Leeds Rhinos: Tui Lolohea’s confidence has been boosted by spell at full-back

Tui Lolohea.
Tui Lolohea.
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LEEDS RHINOS import Tui Lolohea reckons his confidence has been boosted by a spell at full-back.

The Tonga and former New Zealand international was signed as a stand-off in the close-season, but has played four games as Leeds’ last line of defence this year including three in a row after Jack Walker suffered a hamstring injury.

Jack Walker celebrates scoring against Hull KR.

Jack Walker celebrates scoring against Hull KR.

When Walker returned against Hull KR last weekend Lolohea was moved back into the halves and Liam Sutcliffe, after six successive appearances at stand-off, shifted to the second-row.

“I enjoyed it,” Lolohea said of his return to the number six position. “It was free-flowing, I got to play my own style of rugby.

“Sutty was playing good footy in the halves and it is down to Furnsie [Dave Furner, Rhinos’ coach] and what he wants to do. All I can do is go out and try and play my best footy.”

Walker damaged a hamstring in the win over Rovers so Lolohea could find himself reverting to full-back at Salford Red Devils on Friday.

Owen Trout is tackled by Jimmy Keinhorst and Kane Linnett of Hull Kingston Rovers.

Owen Trout is tackled by Jimmy Keinhorst and Kane Linnett of Hull Kingston Rovers.

Asked if he has a favourite role, he said: “I like a bit of full-back, so I can just roam around and do what I want to do.

“But [on Sunday] I really enjoyed it out in the halves and I thought we went well on my edge.

“There was a lot of traffic down that side and we managed to handle it pretty well.”

Leeds led 22-0 at half-time and were 28-0 in front before Hull KR began a rally which produced 24 unanswered points and left Rhinos hanging on at the end.

Lolohea admitted: “The second half was disappointing, but in the position we are at the moment I’ll take the win any way, whether it’s by one point or whatever.

“It’s good to get back to winning ways and get the two points, that’s the main thing.”

Rhinos have yet to complete back-to-back wins this season. They prevailed 46-14 at Salford in February, but the hosts’ form has improved since then and they are seventh in the table, three places and four points ahead of Rhinos.

“It is another short turnaround, four-day preparation leading into Friday, but that’s footy,” Lolohea said.

“It’s all about getting our bodies right for a big game. They had a big win against London on Saturday so they have got a bit of confidence, but we just have to go there and grind a win out.”

Lolohea reckons Rhinos will be a match for any team if they play like they did in the first half against Hull KR.

He said: “Furnsie always says that to us, we can go up against any team when we do things our way instead of gifting them things we shouldn’t.

“For example, in the first half [last weekend] we came out firing, I thought our start was pretty good and for them to have zero points was good.

“I thought the try right before half-time was the one that was going to break their hearts, but full credit to them they came back and showed a bit of heart.

“Fatigue kicked in after a while and we were lucky to get away with that win, but we’ll take it.”