First-half performance against Huddersfield Giants is proof Leeds Rhinos’ hard work in training is paying off reckons pack man James Donaldson

AS LEEDS Rhinos have found out already this year, one win does not make a summer.

By Peter Smith
Sunday, 21st April 2019, 8:00 pm
Leeds Rhinos forward, James Donaldson. PIC: James Hardisty
Leeds Rhinos forward, James Donaldson. PIC: James Hardisty

Earlier victories over Salford Red Devils and then Castleford Tigers were not built upon, but Rhinos did climb off the foot of Betfred Super League – though only on points difference – when they beat Huddersfield Giants two days ago.

The first half on Good Friday, when Leeds powered into a 30-0 lead, was the best they have played in 2019 and though they could not maintain that after the interval, they did manage to weather the storm and secure a precious 38-18 success.

Leeds make the short trip to Wakefield Trinity tomorrow hoping to complete back-to-back league wins for the first time in almost a year and prove they have finally turned the corner in what has been a dismal season so far.

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Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley is one try away from a century of touchdowns. PIC: Steve Riding

“You have got to take the positives out of it and then get your head around going to Wakefield and getting two more points,” forward James Donaldson said of the task ahead for Rhinos.

“Every game matters now and, hopefully, we can go on a run and make a go of it.”

Donaldson scored his first Leeds try in last week’s win and got through a huge amount of work in what was, for the team, a much-improved defensive performance.

“I loved it,” Donaldson – who joined Rhinos in the off-season after a spell as a trialist – said of his touchdown.

Brett Ferres is two tries away from a career century of touchdowns. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

“It was great to get the try, but even better to get the win and the two points.

“It got a bit ugly in the second half, but the way we started the game laid the platform and we carried on building on it. We’ve got to take confidence from it and move on and look to Monday.”

Rhinos have shown before this year they can rattle up the points, but keeping the opposition out has been where they have struggled.

The clean sheet before the break was a morale-booster and Donaldson added: “The first half was really good.

“The talk was good, everyone knew their job and everyone was on board.

“It comes off the back of hard work – we have been working our socks off in training, working hard for each other and you could see it on the field.

“We spoke about starting big and carrying it on throughout the game and I think we did that.

“The hot weather didn’t help their big boys or our big boys, we were out on our feet at times, but we dug in for each other and it paid off.”

Trinity were defeated 28-26 at Castleford Tigers last Thursday, but showed what they are capable of by fighting back from 28-8 down inside the final quarter.

They won 35-18 at Emerald Headingley when the teams met on March 1 and Donaldson reckons Leeds are in for another huge test.

“It is a tough place to go, especially backing up after a tough day on Friday,” he warned. “They have had an extra day, but we will get our heads right, recover, eats lots and get some good sleep and hopefully try and freshen up for Monday.”

Leeds will have a spring in their step after last week’s win – Donaldson said – and particularly the way they performed in the first 40 minutes.

“We’ve got to go quietly confident,” he added.

“We have got to build on that performance.

“We have got to keep working hard, it is all down to attitude and our attitude has been good to work hard for each other.”

Tomorrow is the second of four games in 17 days for Rhinos, who are at home to Hull KR in another huge match at the bottom of the table on Sunday.

Asked if they can back-up, Donaldson stressed: “It is tough, but you’ve got to do it.

“It is just the way the league’s structured.

“It is not ideal, but it’s what we get paid for.”

Winger Ash Handley has scored tries in each of Leeds’ last three meetings with Trinity and needs one more for a century of touchdowns.

The 23-year-old, who made his debut in 2014, has crossed 87 times for Rhinos, as well as 11 touchdowns on dual-registration with Featherstone Rovers and once for England Knights last year.

Leeds forward Brett Ferres is two tries away from a career century.

His total so far includes 14 for Rhinos and seven with Wakefield, from 2007-2008.

He has also scored 28 tries for Huddersfield, 27 with Castleford, 13 as a Bradford Bulls player and nine for England.