5 Things We Learned #68

Double-headers are the way forward… apparently

I’m still trying to get my head around the whole Challenge Cup semi-final double header in Bolton. It’s a very bizarre and seemingly rushed decision, especially with the RFL only announcing it in the week leading up to the quarters. For me it’ll take away a lot of the excitement of the semis, especially given the fact that for each game half of the crowd will be quiet as their team won’t be playing, and that will surely create a poor atmosphere.

The venue itself is another confusing one. Why Bolton? Surely an event like this would be much better staged at a venue where we’re trying to grow the game? Somewhere like Anfield or even at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry where we’ve held England games recently? It all just seems very random. I do hope I’m wrong, but I can’t see it being a success.

 

Tomkins brothers an embarrassment

When videos or stories of players misbehaving themselves come to light, you often assume it’ll be a younger player enjoying themselves too much. What you don’t expect, however, is for two of England’s most experienced and respected stars to be caught verbally abusing members of the public.

I imagine you’ve all seen said video of Joel and Sam Tomkins. Drunk or not, the way they conducted themselves is simply disgusting and there’s no excuse for it. What’s particularly disappointing is the misogyny hurled at the bar staff, especially when women’s rugby league is on such a rise at the moment. Imagine how some of our young female players would feel to see their idols throwing around such sexist comments. Joel has been dropped for four weeks and fined £10,000, while Sam has managed to escape with just a £5000 fine, but that’s only because he had the sense to shut up once he realised he was on camera. I really hope more punishment is dished out, because they both need to be made an example of.

 

Jack Walker ahead of his years

From an individual perspective, Jack Walker’s performance against Leigh on Friday was one of the best of his short career so far. He wasn’t as solid in defence as we’ve seen in the past but in attack he was electric, constantly hitting the ball at pace and making some superb breaks throughout. He’s in the England Knights squad for the Autumn tout to PNG, but I don’t think it will be too long before he breaks into the senior side.

On the flip side for Leeds, Brian McDermott is facing the prospect of having to replace two fresh injuries. Carl Ablett and Jimmy Keinhorst both suffered what seem to be muscle tears and are added to an injury list that already includes eight first teamers. It does, however, give him a chance to blood even more youngsters. Centre Harry Newman has been tearing it up in the Championship for Featherstone, while 17-year-old prop Tom Holroyd is on the brink of a call-up after featuring as 18th man for last week’s trip to Catalans. Keep an eye out for those two names!

 

Hull rue lack of discipline

They got away with it against Featherstone, but Hull’s discipline really cost them this time. Had they not conceded three yellow cards, I reckon they would be in the semis next month. When they did have 13 men, the Black and Whites really put Saints on the back foot and looked really dangerous with the ball. It’s good to see the likes of Kelly and Tuimavave returning, but they may not as well bother if their teammates’ discipline is that poor.

One man that didn’t deserve to be on the losing side was Hakim Miloudi. The French winger was a real unsung hero throughout, constantly getting involved and coming up with some superb plays, not least his second half try. He’s bound to get more game time in the coming weeks and so could become one of the surprise stars of the season.

 

Cas have found the answer

Daryl Powell did a lovely bit of business this week. His Tigers side have struggled to find a solid fullback all season, but bringing in Samoan flyer Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e could be a real masterstroke.

The likes of Jake Trueman, Ben Roberts and most recently Michael Shenton have all been trialled as no.1’s, but none of them have had the desired impact. They’ve all been safe enough defensively but lack the potency that Powell needs in a fullback, the kind of impact Zak Hardaker had last year. QLT’s explosive speed and agility, therefore, could be just what’s needed to spark his new side into life. They’ve played some pretty bland rugby this year compared to what we’re used to, so an injection of pace can only do them good.