Leeds coach Richard Agar praised Ash Handley for the way he responded to his England snub with a hat-trick of tries to help his side claim their first win of 2022.
The 26-year-old winger scored three tries to help the Rhinos get their first win on the board this season as they beat Wakefield 34-18 at Belle Vue.
However, Handley was not included in Shaun Wane’s latest England squad midweek. But Agar was pleased with the way his winger responded to not being selected.
Agar said: “That’s the type of kid that Ash he is. Rather than kick stones and sulk, he set his stall out to make his form as good as it can be and hope the coach will change his mind which he has done in the past.
“He’s always said he’s going to pick on form and he’s to be applauded for that.
“That’s the challenge to a number of our guys. It was a great response from Ash tonight.”
The Rhinos were boosted by the return of overseas duo Rhyse Martin and David Fusitu’a. Exciting young centre Harry Newman made his first appearance of the season too.
All three made their mark in the victory at Wakefield, but Agar said Newman was withdrawn as a precaution after feeling his hamstring.
Agar added: “I understand we’ve had a bumpy start but we’ve been very close in two games. Having the inclusions back in the team certainly helped.
“We scored some nice tries and I wanted to see that despite the conditions. We showed good early ball movement which put us in good position.
“I don’t think we eased off in the second half. It was a bit more stop start and we lost the penalty count 6-1 in the second half – we need to have a closer look to see if there is anything we can do about that.
“We also got stretched a bit when we down to 12 men.”