13th June 2019, 11:23 | Leeds

Watkins draws confidence from Leeds' back-to-back wins

Watkins draws confidence from Leeds' back-to-back wins

They have won 11 of the last 12 Grand Finals between them but crucial points in the battle to avoid relegation will be at stake when Leeds Rhinos host Wigan Warriors on Friday.

The Rhinos have boosted their Betfred Super League survival chances with back-to-back wins for the first time in 2019 but London Broncos’ shock victory over leaders St Helens means the pressure is still on Richard Agar’s men.

Defending champions Wigan eased their relegation fears with a much-needed win at fellow strugglers Hull Kingston Rovers in their last match but they are only two points ahead of Leeds in eighth place.

Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins admits the pressure is still on his side but says they will draw confidence from their close-fought victories over London and Wakefield Trinity.

“I know there have been pretty close results but we take great confidence from winning and backing up as well,” he said.

“It was really important for the situation we are in but we need to do that again.

“It’s very tight around there and a little bit further up as well, every game’s important.

“Wigan have been playing well recently – they had a couple of games against Warrington where they were in with a shout and they got a result at Hull KR.

“It’s Leeds v Wigan, which is always a big encounter. There is still a lot to play for as well for both sides, it should be a great contest.”

Wigan coach Adrian Lam has no doubt about the potential significance of Friday’s Roses clash, calling it the most important game of the season.

“I don’t think Wigan have had a good run there in recent years but it is a really important game for us,” he said.

“We feel that for us to be where we want to be at the end of the year, this game now is the most important of the season.”

Leeds have promising full-back Jack Walker returning from injury while Wigan are without his predecessor Zak Hardaker, who has a hamstring strain, and forward Taulima Tautai is also missing.

Saints will be looking to bounce back from their second defeat of the season when they host Huddersfield Giants on Friday night.

Coach Justin Holbrook has pinpointed former Saints stand-off Lee Gaskell as the main threat to his side.

“Huddersfield are playing really well,” Holbrook said. “I think the last three or four weeks they have really hit some form and are a dangerous side.

“Lee Gaskell is playing really well for them. He is a big running threat with a great kicking game. They are a really good side.”

Holbrook has recalled his big guns after resting them against the Broncos and is confident young hooker Aaron Smith will deputise effectively for the injured James Roby.

“We have got all the confidence in Az and he has played a fair few games now,” he said. “He will get a good stretch of games now that Robes will be out for a few weeks.”