Last year’s treble winners are in a battle to qualify for the Super-8s after losing seven of their opening nine league fixtures.with Castleford Tigers’ win over Huddersfield Giants yesterday dropping Leeds to second-bottom.
The crisis deepened over Easter when Rhinos suffered three defeats in nine days to teams around them in the First Utility Super League table.
That run – after an encouraging win over St Helens – shattered their hopes of breaking into the eight and closing the gap on the top-four semi-final spots.
Losses at Tigers and home against last year’s bottom club Wakefield Trinity Wildcats were followed by an even more costly 30-10 beating by Hull KR, also at Headingley.
Handley described that six tries to two reverse as “a bad one” and he reflected: “We’re not on the best run at the moment, as everyone knows.
“We can’t seem to get the ball rolling. I don’t know really, we just need to find a way to get out of this run we are in and turn it round.
“It is still early days yet, nobody wins anything at this stage in the season, so hopefully we can turn it around for the business end of the season.
“We are just going to have to stick together and stick at it and hopefully we can come out of it.”
Rovers had won just once before Friday night, with one draw, but went into the game buoyed by encouraging performances against Hull and Wigan Warriors.
The visitors were never behind and though Leeds staged a mini fightback in the second half, after going 20-0 down, Rovers always looked the better team.
Handley said: “They were good. Their ruck speed was too good for us. We needed to slow them down, but we couldn’t quite do that. We were just off, we couldn’t get it together.
“For us, it’s all about us and how we can turn it around.”
Handley, 20, is now Rhinos’ only fit senior winger.
Ryan Hall has missed three games due to an ankle injury and is still wearing a protective boot. Tom Briscoe – who scored five tries when Rhinos crushed Hull KR 50-0 at Wembley last year – damaged a shoulder in the defeat by Wakefield, so Zak Hardaker switched to the right-wing and Liam Sutcliffe was at full-back, though they were listed the other way around on the teamsheet.
Despite Rhinos’ poor run, Handley is gaining valuable experience in his first full season as a member of the elite squad.
“It has been good to get some games under my belt,” said the Oulton Raiders product, who began the year on dual-registration at Featherstone Rovers.
“Unfortunately we’ve had a few injuries, both Tom and Hally are out, but I just want a win for the team now, no matter if I am playing or not.
“We just need to turn it around and hopefully get some wins.”
Rhinos’ next match is on Saturday evening away to Salford Red Devils.
They are one of the most inconsistent teams in the division this year and are on the back of a 32-18 defeat at Wakefield two days ago. Salford have never beaten Rhinos on their own turf in Super League and Leeds have won 35 of the 36 meetings between the sides in the Super League era.
“I think everyone’s been a bit inconsistent this year,” Handley said. “No one knows what’s going to happen. We just have to pick ourselves up, build ourselves up for Saturday and hopefully we can get the win we need.”