LEEDS RHINOS will use this week’s final league game of the season against Castleford Tigers to apologise to their supporters for the team’s crushing late-season collapse.
The Rhinos tumbled out of play-off contention with a 61-0 hammering by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan on Saturday, following on from the previous week’s home 50-0 rout by Wigan.
It was an unprecedented double drubbing and the result at Stade Gilbert Brutus was a record Super League defeat for the Rhinos and came close to breaking the club’s all-time biggest deficit of 74-6 when Wigan’s Martin Offiah scored ten tries in 1992.
Coach Rohan Smith described the humbling by the Dragons as “a real low” for the club but he promised that every effort was being made to turn things around.
He said: “We are extremely disappointed with the outcome and our performance. We expect a lot better of ourselves.
“Our supporters deserve better than these results, they have been superb for us all season and the players really appreciate their backing.
“They are entitled to be disappointed and frustrated at times. They deserve better than what we delivered today and we fully appreciate the pain they are going through and respect them.
“We had a large group who travelled to France to support us and we need to finish strongly next week to reward them.
“We’ll go out against Castleford and thank the fans, then get to work on what we need to change.”
Smith added: “Travelling away like this you have to start well to give yourselves a good shot or at the very least get into the grind and we didn’t do that, so we will be reviewing our processes around getting ready to play and start the game well.
“It’s really important that we do that next week.
“We expected a competitive team performance but today we had people at times who were trying too hard and we didn’t get on the front foot with physicality.
“It’s definitely a low point but anyone who has coached for 20 years will have had some low points. It’s tough sometimes as a coach or a player in competitive, professional sport.
“It’s for tough people and we will continue to fight.”
The Rhinos will be without 20-year-old forward Leon Ruan against Castleford after he left the pitch in Perpignan clutching his arm in the second half.
Smith added: “He got a dislocated elbow but the doctor did a tremendous job and he got it back in; he’s not in too much pain but obviously he’s another addition now to our injury list.”
Captain Cameron Smith needed a head-injury assessment just before half-time but he passed the test and will be available for selection against the Tigers.
Meanwhile the future of centre Nene Macdonald remains unclear.
The 29-year-old Papua New Guinea international and ex-NRL player, who was with Smith at Queensland Cup side Norths Devils and was signed by Leeds from Leigh ahead of this season, is still in Australia after being granted permission to go back there last month for the birth of his child.
Macdonald, who is contracted to Leeds until 2027 but has been linked with a departure from the club, had been expected back ahead of the round-24 clash at Hull FC, which Leeds won 28-12.
But now Macdonald’s inclusion in the PNG squad to face the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII in Port Moresby on Saturday – former St Helens coach Justin Holbrook’s first match in charge of the Kumuls – suggests he will not return this season.
Quizzed about the situation, Smith said: “That’s just an ongoing process. He’s still unavailable.”
Macdonald, who has represented PNG eleven times and has been involved in three World Cups, played for Sydney Roosters, Gold Coast Titans, St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks in the NRL.
He scored 27 tries in as many matches as Leigh won promotion from the Championship and the 1895 Cup last year.