PROLIFIC tryscoring WINGER Ash Handley says Leeds Rhinos can go into tonight’s visit of league leaders St Helens in confident mood, despite the massive 24-point gap separating the sides in the table.
Saints are 14 points ahead of second-placed Warrington Wolves who they will meet in the Coral Challenge Cup final at Wembley in nine days’ time
Leeds have lost to Saints twice already this year and are still in a relegation battle despite successive big wins over Huddersfield Giants and Catalans Dragons.
Those results lifted them to eighth in Betfred Super League and boosted their points difference, but Handley insists Leeds’ players aren’t looking at the ladder – and that approach is working for them.
“We are just focusing on ourselves and what we can do,” he said.
“We are taking it week by week and staying confident in each other.
“We are putting some good performances in now and I think we can go into this one confident.
“We have spoken about not having had three wins on the bounce this year, but we have got a good chance [tonight].
“We have had two big wins and, hopefully, we can make it three.”
Giving fans at Emerald Headingley something to celebrate is a big motivation, according to Handley.
“We’ve not had many good performances at home,” he admitted. “Hopefully now all the stadium is open and everyone’s settled we can start to do that.
“We had a great win last week and, hopefully, we can do the same for the fans because they have stuck with us through it all.
“It hasn’t been the best year, but it’s starting to come a bit better now. They have been right with us, win or lose.”
After the last two impressive performances, this evening will be a much tougher test and a good indicator of how far Leeds have progressed over the past two months.
Handley insisted: “They are a great team and it is always good to play against them and see where we are at as a team.
“It is always a good battle between Leeds and Saints – everyone likes to watch these games and, hopefully, we can have another thrilling game.”
Handley is a player the league leaders will be wary of.
He scored two hat-tricks against Saints in 2015, crossed against them in both meetings the following year, bagged a double in last year’s away fixture and was also on the scoresheet when Rhinos lost 27-22 at Langtree Park in February.
He has scored 19 tries in Super League this year and is joint-second in the competition with Saints’ Tommy Makinson, two behind Niall Evalds of Salford Red Devils.
“It is more about the team but, obviously, it would be nice for me if I can get a few more and get up to the top,” Handley said.
“I am more focused on the team and team performances than I am on my own personal achievements.”