauraki has not been in the team and he’s been a player that has caused us problems this year, that’s why they are sat where they are.”
McGuire is joined by his former Leeds team mate and five time Grand Final winner Ali Lauitiiti on the suspended list for the derby encounter and the Trinity head coach says they will miss him but a chance will open up for the soon to be out of contract Frankie Mariano.
“For us we will miss Ali. When he has played for us this year he’s been a very dominant figure and he’s played plenty of minutes for us and very much a go to man in attack for us. He’s out, there’s not a lot we can do about it. We decided reluctantly to agree and morally we didn’t think it was right to accept the one game ban but we felt we had to do so to make sure it wasn’t a two game ban.
“Frankie Mariano will come in to the team. He is out of contract at the end of the year and he has had a real stop-start year due to a number of little niggling injuries. He has found it difficult to get any continuity in the side and hard to find some consistency because of that.
“He has shown enough to suggest he can be a handful for us on whatever edge he plays and it’s a good opportunity for Frank. There are six games left and he is a player that will certainly be playing for a new contract. With Ali out for a week Frank needs to make the most out of this opportunity.”
Monday night will see the Wildcats line up in a specially designed Wakefield Hospice kit that will incorporate the green and yellow which is the trademark of the charity. £1 from each ticket will go straight to the Hospice with bucket collections on the day and each of the players match worn shirts will be auctioned off after the game.
It doesn’t get much bigger than the champions in town and tickets can be purchased at the Ridings Centre, Rapid Solicitors Stadium Box Office, by calling 01924 201 548 or buy online by clicking HERE.
This is Wakefield. Together We Are Stronger.