LEEDS RHINOS have not set themselves a middle-eights target, claims winger Ryan Hall.
Being in the top three of the Qualifiers after seven games would secure Rhinos’ place in First Utility Super League for 2017.
The teams in fourth and fifth place will meet in a one-off million pound match for the 12th and final spot in the elite competition and the loser of that will join the sixth, seventh and eighth-placed sides from the Qualifiers in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Five wins secured a top-three finish last year, which means victories against the Championship teams plus one Super League side could be enough.
Rhinos got their campaign off to a flying start with a 62-6 win against Featherstone Rovers – the lowest-ranked team in the Qualifiers – last Saturday, but face a tougher test tonight at home to Hull KR.
Rovers won all their seven Qualifiers fixtures last year and began with a 58-18 drubbing of Batley Bulldogs five days ago, but Hall insisted every game is of equal importance.
“You can’t just focus on the Super League teams,” he said. “When you don’t concentrate on the other teams, that’s when you slip up. We are fully focused and concentrating on every game. We have got seven games and we are aiming for them all. It would be silly not to do that and Hull KR are another rung on the ladder.
“We are taking it game-by-game. They are all must-win games and we are preparing fully for that. We have had two games against Hull KR this year and they were both tough.
“The one at Headingley [which Rovers won 30-10] is one we’d like to forget, but we will be learning from it and we’ll be trying to put it right this time.”
The Robins finished 11th at the end of the regular season, but have had some notable results including scoring more than 50 points away to both Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
They will field a stronger line-up than when Rhinos won 24-20 at Lightstream Stadium last month, and Hall said: “They had a good win against Batley last week.
“They know how to score points and the last time we played them it was a tight game. We had to work right until the end to get the game and we only won by four points. We know they are a capable side and they are in a similar situation to us; they want to win every game they can. They did it last year. They won every game so they know what they need to do and we are prepared for a very good Hull KR team.”
After losing all but three of their opening 19 competitive matches this year, Rhinos have won six from their last seven. Last week’s victory over Featherstone was their highest score this season, and Hall reflected: “We left it a little bit too late [to get into the Super-8s], but now we need to keep going in this form. We have found a formula that works for us and we need to continue with it.”
Hall was Leeds’ only outside-back not to cross the whitewash at Big Fellas Stadium.
“I always say the same thing – if I have scored a hat-trick or not scored any that’s not important, the important thing is the team winning,” he said.
“The Sky TV commentators did have a little dig, saying I’d be upset I didn’t score, but I was more than happy with what the team did. That has been my philosophy all along, it has not changed and it won’t change.”
Injury has restricted Hall to just 12 appearances this year, and he added: “I am going all right. I have missed the majority of the season so I’m just happy my ankles haven’t fallen off! That’s one thing I am looking at at the moment and obviously playing well on the back of it is good.”
Hall admitted this has been “without a doubt” the most challenging season he has faced since breaking into Leeds’ senior side nine years ago.
“It is completely different to what we are normally facing and my role this year has been a lot different,” he reflected. “I have been sat down helplessly watching. Even when I was a young kid breaking in in 2007 and 2008 at least I was contributing on the training field.
“This year when I haven’t played I have only been able to sit and watch training. It hasn’t been a very good experience for myself, but I am sure I’ll look back at it at the end of my career and say it has been invaluable and I have learned a lot from it, because I have done all sides of the game now.”
Meanwhile, Hull KR coach James Webster reckons his team will take confidence from their performance against Leeds last month and the Headingley win on Easter Monday.
“I went and watched them at Fev and they’ve got around nine or 10 internationals in their team,” he said. “They are very good, but they’re not too dissimilar to what we played three or four weeks ago – apart from Joel Moon and Danny McGuire – and we did a good job against them.
“We go there confident and I think we’re relishing the chance to test ourselves in a great stadium against a great team.
“We’ve had some close games this year, but the Easter one was a real slugfest.
“We were both short on numbers, but that was probably the first time we’d put in an 80-minute performance against a pretty good side. We remember it well and we’re looking forward to it.”