THIS WEEK’S visit of Wigan Warriors is just another challenge for Leeds Rhinos, according to ever-present forward Carl Ablett.
Rhinos are in a run of matches against their fellow big guns, following their Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-final win over St Helens and last Friday’s demolition of Warrington Wolves in the opening round of the First Utility Super-8s.
Wigan have moved up to second in the table, two points behind Leeds.
Like Warrington, they have beaten Rhinos twice this year and Ablett said it is yet another test in a two-month spell full of them.
“Every game in the Super-8s is going to be a tough one,” he predicted.
“They are all going to be big games. Wigan won last week –against Huddersfield Giants – and they are breathing down our neck.
“Obviously, we want to finish top and, as a player, these are the games you want to be involved in.
“It always seems to be close when we play Wigan.
“I am sure they will be full of confidence after the last two games, but we’re confident as well, especially being back at Headingley.
“We’re really looking forward to it.”
A Rhinos win would be a giant stride towards the league leaders’ shield, which will be handed out at the end of the Super-8s.
Leeds’ superior points difference means they will be top next week whatever happens in Friday night’s encounter, but a win would lift them four points clear with only five games to play.
“We are in a decent run of form and it’s important we continue that,” said Ablett.
“We have got aspirations of finishing top and they are our closest rivals, so we have to come up with another good performance and make sure we go the distance.”
Meanwhile, Ablett said defence was the most pleasing factor in Rhinos’ opening Super-8s success.
They ran in eight tries, including a dazzling double from Zak Hardaker, in the 49-10 thrashing of Warrington, but Ablett was even happier with a big-hitting display which restricted the visitors to just two touchdowns.
He said the way they went about their task – just seven days after their Cup semi-final success – proves they mean business in all competitions this year.
Rhinos are the elite league’s top scorers in 2015, but three teams have conceded fewer points. “It was important we backed up from a big effort in the semi-final the week before,” continued Ablett.
“We’ve shown all year we can score tries and once we get on a roll we can be tough to stop at times.
“We’ve got some freakish players who can produce passes and offloads and support players and we showed that on Friday night, but we were really happy with only conceding 10 points against a good team. It was a good start for us in the Super-8s.”