Ellery Hanley feels Leeds are too soft in the defensive department

Ellery Hanley - reacted to Leeds' dismal start to the season
Ellery Hanley - reacted to Leeds' dismal start to the season

Leeds stand accused of being "soft" following their dismal start to the Super League season culminating in an embarrassing Challenge Cup defeat by Championship neighbours Bradford.

Former Great Britain internationals Ellery Hanley and Jonathan Davies have been keeping close eyes on the fortunes of the 2017 champions in their roles as members of the Steve Prescott Man of Steel selection panel and are in agreement over the cause of the Rhinos' decline.

"For me it's very simple," said Hanley. "The first thing you have do in any organisation is make sure the players understand that defence will win games. Unfortunately for Leeds, they haven't got that department correct. They are too soft in the belly and also they're all singing off different song sheets.

"I've watched a huge amount of their games this season and that's the first thing I would fix up. I would want my team to be the best defensive team and the best tacklers in the competition.

"Every single side can score points, you only have to look at the London side. They are languishing at the bottom but they can still score points. You have to make sure all the players understand that defence is the priority and Leeds have to go back to basics."

Davies was among the 10,000 crowd at Odsal on Saturday as part of his role with the BBC and he was shocked by the performance of the Super League side in their 24-22 defeat by the Bulls.

"You could see Leeds were the better side but there was no desire there," Davies said. "There seems to be huge problems at Leeds. There's no leaders on the pitch, the players didn't seem to want it.

"I just couldn't believe it because it's the only thing they can play for this year. I could see a few of those players on Saturday's performance, getting their P45s I think. At the moment there's a bit of a gulf in Super League between St Helens and Warrington and the rest.

"It's never good when you've got one or two sides dominating all the time - you'd like to see a competitive league - but a a lot of the sides have a soft underbelly. There's easy tries being let in, whether that's concentration or losing focus, but all of a sudden, they're under the pump again. They've got to work on their core skills."

Hanley, who made 114 appearances for Leeds from 1991-95, traces the Rhinos' decline to the departure of Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock in 2015 and the club's failure to adequately replace them.

"They should have recruited a long time ago and tried to make sure they got like-for-like replacements," he said.

Hanley's disappointment over Leeds' exit from the cup was tempered by the success of Bradford, another of his old clubs who have gone through two relegations and three administrations since claiming the last of their four Super League titles in 2005.

"I think it's brilliant," said Hanley, who began his career with the old Bradford Northern in 1978. "I get goose pimples thinking about it. As much as I love Leeds - and they've been great to me - it's fantastic for the game and brilliant for the whole of the city of Bradford to get such a win."

Davies also enjoyed the Bulls' victory.

"There were over a million viewers watching Bradford and Leeds," he said. "It wasn't a classic if you look at the skill level but the excitement was unbelievable, as was the commitment of the Bradford players.

"It's what the cup is all about. There was was an incredible atmosphere and, when the final hooter went, it was amazing, I enjoyed it."

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