Tonight Rohan Smith picked up his first win as Leeds Rhinos boss.
The win was a vital one as it opens up three points between themselves and opponents and West Yorkshire rivals Wakefield as well as a wider gap between them and Toulouse in 12th.
The performance was encouraging as they only conceded the once whilst scoring four in wet conditions and this had Smith feeling good at the end of the game.
“Feels good,” he said, “It’s been a good two weeks of prep to get that performance with a bit of a mishap in-between.
“Being connected and clear about what we wanted to do. There was clear evidence of that in the first half and then we went on with it enough to secure a result.”
The main changes he made to his team after that “mishap” at Salford was a rejigging of the spine with Richie Myler moving to seven and Zak Hardaker at fullback and after the game Smith reflected on this change: “As a combination there’s plenty of work there, as individuals they all contributed really well. Where I’d like our spine to go is a lot more combination and passing the ball to each other.”
He also felt that the performance was a team effort but that the young players stood out: “I thought it was a team effort. I liked how some of the young kids went to be honest. That was my first look at Morgan Gannon in the flesh and I thought Jarrod O’Connor did a terrific job.”
In terms of post-match emotions, Smith was more excited about potentially getting another win rather than dwelling on the here and now despite it being his first game in charge of Leeds at Headingley: “Excited for the next opportunity to get win number two I think. That’s pretty much how I’m wired. I’m really happy. It’s a real privilege to be at this club.
“I enjoyed it a lot. I was pretty calm, I tried to take a few moments to take in the atmosphere, the drums and the singing.”
It was a big game too for David Fusitu’a after an injury hit start to life at Leeds and Smith was very pleased for him: “I’ve known Fus a long time and it’s been good to reconnect with him. He’s put some hard work into his rehab and he had a steady game last week and certainly took a big step forward this week. He got a nice little reward at the end there, he’s a great finisher and his yardage carries are a great way to start a set.”
There was another great performance from one of Leeds’ newer players in James Bentley who scored twice. On him, Smith added: “I thought he had an excellent game. I thought he had a good balance of competing hard and being very effective with what he did.
It wasn’t all perfect for Bentley who copped a yellow card but Smith had little to say on the matter: “I haven’t seen the up close angle of that, I’ve only seen the wider angle and there didn’t seem to be much in it from that angle.
“It’s a fine line, it’s a combat sport. It’s a matter of managing your own thoughts.”
Speaking of new signings, Zak Hardaker picked up the Man of the Match on his second home debut for the club and Smith noted that the former Wigan man is enjoying him time at Leeds: “He looked like he’s enjoying himself, he’s looked like he’s enjoyed himself in every session so far. He’s a team player and he’s happy to do what’s needed for the team and certainly made an impact at fullback tonight.”
But he was unwilling to comment on Hardaker’s future moving forward: “It’ll be one week at a time for now but we’ll always be looking to build the best squad we can for next year.”
On the subject of player’s futures, Brad Dwyer only received 10 minutes tonight after being linked with a move to St Helens. Smith explained the hooker’s short stint after the match: “Kruise had an outstanding game at dummyhalf, we put Brad on there to speed the game up which he did with four or five good carries. The plan was always to bring back Kruise at the back end.”