15th May 2019, 22:21 | Leeds

Richard Agar demands response from struggling Leeds

Richard Agar demands response from struggling Leeds

Leeds Rhinos interim coach Richard Agar is confident of gaining a response from his players after going back to basics following their shock Coral Challenge Cup defeat by Bradford Bulls.

Agar, who stepped into the breach following the sacking of head coach David Furner, has put the focus on defence ahead of Thursday’s Betfred Super League derby with Castleford Tigers at new-look Headingley.

“We cancelled the players’ day off on Sunday,” Agar said. “We just felt with such a short turnaround, it certainly wasn’t a game you could sweep under the carpet.

“It was probably one of the most difficult defeats the club has ever had and it was important we put it to bed early and get our focus on how we’re going to put it right

“It was important for me to get over to the squad what effort looks like and what the shirt demands. Our effort simply wasn’t good enough.

“You can have all the game plans and the systems and tips in the world but in rugby league if you don’t underpin it with the required effort, you have always a chance of seeing what happened on Saturday.

“We tried to make it simple for the players by stripping it right back to basics, which means winning tackles.

“Based on what I’ve seen in training, I’m confident I’ll see a reaction.”

Despite the struggles of both clubs, Leeds are expecting a big crowd for the opening of the North Stand which completes the £43million re-development of Headingley and Agar expects the Rhinos players to rise to the occasion.

“It will be a huge occasion,” he said. “I’d be disappointed if it was lost on the players, the fact that we’re playing in probably the best stadium the competition has got to offer in front of a massive crowd.”

Like Leeds, Castleford have only Super League to play for after being knocked out of the Challenge Cup and coach Daryl Powell admits his side are under pressure after suffering four straight losses for the first time since he joined the club six years ago.

“I was hoping the cup would spark us up a bit but it was a poor effort,” Powell said. “We need to step up. We’ve got Super League to look at and that’s it.

“We’re battling hard to be up there around the top five and at the moment we’re outside of that, it’s a key game for us.”

The Tigers will be out to make amends for a 21-20 defeat at Headingley two months ago when a long-range drop goal in golden-point extra-time from Brad Dwyer sealed their fate.

“We should have won that game,” Powell said. “We’ve got to make sure it’s not that close and put an 80-minute performance together, which is not something we’ve done that well this year.”

Powell has recalled winger Greg Eden as he goes in search of a 100th Super League try and has half-back Jordan Rankin fit again while Agar has brought back scrum-half Richie Myler and switched Liam Sutcliffe into the second row.