EVER-PRESENT CENTRE Kallum Watkins is confident tonight’s visit of form team Hull will bring the best out of Leeds Rhinos.
Last year’s treble winners began First Utility Super League round 11 second from bottom in the table, with just two victories to their credit.
A ninth defeat of the campaign would make it their worst start to a Super League season and push them closer to a place in the Qualifiers – and a relegation fight – when the competition splits after 23 rounds.
Hull have won five successive games and Watkins – who is set to make his 150th Super League appearance tonight – admitted Leeds will need a big improvement to end their hot streak.
But he felt there were good signs in the 14-10 defeat at Salford Red Devils six days ago and he insisted if Rhinos continue that improvement they can claim the two points.
Watkins said: “We haven’t been getting the results we’ve needed, but we are coming up against a good side now who are on top form at the minute.
“We will take a lot of positives from last week; I thought we played a lot better than we have been doing, but again the result didn’t go our way, which is another disappointment.
“We have got to move on pretty quickly now and focus on this game.
“We know it is going to be tough, against a quality side, so we have to take our positives, continue working hard and continue doing what we need to do.
“If we do that, results will come. It’s just little things we need to be a bit better at.”
Watkins added: “Last week we conceded two soft tries and it cost us in the end.
“We left ourselves too much to do and we weren’t really good enough with the ball, especially in the first half.
“We could have punished them a few times, but you could see the effort there.
“It’s just not happening at the moment in terms of getting that little bit of luck or the rub of the green and things like that.
“It is not happening, but we have got to earn our luck.”
Watkins claimed Rhinos can take heart from a better defensive effort at Salford.
He said: “There were two lapses of concentration.
“They punished us with a quick play-the-ball and that has been our issue for this year.
“Defensively at times we have been pretty poor, but I thought last week we were pretty good.
“We were solid and the middles did well in difficult conditions.
“It was probably a bit slower, but it was an opportunity for everyone to defend well.
“I thought we did that. Two little errors cost us, but we still showed the effort and attitude to get back into it.
“We could have won it in the end, but it was just one of those where we left ourselves too much to do.”
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats – who have climbed from bottom to ninth on the back of four successive wins – have proven a poor run can be turned around.
Watkins insisted: “I think progressively it will get better, it is just all about getting that result. That’s important, but at the end of the day we need to improve in terms of our performances.
“Last week we did that, though you have got to give credit to Salford.
“They defended well and defended their way to a win, but we can take positives out of that and take them into this week.
“We have got the players who can react off a defeat – even though we did play pretty well – and hopefully we can get a win.”
The England man, who has played in all Leeds’ 11 competitive games this year, admitted it is difficult remaining upbeat when the team are struggling.
“Everyone gets down,” he conceded.
“At the end of the day we are not winning, but in terms of our attitude and effort I think that keeps our heads up.
“It makes us realise we aren’t far off getting things right and if we can get a win this week it will give us a huge confidence boost going into the next few weeks.”
Rhinos are on a nine-game unbeaten run at home to Hull, whose last victory at Headingley was a 17-6 success on September 7, 2007.
Both Leeds’ victories this term came on their own turf and Watkins reckons home advantage could be crucial in securing a win which would lift Leeds’ supporters, as well as the team.
“It is just a case of getting that win and that will give everyone a bit more of a confidence, the fans as well,” he said.
“They are getting worried, but that’s what it’s all about.
“They are passionate, everyone has opinions and that’s something we have to deal with.
“We need to get some wins, that is really important for us in terms of confidence.”
Leeds Rhinos: from Hardaker, Watkins, Burrow, Galloway, Falloon, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sutcliffe, Delaney, Singleton, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Achurch, Mullally, Handley, Golding, Baldwinson, Lilley, Smith.
Hull from: Bowden, Fonua, Green, Hadley, Houghton, Manu, Michaels, Naughton, Palea’aesina, Pritchard, Pryce, Shaul, Sneyd, Talanoa, Taylor, Thompson, Watts, Washbrook, Yeaman.
Referee: Joe Cobb (Leigh).
Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.