BEING tasked with replacing the legendary Ryan Hall was never going to be an easy challenge for Leeds Rhinos’ Ash Handley.
The promoted winger claimed the prolific England star’s No 5 jersey when Hall moved to Sydney Roosters at the end of last season.
However, he is not doing the shirt an injustice. Leeds-born Handley, who hails from the same Oulton Raiders club as his predecessor, has handled the prospect well and enjoyed a fine start to the campaign.
Indeed, he tops Super League’s charts with 14 clean breaks and his tally of nine tries is only bettered by Warrington Wolves’ Josh Charnley.
Such personal statistics paled into insignificance given bottom-placed Rhinos’ woeful start.
But last week’s crucial Golden Point win over Castleford Tigers – ending a five-game losing run – has crucially raised spirits.
“We just needed a win,” said Handley, his side having seen a 20-4 lead disappear before clinching victory in extra-time.
“We had to get over the line. We did it the hard way like we always do, but we will take a lot of confidence from that.
“We’ve got to go to Hull KR on Thursday and try and do a job on them. They are getting a few players back and it’s always a tough place to go.
“Everyone picks up their game against Leeds, but we’ll have a good week’s training and hopefully do ourselves proud.”
Handley was again sent in for a try against Castleford by Konrad Hurrell, the Tonga centre who has been an instant hit since joining as a marquee player from Gold Coast Titans last winter.
“Konny is helping me out a lot,” he said about the competition’s leading metre-maker.
“He is really good; he attracts players to him and gives me a lot of space outside him.
“We are linking up really well. It’s great to be partnering him on that left side.
“It’s a good partnership, we’ve got good cohesion with each other and I am really enjoying it at the minute.”
However, Leeds – who have drawn League One Workington at home in the Challenge Cup fifth round – must head to Hull KR without Richard Myler after the England scrum-half was handed a one-match penalty notice.
He was deemed to have dangerously lifted Castleford’s Alex Foster towards the end of the first half of that game.
Castleford hooker Paul McShane faces a tribunal tonight after being charged with a Grade D intentional forearm/elbow on Myler in the 12th minute, an offence that could see him banned from three to five games.
Hull KR will host Championship side Leigh Centurions in the Challenge Cup while Championship Halifax were drawn at home to newly-promoted London Broncos.
Dewsbury Rams must go to St Helens’ Thatto Heath Crusaders, the last remaining amateur side in the competition who shocked League One North Wales Crusaders in the previous round.
A West Yorkshire derby sees Bradford Bulls tackle Featherstone Rovers, while York City Knights head to revitalised Widnes Vikings.
Doncaster, one of only two League One teams remaining in the last 24, host Batley Bulldogs.
The eight winners will be joined by the top eight from last season’s Super League in the sixth-round draw on April 15.
Challenge Cup 5th round ties: Hull KR v Leigh, Widnes v York, Thatto Heath v Dewsbury, Leeds v Workington, Halifax v London Broncos, Bradford v Featherstone, Salford v Rochdale, Doncaster v Batley.
Ties to be played on the weekend of April 12-14.