How Long Will Brian McDermott Hold On?
If Keiron Cunningham is coming under intense pressure at Saints the same must also be true of Leeds Rhinos boss Brian McDermott. His fine record of three Grand Final successes with the Headingley club as well as two Challenge Cup wins and a World Club Challenge triumph is money in the bank compared to what Cunningham has achieved as a coach at Saint. Yet Leeds cannot countenance another season like 2016 which saw them spend much of the year rooted to the bottom of the table and end up finishing outside the top eight. It was unthinkable for a side defending three major titles.
Injuries and the departures of Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuleuai were blamed for that but having started 2017 in similar fashion the excuses are running out for the former Bradford Bulls pack star. Leeds have wins against Leigh and Salford under their belts, but a narrow loss at Saints looks disappointing given the subsequent form of Cunningham’s side while the beating that Leeds took at Castleford last time out cannot have failed to raise alarms in the boardroom.
This week they host a Catalans Dragons side which started superbly with wins over much fancied Warrington and perhaps even more impressively given their traditional travel sickness away at Hull FC. Yet in drawing at home in a mud-bath with Widnes last weekend they have shown signs of fallibility also. Nobody has scored fewer tries than the Dragons this season after three outings, while only Saints have fewer tackle busts and only Wakefield fewer clean breaks. An attack led by Luke Walsh, Richie Myler and boasting the likes of Krisnan Inu and Jodie Broughton needs to produce more. They may do so against McDermott’s beleaguered Rhinos.