Leeds looking for strong finish
Leeds Rhinos are aiming to secure a top-three Super League finish for the first time in four years by overtaking fast-fading Wigan Warriors, starting with the visit of Hull KR to Headingley tomorrow night.
The reigning champions, who have won the title from fifth place in each of the last two years, have put together a four-match winning run to narrow the gap on the long-time leaders, who have lost four of their last six games.
A win over the Robins, in their first home game for a month, would enable Leeds to draw level with the Warriors with two matches left of the regular season, with the pair set to meet in the last round of fixtures at the DW Stadium next month.
Leeds are still hit by injuries but coach Brian McDermott has been delighted with his side's recent form, which he is hoping will make them battle-hardened for the play-offs.
"Since the defeat at Warrington we have had four really tough games that we have had to battle hard to get the win on each occasion," he said.
"That is good at this time of the year and puts you in good shape for the play-offs.
"We can still finish third and that is what we want to aim for. We want to finish as high as possible but we have a scenario in place for wherever we finish after the 27 rounds and we will look at that then."
After suffering three defeats in a row and with a poor points difference, Hull KR need at least two wins from their last three matches to keep their place in the top eight and McDermott is expecting a highly-competitive game.
"They are a good side who have picked up some big wins already this year and the chance to turn us over will be something they are looking at to kick start their play-off push," he added.
Challenge Cup finalists Hull FC drew level with their city rivals after winning the derby last Sunday and they should maintain their play-off push when Salford City Reds visit the KC Stadium tomorrow.
The Reds look destined to finish in the bottom two but coach Peter Gentle is determined not to underestimate Brian Noble's team.
"They've got nothing to lose," he said. "They're dangerous. You can see the Brian Noble touch on them. Their recent results are a bit misleading; they're going to prove a difficult obstacle.
"We can't afford to back off. If we win it, we're in the semi-finals with still a chance to get a home semi but, if we lose, it makes it very difficult.
"We can't afford to be off our game in the slightest and they will smell that. They will start running harder and playing some decent footie.
"So it's a must-win game and it will give us a bit of momentum going into the final."
Hull have lost Ben Galea, Shannon McDonnell, Ben Crooks and, most likely, Tom Lineham for Wembley but Gentle insists there will be no holding back against Salford for fear of picking up any more injuries.
"We can't afford to go out there and try and protect ourselves," he said.
"We've got to just go out there and rip in. I hope we don't get any injuries but, if we do, someone will come in and replace those guys."