Rugby League - Jones-Buchanan: Leeds can cope

Leeds forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan insists the Super League champions can cope with raised expectations as they prepare for their Grand-Final re-match with Warrington.

PA Sport
Rugby League - Jones-Buchanan: Leeds can cope

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Jamie Jones-Buchanan is confident Leeds can defend their Super League crown

After winning the title from fifth place in each of the last two seasons, the Rhinos have given themselves potentially an easier route to Old Trafford after a run of six wins from their last seven matches earned them a third-place finish this year.

Victory over the Wolves in Saturday's second qualifying play-off will put them within 80 minutes of a third consecutive Grand Final and give them the chance to select their semi-final opponents and Jones-Buchanan believes they are running into form at just the right time.

"People keep saying 'can you do it again' and that's half the enjoyment, half the fun," he said.

"Of course we can get there again. I don't think anybody would be overly surprised if we did.

"Statistically it would be an unusual thing to do to go on and get to another Grand Final, and certainly to win one again, but that's what sport's all about, it's what destinies and journeys are made of."

The losers of the game at the Halliwell Jones Stadium will earn a second chance to reach the last four but Jones-Buchanan is hoping the Rhinos can book their spot on Saturday and earn a week off.

"Momentum is a big thing in big games and this mentality of having to get over a defeat is not a great thing to have to do," he said.

"When you are in the play-offs, they are short weeks, they turn around pretty quick and the games don't get any easier so we want to go out there and put our best foot forward and have that battle-ready mentality by going out and doing a good job the first time around."

Warrington needed a second bite of the cherry 12 months ago after losing at home to St Helens in the qualifying play-off and skipper Adrian Morley is hoping they can take the alternative route to Old Trafford this time.

"The easiest way to do it is to win on Saturday," Morley said. "We'd much rather do it that way.

"Even though we get a second chance, we're not looking at it like that and I guarantee Leeds won't be. We'll be going into it with the mindset that it's all or nothing."

There will be no second chance for St Helens or Hull KR when they meet in Saturday evening's elimination play-off at Langtree Park.

Saints captain Paul Wellens says his side will draw encouragement from the achievements of Leeds after they claimed the "coveted" fifth spot in the table thanks to seven wins from their last eight matches.

"What they've shown is that it can be done," Wellens said. "At the start of the year we had designs on finishing much higher than fifth but, given the kind of injuries we've had this year and the amount of disruption, we're pretty happy with where we're at.

"We're certainly confident going into the play-offs."

Saints are close to full strength following the return from injury of England hooker James Roby while Hull KR have no fewer than nine players returning to their line-up.

The Robins are in particular boosted by the return of influential trio Michael Dobson, Josh Hodgson and Cory Paterson as they seek a fourth win of the season over their opponents.

"I'm sure they will be looking for some revenge," said skipper Dobson. "We've got to do the business again on Saturday.

"They're hitting form at the right end of the year and they've got most of their injured blokes back so it's not going to be easy but hopefully we've got the strike power to get over them."

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