Leeds Rhinos winger Ash Handley happy with short turnaround to Castleford Tigers derby

Leeds Rhinos don’t have long to dwell on their agonising last-gasp defeat by Warrington Wolves - and winger Ash Handley reckons that is the positive from this week’s short turnaround.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 4:45 am
Ash Handley looks dejected after the loss to Warrington. Picture by Allan McKenzie.
Ash Handley looks dejected after the loss to Warrington. Picture by Allan McKenzie.

Rhinos face Castleford Tigers in a Betfred Super League derby at Emerald Headingley on Friday, which will be their third game in nine days.

It comes just five days after Leeds were beaten 27-26 by a drop goal 38 seconds from the end of a pulsating, end to end clash with Betfred Super League’s third-placed side.

England half-back George Williams’ winner, at the end of his Warrington debut, left Leeds’ players distraught, but Handley insisted he is itching to get back on the field and put things right.

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“We recover, train once and then go again,” the England man said.

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“On Thursday [after a win at Hull] we were on top of the world and on Sunday we were at the bottom of a hole.

“It changes every week.

“I don’t mind the short turnaround, because I like playing the game.”

Rhinos led three times against Warrington and were six points in front going into the final five minutes.

Both Warrington’s first half tries resulted from Leeds’ errors immediately following a score by the home side and their third touchdown was a controversial decision by the video referee, after it seemed Josh Charnley had failed to get the ball down over Rhinos’ line.

Handley felt Rhinos were on top throughout and admitted: “We should have beaten them.”

He recalled: “They threw nothing at us all game, we were better than them all game.

“We were a bit complacent on our line for their first two and the third try, I don’t know how he could give that.

“Everyone watching could see he hadn’t got it down, but then we gave another soft one away, we threw the ball away with three minutes to go and they took advantage.

“We need to beat Cas on Friday now.”

Despite the result last weekend, Handley reckons Rhinos are heading in the right direction and still capable of forcing their way into the end of season play-offs.

The top-six qualify and Leeds climbed into the final play-offs spot when Hull KR lost to Catalans Dragons two days ago.

Castleford, who have won just two of their last 10 games in all competitions, have even less time to prepare, following their 34-16 home defeat by Huddersfield Giants on Monday.

That, though, was their first game for more than two weeks - since the Challenge Cup final loss to St Helens at Wembley.

After fielding a makeshift side on Monday, without a host of players who were ruled out due to a coronavirus outbreak which led to two matches being called off, coach Daryl Powell expects to have most of his senior players back to face Rhinos.

It will be the teams’ third meeting this year, with honours being even so far.

Castleford won 18-10 on neutral ground at St Helens four months ago, but Leeds cruised to a 60-6 victory at the Jungle in May.

Both coaches will name an initial 21-man squad today and Handley - who did not play in either of the previous encounters - is confident Rhinos can defy their recent hectic schedule and get back to winning ways.

He said: “The last few weeks are probably the strongest side we’ve had out this season, due to injuries and things.

“We are getting there and hopefully we can put it right on Friday.”

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