IN THE wake of their agonising one-point loss to Castleford Tigers, former England forward Carl Ablett believes the next three games will be pivotal to Leeds Rhinos’ season.
The Betfred Super League champions are fourth in the table after winning four of their opening six games.
They are among a quartet of teams on eight points, four behind leaders St Helens and the race for semi-final places looks like being the closest since the Super-8s system was introduced in 2015.
Rhinos travel to second-bottom Huddersfield Giants on Friday, followed by an Easter Monday clash with Salford Red Devils, who are 10th, at Emerald Headingley and Ablett knows they are must-win games.
“It can be a bit of a defining period,” Ablett said of the Easter schedule, which culminates in a derby at Wakefield Trinity on Sunday, April 8.
“If you come out of Easter well you can rack up a fair few points.
It’s three games in 10 days so there’s six points on offer and it’s important we attack it and take some positives from that last Friday’s gameLeeds Rhinos’ Carl Ablett
“It’s three games in 10 days so there’s six points on offer and it’s important we attack it and take some positives from that [last Friday’s] game, but there’s loads of stuff to work on.”
Leeds trailed Castleford 24-0 after as many minutes, but then ran in five unanswered tries and might have won had Kallum Watkins landed a touchline conversion two minutes from time.
Ablett was hugely encouraged by Rhinos’ fightback, but admitted they weren’t good enough in the game’s opening quarter. He insisted: “It’s all very well saying it was a good effort, but we have got to learn lessons.
“We can’t give teams a 24-point start, but in saying that, they weren’t breaking us down structurally and really taking us apart so some of that we will be able to fix up.”
Ablett felt Leeds’s performance after Castleford’s fourth and final try “showed some character”. He added “After that bad start maybe we could just have tried to stay in the game and not concede any more, but it shows combinations are starting to develop a bit and we are looking a bit more threatening.
“It is exciting times, but we shouldn’t be conceding 24 points defensively. We will have to look at the video and come up with some answers because we’ve got a big period coming up.”