McDermott wary after 'dark day'
Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has labelled his side's first Super League play-off defeat for three years as a "dark day" but is hoping they can lift the gloom with victory over St Helens in tomorrow night's preliminary semi-final at Headingley.
Last Saturday's 40-20 loss to Warrington Wolves was a new experience for McDermott, who guided the Rhinos to consecutive Grand Final triumphs from fifth place in each of his first two seasons at the helm.
He is hoping the defeat was merely a "blip" but knows his side cannot afford to underestimate a Saints side that has won seven of their past eight matches.
"I don't think we can be any worse but, whether we will be good enough to get over the top of St Helens, that's a different thing," McDermott said.
"I think it would be wrong of me to spin a line to make everybody feel warm and fluffy by saying 'we'll be alright, leave it with us'. That isn't my job, my job is to tell it how it is.
"Our motivation to get things right isn't in question - that started within 30 seconds of coming off the field. That was a dark day for us and a dark day for our fans that travelled.
"The desire to be better is there, now whether we turn things around and play with as much confidence as we have been doing, that is going to be the key, that we don't start playing with anxiety. It's going to be a tough game.
"I'd like to think it was a flash in the pan but at this stage of the season you don't want to treat it like that."
St Helens have won on their past three visits to Headingley, most recently with a patched-up side in May, with the Rhinos' last home win coming in July, 2010.
"They've been growing in confidence and playing some good stuff," McDermott added. "They had a bit of a blip against Warrington but they're in good nick, and will be travelling over the M62 with confidence. It's been a good hunting ground for them in recent seasons and I'm sure it will help them with their mindset."
Finishing outside the top four for the first time since 2004 means Saints have been forced into sudden-death play-off football from the start but they will draw confidence from Leeds' remarkable record from fifth spot in the past two years.
"The fact we got through week one puts us in as good a position as Huddersfield, who ran first, or Hull or Leeds, who finished third," said coach Nathan Brown, who is in his first season at Langtree Park.
"In the four years I've been here (in Super League), I've grown to admire the sheer consistency that a lot of their older players have shown.
"The trophies they have won show they know what's required but, having a victory there earlier this year only confirms what St Helens players know - that, if they play well, they can have a real good shot."
Saints not only came from 16-0 down after 20 minutes to win 30-22 at Headingley in round 15 but did so without a host of experienced players at the height of their mid-season injury crisis.
Brown said: "Lance (Hohaia) is in terrific form and he didn't play that day, James Roby and Jonny Lomax didn't play that day, Francis Meli and Adam Swift didn't play.
"We're taking a more complete side there and we are playing with a lot more confidence."
Brown is particularly delighted to see England hooker Roby back in action at the business end of the season after recovering from ligament damage to both ankles.
"Robes is a terrific player," Brown said. "He basically missed nearly 20 weeks straight and he comes back and was the best player the other day. That probably sums him up best."