BRAVE Phil Joseph may have been showing the scars of battle after playing in last night's Super League top-of-the-table clash at Leeds Rhinos.

But the pain of having stitches inserted into a head wound at the end of a bruising 80 minutes of action couldn't wipe the smile off his face.

Although it was obvious the 19-year-old former Newsome Panthers junior was disappointed by the final margin of his side's defeat, he was still able to take considerable heart from the way he had played in such an intense and intimidating atmosphere as the one generated at Headingley.

His head coach, Jon Sharp, described his performance as `magnificent', going on to add: "He caused Leeds problems all night and I was proud of his effort".

It's unlikely it will have done enough to earn Joseph a place in the 17 to face St Helens in the Challenge Cup semi-final at Warrington next Sunday.

But there's no doubt that if he continues to produce performances as effective as last night's, it won't be long before he is an automatic choice in the first-team line-up.

"I know there's still room for improvement and I've got a learn to learn, but I believe I'm getting there," he said.

"Occasions like last night do wonders for your confidence, and it was absolutely brilliant being involved in a match like that. The atmosphere was just out of this world.

"And I thought, overall, I played quite well.

"It's just shame that things didn't finish so good for us.

"We worked so hard for each other for so much of the game, that the final 15 minutes really took a lof of the gloss off the performance."

Last night's match was only Joseph's third for the first team.

He made his debut in the 38-6 victory at Widnes in March - again in front of the Sky TV cameras - and followed up a week later by playing at hooker again in the 36-12 Challenge Cup win over Doncaster Dragons.

But he admitted the game against Super League leaders Leeds was a totally different proposition.

"Leeds are a real class act, and it's really tough playing against them," he added.

"But the conditions meant it was even harder out there.

"It rained throughout the match, the pitch was boggy and the ball was very wet, which meant you had to be spot-on with your handling.

"But I still wouldn't have missed this match for the world.

"It's occasions like this that make all the hard work in training worthwhile.

"The results wasn't good, but as an experience it was absolutely fantastic."