5 Things We Learned #81

Title race becoming unpredictable

A couple of months ago, if you’d have asked any Super League fan who they thought would win the league, around 80% of people would have said St Helens. Fast forward to now, though, and the race for the title is becoming tighter and tighter. If we learned anything over the past couple of weeks, it’s that both Warrington and Wigan are more than capable of beating the Saints, while they’ll also have better momentum and confidence.

You also can’t write off Castleford. The 2017 League Leaders have been nowhere near as hot as last season, but with the likes of Luke Gale and Ben Roberts returning there’s no reason why they can’t put themselves in the picture. Essentially, Saints are the most uncomfortable they have been all season and have three strong teams chomping at their heels.

 

Warrington are world champions                                

One of the best stories of the week was undoubtedly the PDRL World Club Challenge. Warrington Wolves travelled to Australia to play the South Sydney Rabbitohs and eventually came out on top with a solid 34-12 victory.

The game was a massive step forward for the sport, as it continues to grow in popularity at a rapid rate. League legends including Andrew Johns, Roy Asotasi and Matt King all got involved, with Johns massively taken aback at how intense and full on it was. The next step for PDRL is to move into the international game. A Tri or Four Nations tournament, for example, would raise the profile massively while I think there’s also a huge scope to make it a Paralympic sport.

 

Rhinos have a consistent problem

Leeds just can’t seem to shut out games. Saturday’s game was the third in a row where they’ve let the opposition back into it late on, and this time they paid the price. Their attack was impressive all afternoon but the defence was woeful at times, with poor reads and missed tackles aplenty. It’s something Kevin Sinfield will be keen to crack down on for next season.

As for KR, they seem to be finishing the season very strongly. Tim Sheens has finally got a pretty settled squad, while there’s confidence running throughout the entire team. One noticeable element to their line-up is the sheer power down the left edge. Junior Vaivai and Justin Carney are a partnership that could be one of the best in Super League, and both showed up very well at the weekend. There’s whispers that the latter may be heading back to Oz in 2019 but I’m sure Sheens wil be very keen to hand onto him.

 

Widnes destined for the drop

Things really aren’t looking promising for Widnes. The Vikings lost to a Championship team for the second time on Sunday, going down 42-22 to Toulouse, and it’s now even looking unlikely that they’ll qualify for the Million Pound Game, never mind automatic survival. I can’t see them beating any of the other Super League teams or Toronto, which should mean they’ll finish around seventh position and be relegated.

It would be a real shame, as the Vikings’ have become a hotbed for young talent and are building up a reputation as one of the best producers of talent in Super League. Of course, that could still happen in the Championship, but on nowhere near the same level. Who knows, they could completely shock everyone and turn it around, but it’s very unlikely.

 

Featherstone dangerously low on numbers

There’s a rather bizarre situation going on at Featherstone. John Duffy was only able to field a squad 14 players for their game with Leigh on Sunday – an occurrence that is pretty shocking for any professional club, especially one that has, for a long time, been among the Championship’s most prolific. They did, however, beat the Centurions rather convincingly and currently sit top of the Championship Shield table.

I imagine Rovers fans are pretty confused as to whether to be happy or angry about their club. As good as their form and results are, being unable to field a full team simply isn’t good enough. They’ve had injury problems all season and, for some reason, didn’t properly fill the gaps when they had the chance. Their signings of PNG stars Ase and Watson Boas for 2019 is certainly a step in the right direction, but they’ve got this season to focus on first.