Leeds coach Tony Smith insisted "it's hard to be at your best every week" after his below-par reigning Super League champions overcame spirited Salford at The Willows.
Leeds coach Tony Smith insisted "it's hard to be at your best every week" after his below-par reigning Super League champions overcame spirited Salford at The Willows. Despite failing to hit the heights they have reached in recent weeks, Leeds still maintained their 100% start to the season and extend their unbeaten Super League run to 19 matches. The success ensures that Leeds now require just two more victories to equal the overall Super League record of 21 straight wins set by fierce rivals Bradford in 1996. Smith said: "We weren't near our best, but it's hard to be at your best every week - even I will admit that. "We weren't at our best with the ball, but I thought we defended pretty well and did some good things with the ball as well. "We found some good holes on the edges but probably just overplayed a bit at times. That comes off for us a lot, so I'm not bothered too much. "Overall, we are pretty pleased because we won by 18 points and could have had a few more tries. It's not all doom and gloom in this camp by any means." First-half tries from Marcus Bai, Ali Lauitiiti and Barrie McDermott put Leeds in control before Keith Senior and Rob Burrow grounded after the interval to ensure that Simon Baldwin's 20th-minute effort for Salford was little more than consolation come the end of the match. Smith was particularly impressed with Lauitiiti and said: "He did some special things at times and showed what he can do. "A few things didn't come off as well, but that's part and parcel with having attacking flair and encouraging that sort of stuff." The Rhinos were missing the injured Matt Diskin, Danny McGuire, Chris McKenna and Gareth Ellis and Francis Cummins. "A lot of those are back in the next week or two and that should give us a little boost," added Smith. Salford coach Karl Harrison expressed his concern at what he perceived as poor officiating during his side's defeat - the Reds' fourth in six matches this season. When asked if any side in Super League could stop Leeds this season, Harrison said: "It will take a very good team to beat them, but I think they are vulnerable as I think any team is vulnerable. "If you get 50-50 calls by the referee as well, then you've got a chance. But at the moment, every 50-50 seems to be going for Leeds. "We got again a really rough call from the officials. Some crucial calls went against us at crucial times in the game. "It's not why we got beaten, but I'm just sick of these top teams getting coached and the lower teams getting refereed. "It's just not fair, and that's not a gripe - that's fact. The offsides, the holding downs; two teams are doing it but only one side is getting penalised. "I'm sick of talking to the Rugby League because nothing seems to happen. It's not fair on the guys and it's not fair on the guys at the bottom of the competition because we don't get a fair crack of the whip." Harrison did however concede that Leeds were a class above his spirited side. "We were playing against the world club champions, so it's going to be tough, obviously," he said. "We got out-run by a better, more organised and more athletic team - but the boys didn't give in. "I had guys on the field who had no right to be there and I had nine players unavailable through illness or injury. The guys toughed it out and played some good stuff."
Young Leeds Rhinos hooker Robbie Ward is hoping he can carry his international form into domestic action when he returns to the Rhinos for the Tetley's Festive Challenge against Wakefield on Boxing Day.