Leeds Rhinos heading in the right direction reckons star import Tui Lolohea
IMPORT TUI Lolohea admits Leeds Rhinos can only be disappointed with their start to the season, but feels there are encouraging pointers for the year ahead.
Rhinos have lost their opening two fixtures in Betfred Super League, including a 34-16 reverse at champions Wigan Warriors last Friday.
Lolohea described that result as “pretty disappointing” and he said: “We went there to get the win, it was not the way we wanted it to go, but we’ve got to bounce back for next weekend.
“We have the weekend to sulk about it, but that’s footy.
“When I look back at it, I thought we did it to ourselves.
“They scored four tries off kicks and it’s not often that happens.”
Leeds began the game well going 6-0 and 12-6 ahead and they split Wigan’s defence several times, but penalties and errors with and without the ball proved costly.
Overall though it was an improvement from Rhinos’ performance in the round one defeat at Warrington Wolves and Lolohea insisted he saw positive signs.
“We’ve got a new spine here,” he said.
“I did feel we were on top of them at periods in the game, we were just dominating them and they weren’t able to go with us.
“If we can do that more consistently I am sure in the next couple of weeks we will start to find form as a team and it’s upwards from there.”
With four new signings in the team and a change of coach Lolohea reckons the early stages of the year are “all about building”.
He added: “It would be better if we were winning, but we’ve had two big games to start the season, against two Grand Finalists.
“It is upwards from here.”
Rhinos have a longer turnaround to Sunday’s game at Salford Red Devils and Lolohea feels that will boost Rhinos’ preparations.
Most Super League teams are not in action, due to the World Club Challenge, but last year’s bottom-four, including promoted London Broncos, will play games brought forward from round 10 when they will be in Coral Challenge Cup action.
“We will get a chance to look at our game and see where we are going wrong and what’s going to help us to get the wins over the next couple of weeks,” Lolohea stressed.
“I think it’s going to be a big two or three games coming up and we need to get a win to get ourselves rolling.
“This is a pretty important period.”
Lolohea is two games into his competitive Rhinos career and said he feels “pretty good” about the way he has started.
“Last week was hard, I thought Warrington were all over us,” he admitted.
“[On Friday] we had more opportunity, we were in the game and I felt pretty good out there.”
Recalling a chance late in the first half when he intercepted a pass close to his own line, he said: “I didn’t know anyone was around and I looked up and I saw about six guys chasing me. I’ll have to work on my speed.”
The stand-off booted two goals from three attempts and is happy in his role as kicker, confirming: “I am working on it at training throughout the week.
“There’s some games you win by two points, so that’s important.”
Meanwhile, a young Rhinos side – including only two non-academy-qualified players – romped to a 46-24 victory at Betfred League One Keighley Cougars to win the Derek Hallas Trophy.
Harry Newman, who was 18th man at Wigan, bagged a brace of tries for Rhinos and there were also doubles for fellow centre Jack Broadbent and full-back Liam Whitton. Tom Barton and Tyler Dupree also touched down. Billy Jowitt kicked four goals and Jack Mallinson landed three.
Benn Hardcastle scored a try and four goals for Cougars. Their other try scorers were Jack Miller, Will Cooke and Jack Arnold.