Hull FC v Leeds Rhinos: James Donaldson undaunted by tough trip to Hull FC
THE HOSTILE reception Leeds Rhinos always receive at Hull will not come as a shock to back-rower James Donaldson tomorrow.
He will be making his first playing return to East Yorkshire since leaving Hull Kingston Rovers last autumn and knows what an intimidating atmosphere a big crowd at KCOM Stadium can generate.
Hull have not won a home game since last June, but are beginning to improve and Donaldson reckons Rhinos will be facing a confident team this evening.
Defeats in their opening two games of the year took their losing run to 13 matches, but 37-year-old former Rhinos forward Gareth Ellis’ decision to come out of retirement sparked a revival.
A golden-point extra-time win at Wigan Warriors ended Hull’s long wait for a win and they also beat Huddersfield Giants last Sunday.
They have climbed to fifth in the table and Donaldson warned: “They have definitely got a lot going for them at the moment.”
But he insisted: “We are looking forward to going there as well.
“We need to put a few wrongs right and definitely put our foot back into Super League.
“We’ve been doing everything we can this week to make sure we prepare ourselves in the best way possible.”
It is no secret what Leeds have been focusing on since last Friday’s home loss to Wakefield Trinity.
“Defence wins you games,” Donaldson stressed. “I know you need to score some points, but you have to earn the right through your defence to get the ball in hand.
“If we get that right the rest will take care of itself because we’ve shown we can score points when we do get our hands on the ball and get down the other end.”
A points difference of minus 28 tells its own story.
The win at Salford three weeks ago was the only time Rhinos have conceded fewer than 20 points this year, but Donaldson is “100 per cent” sure they can fix up what has been going wrong.
They have tackled well in patches of games and he said: “We just need to do it consistently, set for set, rather than one set on and one set off.”
He added: “We are trying to stay positive.
“We definitely just need to stick together and work on this together and the results will come.
“It is a tough league and every game is a big one this year.
“There’s no easy games, as some of the results have shown.
“You need to put your best foot forward every single week.
“You can’t call any results, you’ve just got to make sure you are ready to go every single week to put your best performance in for the team.”
Donaldson has missed only one of Rhinos’ five competitive games this year, sitting out the defeat at St Helens two weeks ago owing to a concussion.
The 27-year-old was told he wasn’t wanted by Hull KR at the end of last season and – after training on his own – joined Rhinos on trial in December before signing a contract until the end of this season.
“To be fair, after what happened earlier in this pre-season, I never expected to be in this position now,” he admitted.
“As long as I have got something to offer the team I am definitely happy to be in there every week and doing the best job I can.
“Results haven’t been great the last few weeks, but there is some improvement and we are working hard to make sure we get to where we need to be.”
Donaldson has yet to start a game for Leeds, having come off the bench in every appearance for the club.
He confirmed he is keen to show what he can do with ball in hand, but feels he is making an impact on the other side of the game.
“I am happy with my defence,” he said.
“I am getting through a lot of work.
“When I come on I seem to defend a lot, I’ve not had much chance to get the ball in hand and I am looking forward to doing that a bit more and actually completing some sets with the ball.
“If we get our D right we will earn the right to get the ball a bit more.”
Other than the win at Salford three weeks ago, Rhinos have had only limited possession this year. Donaldson admitted: “We just need to complete our sets and put our energy into our defence and we’ll get there eventually.”