Leeds Rhinos: Self-belief leaves Rhinos in fear of nobody in bid to reach Grand Final

AFTER THEIR elimination play-off win at Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos don’t fear anyone, forward James Donaldson says.

By Peter Smith
Saturday, 25th September 2021, 7:25 am
MAGIC MOMENT: Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley celebrates scoring the decisive try against Wigan Warriors on Thursday night
 Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe
MAGIC MOMENT: Leeds Rhinos' Ash Handley celebrates scoring the decisive try against Wigan Warriors on Thursday night Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Rhinos will travel to St Helens for a Betfred Super League qualifying semi-final next Friday, with the winners going through to the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 9

Rhinos had gone eight years without a win at Wigan, but have now beaten them twice there inside a month, without conceding a point.

Next week will be an even bigger challenge, but Donaldson said Thursday’s 8-0 success will give Rhinos “massive” confidence.

CONFIDENT: Leeds Rhinos' James Donaldson Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com

“We’ve had belief in the team all season,” he stated. “No matter where we go, we believe we can get a win. It has put us in good stead. Wigan are obviously one of the best teams in Super League and to go there after so long without winning there and to beat them twice is massive.

“We will take confidence from that and try and build on it for next week.”

Rhinos won the Super League title from fifth on the table in 2011 and 2012, but Donaldson insisted nobody in the camp is thinking about a hat-trick at this stage.

He stressed: “It’s one game at a time, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We have got to look after what’s in front of us first and take care of business next week.

WINNER: Leeds Rhinos' Konrad Hurrell and Robert Lui celebrate after beating Wigan Warriors at the DW Stadium on Thursday night Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“There’s a lot of hard work to go in before we get there so our eyes are definitely just on the next game and we’ll be working hard during the week to build a good performance again.”

After beating Wakefield Trinity in round one, Rhinos lost their next four Super League games, so to be 80 minutes away from Old Trafford is a credit to everybody in the organisation, believes Donaldson.

“It’s mind blowing,” he said. “It has been a bit of a rollercoaster year with injuries, bans and Covid, but we’ve always believed within the team that we are good and we’ve got enough in the changing room to carry us all the way.

“That belief is still there and we’ll keep working hard for each other and the rewards will come.”

Mikolaj Oledzki (toe injury) and Zane Tetevano (suspension) both returned on Thursday and Alex Mellor warmed up with the team, after almost two months out of action with knee ligament damage.

“You need your best players on the field in big games,” Donaldson said.

“We’ve missed some players during the season, but we’ve managed to keep turning up and getting the wins, grinding it out and towards the back end of the season some players have come available for us again. It is all positive looking forward.”

The game two days ago was scoreless for 50 minutes until Ash Handley broke the deadlock with the only try.

Rhyse Martin converted and added a late penalty and Donaldson reflected: “It was my first taste of finals footy, really – playing some big minutes on the edge – but I loved it.

“We just tried to stay as solid as possible in D [defence].

“We knew we’d get the points at some stage if we stuck in there and we came up with them in the end.

“I think it was just one of those hard-nosed performances that we’ve been looking for.”

Donaldson admitted it “probably wasn’t a great game to watch”, but he added: “It was a defensive game and that’s finals footy.

“We stuck in there and worked hard for each other and covered each other’s back when we needed to and the opportunity came later on where we could take the game.”