5 Things We Learned #69

Rugby League rep review

First blood to the Blues

As always, the first Origin clash of the year lived up to it’s billing and was a superb encounter to watch. Brad Fittler’s young New South Wales side stood up to the challenge of their more experienced counterparts and thoroughly deserved their 22-12 win.

As I mentioned last week, there was plenty of pressure on young half Nathan Cleary but the 20-year-old delivered a mature performance and had a huge bearing on the game. Elsewhere, wingers Tom Trbojevic and Josh Addo-Carr were in blistering try-scoring form, while Latrell Mitchell proved he can cut it at representative level. As ever, the series still hangs in the balance but there are plenty of positives for Fittler to take from game I.

 

Pace is key for Wakefield

Watching Trinity’s win over Wigan on Thursday, it struck me how much pace Chris Chester has in his side. As well as obvious names like Ben Jones-Bishop and Tom Johnstone, there’s significant speed all through the spine – in the halves, at fullback and at hooker.

Ryan Hampshire stood out against the Warriors and controlled the game with Jacob Miller, while Max Jowitt also injected himself into their attack nicely. At dummy half, Chester has the perfect combination. Tyler Randell is smart and quick out of the ruck and is complemented by Kyle Wood off the bench, who can turn a game at the drop of a hat. That pace could be key if Wakefield are to snatch a top four spot, so they need to start exploiting it more.

 

Powell’s fullback dilemma answered

What a week for Daryl Powell! Not only did his side come away with a shock victory over Warrington on Friday, but he’s gained two more credible options at fullback within the space of a week. Both Calum Turner and Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, although he played in the halves, put in stellar performances, scoring 20 of their side’s 34 points between them.

QLT put in a man-of-the-match performance on Friday night.

Turner, in particular, looks like a very promising prospect. The 21-year-old was solid all night, apart from one dropped ball, and wasn’t afraid to involve himself in attack. Good fullbacks also tend to have an opportunistic nature of finding themselves in the right place and exploiting it, which is exactly what Turner did for his try. As for QLT, many were sceptical as to how he’d adapt having spent eight years at Championship level but he took to Super League like a duck to water. He used the same pace and agility that made him one of Sheffield’s best over the years and will hopefully continue to excel at the top level.

 

Unsung heroes winning Huddersfield games

Three players stood out in Huddersfield’s win over Leeds on Friday, but not the ones you might think. For a start, makeshift halfback Jordan Turner was superb. With no Danny Brough, Turner really stepped up and controlled the Giants’ attack, allowing young half Oliver Russell to also perform well under less pressure.

Two of the Giants’ tries came from back rowers Alex Mellor and Aaron Murphy, who also lead from the front. Mellor actually made the most metres, tackles and tackle busts for his side, as well as grabbing a try and an assist, while Murphy also got over the line and held his own in an unfamiliar position. If there’s one thing Huddersfield have at the minute, it’s confidence, and that makes them a very tough team to face.

 

Bennett to blood youngsters

It’s pleasing to see three debutants included in the England squad for the Denver Test. While injuries to the likes of Kallum Watkins, Luke Gale and Alex Walmsley obviously aren’t ideal, it’s paved the way for some of our most promising, in-form players to get a chance at international level.

Jake Connor and Luke Thompson, in particular, deserve a shot. Connor has been one of the best players in Super League all season and offers something different in the centres, while Thompson has emerged as one of Saints’ strongest forwards. It’s also about time Tommy Makinson got an international debut, as his consistency over the years more than warrants him a place. My only qualm with the squad is the omission of fellow Saint Danny Richardson. He’s been by far the best halfback in Super League this season and is certainly more deserving of a place than George Williams, who’s form has been very shaky of late. Anyway, it is a 19-man squad so there’s no guarantee the debutants who have been named will be selected, but here’s the line-up I’d go with:

Ratchford, Makinson, Connor, Percival, Hall, Lomax, Widdop, T. Burgess, Roby, Graham, S.Burgess, Whitehead, O’Loughlin. Subs: Bateman, G.Burgess, Thompson, Williams.