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'Building takes time' - Leeds Rhinos boss reacts after Super League record loss to Wigan Warriors

Rohan Smith urged his Leeds players to heed the tough lessons from their biggest home loss in Betfred Super League history after their play-off hopes were all-but ended in a 50-0 thrashing by Wigan.

The visitors ran in nine tries, including a hat-trick from Jake Wardle, to soar back to the top of the table and leave the Rhinos requiring a series of improbable scenarios to go their way in order to muscle in on the top six.

The Rhinos left the field to a chorus of boos and chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt”, but Smith said while he understood the fans’ frustrations he would not be deflected from his long-term project.

“You never forget these types of days,” admitted Smith. “They stay with you and you just learn to deal with it better and to take something out of it.

“The crowd are entitled to be disappointed and upset today that we didn’t make it more of a contest on the scoreboard, but you look at that full-strength Wigan team and how they’ve been playing, and all the obstacles we’ve had with our young team today.

“You’re going to have some rough days with these young players, but it’s the only way to learn and to build a team.”

The Rhinos’ season has been hit by high-profile absences including the untimely departure of Blake Austin and season-ending injuries to Aidan Sezer and Richie Myler, which saw Smith starting with teenage duo Morgan Gannon and Jack Sinfield in the halves.

Smith added: “People don’t want to hear about rebuilding and transitions around this club but that is the reality.

“We have had lots of players off contract in the last few years, players who are coming and going, and cohesion and building takes time.

“But we’ve got to be better collectively and it’s important that we respond to that. They’re a good bunch of people in there and they will show plenty of character and fight back.”

Wigan head coach Matt Peet refused to get carried away with his side’s latest scintillating performance, as he laid down a challenge to win their last two games and finish the regular season top of the table.

“It’s not a statement, it’s just a really good performance against a good team who were desperate as well,” said Peet. “Just a few weeks ago we scraped a win and didn’t get too down, and we won’t get too excited today.

“(But) in the situation we’re in now, we should be setting an aim to gold that position. If we play well against Castleford and Leigh and get the result we will finish top, and I think that is a realistic aim now.”

Peet reserved particular praise for Wardle, who arrived from Warrington as a relatively low-key addition to the squad in pre-season but has continued to grow in influence at centre.

“I’m loving the way he’s playing at the moment,” added Peet. “He’s fitted in really well since day one and we’ve got ourselves a really quality player there.”

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