Leeds Rhinos are on the up says pack star Stevie Ward

Stevie Ward is tackled by Joe Greenwood and Sam Powell of Wigan Warriors.
Stevie Ward is tackled by Joe Greenwood and Sam Powell of Wigan Warriors.
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AFTER TWO games Leeds Rhinos are bottom of Betfred Super League and without a win, but it hasn’t all been doom and gloom.

Team performances are not yet where they need to be, but some individuals have started the season well.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Dave Furner.

Leeds Rhinos head coach Dave Furner.

Back-rower Stevie Ward has been one of Leeds’ top players in both their opening fixtures, getting a try under his belt and long minutes on the field.

That is an encouraging sign for Rhinos and Ward himself after a long run of bad luck with injuries.

Ward was part of pre-season from day one, back in November, and featured in the opening game of the campaign for only the second time in his Rhinos career.

“I am enjoying it,” he confirmed of his early involvement.

It’s a period where we are working each other out and trying to get those two points, but hopefully – and I think – it will come to fruition.

Stevie Ward

“I am just enjoying being in the games and in the tussles.

“It is just unfortunate we are on the other end of them at the minute, but we will get there.”

Rhinos played better in last Friday’s 34-16 reverse at Wigan Warriors than they had when losing 26-6 at Warrington six days earlier and Ward insisted they will take positives into Sunday’s game at early leaders Salford Red Devils.

Of last week’s setback, he said: “I thought we did everything to be in the contest and for patches of the game we were.

Stevie Ward.

Stevie Ward.

“Just tries from kicks hurt us.

“Turn them around and keep them out and it’s a different story.

“We can definitely take some positives from that.

“We’ve played two games and we are getting better each week.

“It is nice to feel the improvements out there on the pitch even though we’re not getting the two points.

“It’s a period where we are working each other out and trying to get those two points, but hopefully – and I think – it will come to fruition.”

Rhinos have started against both of last year’s Grand Finalists.

Ward admitted credit has to go to the opposition and lessons can be learned.

“Wigan did well,” he observed.

“They played to a good degree all that game and kept the pressure on, whereas I think we let it off at times. That’s something you can’t afford to do, which is a lesson to be learned.

“We have tested ourselves against the best and we will keep going with it. We’ll keep rocking on to next week and that’s all we can do.”

While most Super League clubs get a break this weekend Rhinos, as one of last year’s bottom-four sides, are in action in a game brought forward from round 10 when they will enter the Coral Challenge Cup. For Ward, playing on is a bonus.

There was a feeling before the season started it would take time for Rhinos to adjust to new coach Dave Furner, incoming players and different systems and structures.

That has not changed and Ward stressed: “There are new ways we are playing compared to Leeds of old and we need to get used to that.”

And he cautioned: “We don’t want to get used to not getting two points.

“But we will take a lot of motivation from that.”

Meanwhile, prop Mikolaj Oledzki - who was placed on report for alleged biting in the game at Wigan - is available for Sunday after the Rugby Football League’s match review panel decided there was no case to answer.