STAND-IN captain Carl Ablett believes Leeds Rhinos are heading in the right direction, even if that is via the middle-eights Qualifiers.
With two rounds remaining in the regular Betfred Super League season Leeds, the defending champions, are ninth in the table, three points behind Huddersfield Giants, Catalans Dragons and Wakefield Trinity.
They need to win their remaining matches, at home to bottom club Widnes Vikings and away to 11th-placed Salford Red Devils and hope at least one of their rivals lose both theirs. It is a desperate situation for Rhinos, but the 20-20 draw with Wakefield last Friday ended an eight-game losing run and Ablett felt there were positive signs.
“We’ve made a few changes on the field and you saw we were a lot better defensively,” said the long-serving second-rower, who returned from a five-game layoff due to a calf muscle injury and is part of a leadership group appointed by new director of rugby Kevin Sinfield.
“We had a lot more control and I think we troubled them, especially in the first half.
“In the second half they had a lot of ball on our line, but the way we defended was encouraging.
“We conceded a couple of soft tries – I missed a tackle I should have made – and they had a long-range try we were really disappointed with, but you can’t question the effort and desire and the will to work hard for each other.
“If we keep hold of that stuff we’ll get better with the ball, hopefully it’ll stay dry and we can attack these last two games.”
Leeds led 20-12 with 10 minutes left, but Trinity were revived by a controversial try from Kyle Wood. Video referee Ben Thaler confirmed the on-field decision, but Ablett felt the Wakefield hooker had lost possession before grounding the ball.
“They said there wasn’t enough evidence to chalk it off, but I thought there was enough there to disallow it,” he reflected.
“Those decisions, sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t.”
Of Leeds’ approach to this week, Ablett insisted: “We’re trying to focus on just getting better and raising our standards a bit. We’ll pick ourselves up, keep going in training and hopefully go and win the game this week.”