Leeds Rhinos loanee Matty Russell suffers injury blow on debut, Rohan Smith confirms

Drew Darbyshire
Matty Russell Leeds Rhinos Alamy

Matty Russell leaves the field for a HIA on his Leeds Rhinos debut

Leeds Rhinos debutant Matty Russell suffered an injury blow in their 40-10 defeat to St Helens on Friday night, his coach Rohan Smith has confirmed.

The Scotland international, who has recently linked up with the Rhinos on a two-month loan deal from Warrington Wolves, left the field on the half hour mark following a tackle from Saints centre Mark Percival.

Russell left the field for a head injury assessment, which he failed, but he also suffered a knock to his knee in the same challenge.

Concussion protocols have ruled the 30-year-old out of next Saturday’s West Yorkshire derby with Castleford Tigers, whilst his knee will be assessed further in the coming days.

“He seems okay now but it’s another outside-back that we’ve lost in the first half of a game,” Smith said after the game. “It’s been a conveyer belt there.”

The Rhinos were only 12-6 down at half-time, but Saints produced a clinical performance in the second 40, scoring 28 points to return to the top of the Super League table.

“Overall it wasn’t the standard,” Smith said in his post-match press conference. “We attacked the game to start with and we were in some control in a hard fought first 20 or 30 minutes.

“In the first half our application and effort was good, our execution was a bit off, and in the second half we just got off to a really bad start with some errors and they put on some good plays back-to-back which made the scoreboard out of our favour. I’m just really disappointed with the way we lost our connection defensively, people were doing some things on their own and they just made some things worse, not better.

“Some of them (errors) are totally in our control. There are always going to be errors in a game forced by collisions or difficult situations but several of them were just personal attention to just taking care of it and we just made too many, and back-to-back errors have been an issue for us.”

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Rohan Smith believes he can help turn Leeds Rhinos’ fortunes around

Leeds currently sit seventh in the Super League table, having won just six of their 12 games in the league so far in 2024.

When asked if he still thinks he can turn things around and get the team playing to what they’re capable of, Smith replied: “Yeah. We’ve got a group that is still new, we’re miles off playing to the ability that we think we’re capable of, but that’s a guess, because there’s a bunch of new players to the club this year and almost everyone in the club is in their first or second year of having a significant role in the team.

“The high performing teams in this competition over a very long period of time have had a large amount of cohesion and chemistry and shared experience in the jersey together, we’re miles away from that time together but we’re never that far away from playing a lot better than we did today.

“I took on the choice as a very young man to want to chase the coaching dream and every coaching job I’ve had I’ve felt pressure everyday to do my job as best I can. It’s a team sport and we’re all involved in it, so that stuff makes no difference to me, I feel the same pressure after a win, a loss or anywhere in-between.”

Leeds will aim to bounce back next Saturday night when they take on Castleford at Headingley.

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