Leeds’ speedy start sunk St Helens, claims Cunningham

St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham thinks that his team lost their Challenge Cup semi final on Friday night because they could not match Leeds’ fast start.

The Rhinos hit the Saints with a lightning barrage of attacks in the first 20 minutes of the 24-14 win, and Cunningham felt that his players were somewhat overwhelmed by it.

“I wish we had not respected Leeds quite as much as we did in that first half,” he said.

“They were undefendable at times, with the way they threw the ball around.

“People zip across the other side of the field, and they have strike everywhere.

“We knew they’d start big – they do that against everybody.

“Your biggest challenge is if you can stay with them.

“We stayed with them reasonably well. We went in at half-time and I was happy with where we were at.

“I knew we would score points in the second half, the biggest challenge is to stop Leeds scoring points, and unfortunately we just couldn’t do that.”

One thing which did please Cunningham was the character that his side showed to fight their way back into the game after that early storm.

“Our fight and our spirit was brilliant,” he added.

“It’s hard to be critical of the players for anything. They just weren’t smart enough in certain areas, but it wasn’t because of lack of will or want.

“They worked really hard for each other, they just came up against a really good Leeds side and weren’t quite good enough at the start.”

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