The last few weeks, despite the blips at Huddersfield and St Helens, have seen Leeds’ season given new life with some exhilarating wins.
It all started at Warrington when out of the blue Leeds produced an attacking masterclass – their best offensive display in years – to blow the Wolves off the part in a game that showed the potential of Rohan Smith’s project.
Then of course the blips, but they were followed by statement wins over Hull FC and Castleford. The former saw Leeds top the Warrington win in terms of attacking intent whilst the Tigers triumph showed the character of the side.
That character remained as a young side came up short against Toulouse before Leeds produced a season best performance to down second-place Wigan 42-12 showing the potential this season still has for relative success.
The question of course is, can Leeds make the play-offs? Well we’re going to try and answer that by predicting each fixture in Leeds’ run in towards the end of the season.
Round 21 – Catalans Dragons Away
I feel Leeds owe Catalans. I remember the first half away to the Dragons last year and it was exceptional but it faded away resulting in a disappointing defeat.
I hope Leeds can produce that for 80 minutes this time around and I believe they can under Rohan Smith. Many of the best performances under him have either been 80 minutes of energy or even demonstrated an ability to hang in there when the going gets tough.
After such a great performance against Wigan and potentially boosted by some key returnees, I fancy the Rhinos to have just enough here against an up and down Catalans side.
Verdict: Catalans Dragons 20-28 Leeds Rhinos
Round 22 – Salford Red Devils Home
This is a massive match. Right now, Salford hold the coveted sixth spot in the league and the Rhinos are one point behind them. If the Rhinos are going to make the play-offs they simply have to beat the teams around them.
Salford are in excellent form lately and surprised a few when they battered Catalans at home. They’ll be tough to beat and Leeds certainly know that losing to them twice already this season.
The Rhinos are also in fine form and if they can get going again at Headingley, they should win. However, it may be as simple as who turns up on the day with Salford having a very similar attacking ability to Leeds at present.
Verdict: Leeds Rhinos 32-16 Salford Red Devils
Round 23 – Hull KR Away
Another big game for the Rhinos against a team who are currently one point above them, it is again one of those fixtures that Leeds have to beat as they come up against a top six rival.
The Rhinos beat Hull KR earlier this season when they were down on troops and now potentially with the roles reversed should Danny McGuire’s team remain depleted by this stage of the season, Leeds could have the beating of the Robins.
However, Leeds haven’t won at Craven Park since 2018 and have had some torrid times there. They will have to again play at their best if they’re going to defeat them here.
Verdict: Hull KR 22-24 Leeds Rhinos
Round 24 – Warrington Wolves Home
Warrington have somewhat been the landmark team for Leeds this year in terms of the Wolves have signified two pivotal shifts in momentum for the Rhinos.
After a great pre-season, the heart breaking Round One defeat to Warrington sapped Leeds of all their momentum whilst the win over them at the Halliwell Jones turned things around massively.
This will likely be a meaningless game for the Wolves at the end of a difficult season with eyes on 2023, but that may mean they’re freer and more dangerous.
Leeds have shown they have the tools to plough through the Wolves and could do so again here.
Verdict: Leeds Rhinos 36-12 Warrington Wolves
Round 25 – Huddersfield Giants Home
This is where it gets tough as Leeds face two of the top four within mere days of each other. I envisage Leeds going all out against the Giants at Headingley especially after coming so close to beating them at home earlier this year.
It would be a close game but the Giants are likely to have too much strength down the middle for the Rhinos as they did at the John Smith’s Stadium though I expect Leeds to give them a game.
Verdict: Leeds Rhinos 18-24 Huddersfield Giants
Round 26 – Catalans Dragons Away
Another trip to France and at the worst possible time too.
On the back of a short turnaround against another side with a big pack inside the top four, Leeds will likely arrive drained and rotated with eyes perhaps keenly focused on the final round instead.
Thus, anything they can get from this fixture could be seen as a bonus.
Verdict: Catalans Dragons 28-12 Leeds Rhinos
Round 27 – Castleford Tigers Home
For the fourth time this season, Leeds and Castleford will do battle in what could prove to be a similar fixture to the one that concluded Leeds’ regular campaign last year if the Rhinos can squeeze into the top six.
Last year when Leeds met Hull KR in the final round both sides were safe inside the top six, this time around opponents Castleford could likely be safe which may bode well for the Rhinos as they could meet a rested Tigers team.
It could boil down to needing to win this game and it will test the character of this Leeds team for sure.
Verdict: Leeds Rhinos 24-16 Castleford Tigers
Big games against top six rivals
Leeds’ season will be decided by two things: games against their top six rivals and injuries.
Right now Leeds are hoping to get their halfbacks back soon whilst Hull KR are struggling with injuries as are fellow top six hopefuls Hull FC.
The team out of these three who keeps their squad the fittest will give themselves a good shout but will still have to finish above Salford who, albeit have injury problems, have their key players available still.
Of course, the Rhinos meet Salford, Hull KR and fifth placed Castleford in the run in and beating those three teams will surely help Leeds’ play-off hopes.
They will also likely have to come up with one win over a team in the top four if they want to secure a play-off spot.
As you can see, I think the Rhinos are capable of doing so.
Thus my predicted position for where Leeds will finish in 2022 is: Sixth