WOUNDED pride will give Leeds Rhinos extra motivation when they face old enemy St Helens at their temporary Widnes home tonight.
Rhinos are still smarting from last week’s 42-6 hammering by Warrington Wolves, which ended a six-game winning run.
And centre/back-rower Carl Ablett reckons they can’t wait to get back on the field, to prove they are better than that ill-disciplined and error-strewn performance suggested.
“In sport, when you get beaten and someone puts some points on you, your pride gets hurt and you just want to bounce back,”Ablett said.
“We have got plenty of spirit in the team and plenty of people who have been in this situation before and know how to turn it around.
“That starts on the training field. We have been working hard and trying to correct some things that didn’t go right for us last week.
“We have got a tough game coming up, but that is probably the best thing for us. We haven’t been beating the top teams, so we need to come out and start performing.
“There’s no better game than away against St Helens and hopefully we can bounce back.”
Before last week, Rhinos’ previous defeat had been a similar 38-6 home humbling by Huddersfield Giants.
That started a run of half a dozen straight wins and Ablett added: “In the last six games we built a bit of form and found ways to win. Even in the first half (last week) we weren’t a million miles away.
“We needed to kick on from there, but with the errors and penalties, we just invited pressure and a team like Warrington will punish you.
“If we do that this week we’ll probably be on the end of a similar scoreline, because Saints can rack up a few points.
“We need to take care of a few things and put a few things right.”
Discipline will be high on that list. Ablett accepted: “When you give a lot of penalties away, you are inviting pressure.
“The worst ones are when you are keeping them in their 20 and then you give a penalty away, they kick and suddenly you’re in your own half.
“In the second half last week it was 27 minutes before we got in their half. They had all the field position and we couldn’t put any pressure on them. You can’t win games like that.”
Saints are fourth in the table, one place above Leeds. They won 30-16 at Headingley Carnegie in March and Ablett feels what they have achieved this year – with a hefty injury list – is admirable.
“They have got some key players who are playing really well,” he pointed out. “James Roby is probably the form man in the competition, he is just phenomenal.
“They’ve got James Graham and some other experienced boys in there and they are starting to get a few back, but I think that’ll be good for us.
“We don’t want to go there when they’ve got a few out, we want to play teams at full-strength, so we are tested.”
With Keith Senior and Kallum Watkins injured, Ablett filled in at centre last week, but he doesn’t see that as a long term move.
Brent Webb could return this week, which would allow Ablett to move back into the pack and he said: “Lee Smith has played a bit at centre, Kallum’s not far away and neither’s Bish (Ben Jones-Bishop).
“It’s not a position that’s unusual for me, but I enjoy the back-row. When you play in the centres you understand what they go through and when you get back in the middle you can appreciate their work and you try and make their life a bit easier, because it’s tough out there.
“I’d like to get back into the back-row, but I’ll do whatever’s best for the team.
“If Brian Mac is looking around and he thinks I’m the best man who’s available at the moment, so be it.”
Coach Brian McDermott will select from the 17 players on duty last week, plus Paul McShane and Webb, who has missed the last four games due to a severe dead leg. Ben Jones-Bishop, Keith Senior and Kallum Watkins remain on the injury list and Luke Burgess, Chris Clarkson and Ben Cross are not selected.
Saints have named Josh Perry in their initial 19, pending the result of an appeal against a one-match ban imposed for fighting in last weekend’s win over Crusaders. Ade Gardner suffered an Achilles tendon injury in that game and has been ruled out for the season, with Tom Makinson his likely replacement.
Tony Puletua and Scott Moore are available after injury, leaving Chris Flannery, Leon Pryce, Gary Wheeler and Paul Clough on the casualty list alongside Gardner.
St Helens from: Wellens, Makinson, Shenton, Meli, Foster, Gaskell, Lomax, Graham, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Magennis, Eastmond, Ashurst, Dixon, Puletua, Moore.
Leeds Rhinos from: Smith, Hardaker, Delaney, Ablett, Hall, Sinfield, McGuire, Leuluai, Buderus, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Lauitiiti, Hauraki, Kirke, Bailey, Pitts, Burrow, Webb, McShane.
Referee: Phil Bentham (Warrington).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm, at Stobart Stadium, Widnes.
lRHINOS under-20s take on Saints in a curtain-raiser this evening (5.45pm).
Leeds’ under-15s (11.30am), 16s (1pm) and 18s (2.45pm) all face Saints at Headingley Carnegie tomorrow. Admission is free.