Jukes vows ‘we’ll scrap to the end’

Harrison Hansen in action last Friday. Photo: Paul McCarthy
Harrison Hansen in action last Friday. Photo: Paul McCarthy

Leigh coach Neil Jukes has challenged his players to bounce back from their Super League opening night defeat at Castleford when they welcome Leeds Rhinos to the Sports Village on Friday.

Centurions went down 44-16 at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle despite a bright start and the score was 0-0 after almost 20 minutes.

Slowly but surely we’ll have to sink or swim

Neil Jukes

But a blast of points either side of half-time left Leigh with a mountain to climb and the best they could muster was a few late tries.

Friday’s visitors Leeds also lost their opening game of the campaign at St Helens but will start as favourites in the first ever Super League game to be played at Leigh Sports Village.

“I thought the first 20 minutes were pretty good,” Jukes said. “We went toe to toe and stayed in it but our kicking game let us down on too many occasions.

“When they made their changes, they went up a level. When you defend your line as much as we did, people are going to score points. That’s what we did at the back end of the game when we got some good ball sets.”

Jukes was not letting the result get him down and said he expected his players to learn lessons.

“We’ve got to get better in certain areas and we’ve only got a few days to do it because we have a big game against Leeds. We’ll make sure we’re a lot better. We will review and get better as quick as we can.

“After round one at Batley last season it felt like the world was going to end and we finished up not losing another game. The lads have been honest and spoke some truths on Friday. They understand where they need to get better individually to help this team.

“A lot of players were making their Super League debuts. We will scrap to the end. Slowly but surely we’ll have to sink or swim. We need to be more consistent and stop going into our shell.”

Leigh are hoping to have Micky Higham back this week after Jukes revealed the skipper “tweaked his calf” in training. Liam Hood is likely to be out with a foot injury.

Jukes could recall the three players who have been on dual registration at Sheffield ahead of Friday’s game – Lachlan Burr, Jamie Acton and Sam Hopkins.

Leeds won 60-12 on their last visit to the Sports Village – a Challenge Cup quarter final in 2012.