Winger Ash Handley feels Leeds Rhinos have “thrown away” two weeks’ worth of good work.
Having got themselves in a position to pull clear of relegation danger, thanks to successive wins over then fourth-placed Catalans Dragons and Castleford Tigers, Rhinos are back in the dogfight following their 32-16 home defeat by fellow strugglers Hull KR.
Though Rovers were the only team among the bottom four to win last weekend, Rhinos slipped a place to 10th in the Betfred Super League table on for and against and remain just two points above bottom-placed London Broncos.
Even more worryingly, their performance against the Robins was a throwback to dark days earlier in the season when they were unable to defend their line and made too many errors with ball in hand.
Leeds trailed 14-0 after 20 minutes and though they cut the gap to just six points at half-time, Rovers pulled clear again in the second half to secure a comprehensive victory.
Leeds were out-scored six tries to four and Handley admitted they didn’t do themselves justice at any stage.
“It was really disappointing,” he acknowledged.
“We threw away the three or four weeks we had been building.
“We got a really bad start and they rolled us through the middle.
“We kept kicking ourselves – dropping the ball, making silly errors and we couldn’t get back.”
It was a stark contrast to the win over Catalans two weeks earlier and Rhinos’ hard-fought 18-10 success at Castleford when their defence withstood wave after wave of attacks and they were clinical with the ball in attack.
“We were confident going into the game and we believe in each other, but it just wasn’t to be,” Handley said.
“We didn’t do anything different, it was the same training regime, but it was just one of those things.
“We’re all disappointed, but we’ve got another game on Sunday and we have to pick ourselves up and be confident going into that because we are back in the mix.”
A win would have lifted Rhinos four points clear of Hull KR, but Handley insisted: “We can’t worry too much about that now.
“We will review it on Monday, then put it behind us and move on to Sunday.
“We want consistency in our game and we had that for the last two weeks, but it has obviously dropped off and we just need to get back up there and stay confident in each other.
“We have to try and kick on at the back end of the season.
“We have got a lot of fit bodies now and a big strong squad to pick from so hopefully we can turn this defeat round and go again.”
Brad Singleton will be in contention for Sunday’s visit of Hull after serving a one-game ban and both Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Nathaniel Peteru are available following long-term injury.
“It always helps when you have healthy competition for places,” Handley stated.
“People want to keep their spots so if there’s a lot of people knocking on the door you’d like to think people will play well to keep their shirts.
“It is good and we are heading in the right direction, hopefully.”
The ball is still in Leeds’ court with five of their remaining seven games being at home.
They include meetings with the current top four of St Helens, Warrington Wolves, Hull and Catalans, plus Salford Red Devils.
They also travel to ninth-placed Huddersfield Giants and London.
Handley said: “We have got a lot of home games coming up, hopefully we can get the fans behind us and they keep faith in us and we can push on.”