TOUGH TIMES at the start of the campaign are paying off for Leeds Rhinos now and will do next season, centre Joel Moon says.
After losing 16 of their opening 19 competitive games – culminating in a run of seven straight defeats from April to June – Rhinos have rallied to win six of their last seven.
The revival came too late to snatch a place in the Super-8s, but they climbed from bottom to ninth in Super League and went into the First Utility Qualifiers as one of the form teams.
That momentum continued last Saturday when they kicked off their middle-eights campaign with a 62-6 victory at Featherstone Rovers and Moon reckons that was a clear sign their early-season problems are now behind them.
“Obviously it wasn’t a good start to the season,” Moon reflected.
“It was a lot different to last year, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
“We have bounced back and we finished [the regular season] pretty well.
“We have learned from it and we know how to go about things next year.
“We will have a big pre-season and I think we’ll be better for what’s happened this year.
“We have learned from it and that’s all you can do when you go through tough times.”
A victory over Hull KR tomorrow would be a big step towards regaining a Super League place for 2017.
Wins against their Super League rivals are vital if Leeds are to finish in the top three of the Qualifiers and avoid the lottery of the million pound match.
Rhinos had a weekend break before last Saturday’s opening win at Featherstone, and Moon said: “It’s good to get back on the horse, back playing. We had a good first win in the middle-eights, so that’s good for the team.
“It was good to get some tries and the team is playing well.
“We’ll need that this week against Hull KR, but we’ve trained hard this week and we should be all right.
“Hull KR are always tough. We’ve had two hard games against them and this will be the same. They will be coming here wanting to win, so we will have to be on our best form.”
Tomorrow’s game will be the sides’ second meeting inside a month.
Rhinos won 24-20 at Lightstream Stadium in the final round of the regular Super League season.
But the tries were shared against a Rovers team missing some key players.
“We beat them, but they played well,” said Moon, who missed last month’s match due to a knee injury.
“I guess in the middle-eights there’s no easy games. They are all going to be tough, but getting our first win up was good and if we go game-by-game we should be all right.
“We’re approaching every game like it’s Super League. The Championship sides are tough too.
“It wasn’t an easy game [last week], there were tough periods. Every game is going to be difficult and that’s how we are approaching it.”