Yesterday, Leeds’ play-off hopes were dealt a blow in France.
You could hardly blame them though. In sweltering conditions and missing six players who starred in their season best win against Hull FC just a fortnight ago, Rohan Smith was forced to start three teenagers against an in form Toulouse side.
The defeat in the end became inevitable but Head Coach Rohan Smith emphasised his pride after the game saying he felt Leeds lost the game on “the scoreboard only.”
He then went on to praise his side: “I think it was a really hard-fought game. Obviously, it was taxing conditions for both teams. I thought we were full of running at the end of the game so the players are buying into what we’re trying to do.
“We had tones of players pull out all week right up until kick-off. The young players in there, they’re brave. They’re tough. It was a good hard game of footy. I’m nothing but proud of that group in there.
“I need to do a better job to get our team to flow when our halves aren’t there. I need to do better with that. The effort, we kept turning up. I couldn’t be prouder of the effort.”
One of the blows Leeds suffered in terms of personnel was the late loss of Liam Sutcliffe to illness.
Smith noted that they gave him as much time as possible to get right but in the end the decision was made to not risk him.
He explained when he was pulled out: “Right about when we put the team sheets in. He’s been battling but in that heat he wasn’t going to get better.”
There was also a blow during the game when young centre Max Simpson was helped from the field. Smith gave an update on the teenager: “He’s got some kind of lateral ankle injury which can be nasty or they can be not as bad as first thought. What a tough brave performance from that kid he hasn’t played much recently, he’s a Leeds fan and the way he played an incredible effort.
“Gannon another 18-year-old, Jack I think he’s still 17 and veterans like Corey Johnson at 21, Jarrod O’Connor and Sam Walters. For those kids to step up on short prep, Tindall hasn’t played in 10 weeks, is credit to them.”
Quite happy despite the defeat, there was one thing that agitated Rohan Smith and that was the number of stoppages which stopped the game finding any rhythm.
On this, Smith said: “It was a bit of a shame how many times the game stopped for medical checks which didn’t result in interchanges. We stopped the game twice for a head knock which resulted in an interchange and a serious ankle injury but other than that the rest of the stoppages weren’t down to us.
“A lot of stoppages which is a difficult situation for the referee in just trying conditions. Trying to speed the game up is not really up to him. I wondered what a lot of the stoppages were for when they weren’t replaced. I was disappointed we weren’t able to go end-to-end a bit more.”
This yielded a question about playacting creeping into the game, to which Smith said: “The way we’re coaching our young players is ‘if you can get up, get up.’ We had a couple today who couldn’t. I think if other coaches are commenting on it, it is obviously an issue in our game.”