Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith believes Ash Handley is one of the competition’s most underestimated players.
The England winger crossed for five tries in the Rhinos 62-16 demolition of Hull FC on Saturday to take his season tally to 14 and go within three tries of competition leader Tommy Makinson.
However when speaking post-match about Handley, Leeds boss Smith was quick to acknowledge that his winger is more than just a try-scorer.
“He’s a top end finisher but he’s probably a bit underestimated with how hard he carries the ball out in yardage. He’s also a great team guy and a leader. So, it’s nice to see a winger get a bunch of tries to reward the effort.”
Smith continued: “Ash has played a key part in the behind the scenes stuff too, especially through three different coaches. He has had a real impact on the group and he’s a great young man.”
The victory at Hull was the Rhinos biggest since a 68-0 triumph over the Crusaders in 2009 as Smith’s men turned on the style again to rack up another impressive scoreline.
It’s a result, much like the 40-4 win at Warrington earlier in June, that leaves Leeds fans scratching their heads at a team that appear to have quality and points in them, but still lack the consistency to challenge at the top of Super League.
The Rhinos still have a shot at making the end-of-season playoffs as they sit three places and three points behind Saturday’s opponents Hull, who currently occupy the sixth and final spot on the Super League ladder.
Since Smith’s arrival at Headingley, Leeds have shown patches of excellence and following the weekend’s game he was quick to pay tribute to the coaching team around him, notably assistants Sean Long and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“I really liked how we started the game,” said Smith. “We went about things how we practiced and with the plan that Longy out in place.
“We highlighted what their attack might look like, Jonesy did a good job at covering that earlier in the week, particularly in getting ourselves set for what was coming.
“The part I particularly liked was how we regrouped after a few things went their way which weren’t really reflected in the actual flow of the game and we recomposed ourselves and got going again. We stayed together and played together.
“I thought our defence at the start of the game set up the process we wanted to go through.”
A great day!
Saturday was arguably the result and performance of the season.
Rohan Smith’s words on Ash Handley are great to hear because since the days of Sinfield, Peacock, McGuire, Burrow et al. there is no question this is a club that has lacked leaders on and off the pitch.
I think many forget that this team had an overhaul of players prior to the season and with injuries and suspensions constantly hampering us throughout the season, maybe now things can start to come together?
Let’s hope we can now build on Saturday and put on a repeat performance against Castleford at Magic Weekend.