5 Things We Learned #82

Wigan play with heart

It wasn’t pretty, but Wigan showed some unbelievable heart to beat Wakefield on Thursday night after an emotionally testing week. Cherry and Whites centre Dan Sarginson tragically lost his brother earlier in the week but still chose to play, with his teammates rallying around him exceptionally. That was evident from even before the game, with the Warriors squad forming a circle during the minutes’ silence before each embracing Sarginson individually. If that doesn’t say “we’re in this together”, then I don’t know what does.

Their performance followed suit, with unity and togetherness eventually getting them over the line. Everyone worked for each other, typified with the forwards’ united battle against Wakefield hard-hitter Chris Annakin. After he clashed with Ryan Sutton, the whole Warriors’ pack targeted him and kept him quiet for the rest of the game. Those kind of team ethics tend to go a long way when it comes to finals rugby.

 

Radford got it wrong

I understand that Lee Radford had to make a statement after Hull’s 80-point drubbing last week, but the changes he made weren’t the right ones. The Black and Whites’ boss swapped four players, dropping the likes of Mickey Paea, Josh Griffin and Jordan Abdull, in a bid to drastically turn his side’s form around.

However, while they showed much more spirit and character than the week before, particularly in defence, the attacking quality was still lacking. Admittedly they were against Castleford, who have the second best defence in the league, but they still barely troubled the Tigers. The most bewildering selection was that of Hakim Miloudi in the halves. He’s full of energy and has great pace and power but handling and organisation aren’t part of his game. Having someone like Abdull there would have at least given them more of a chance, despite whatever internal politics are going on off the field.

 

Sinfield calls on old friend

Since he returned to the club, Kevin Sinfield has promised Leeds fans that he will make changes, and this week they announced probably the biggest yet. Former Rhinos and Wigan back rower Dave Furner will return to Headingley next year as head coach, as the club try to bounce back from a torrid 2018 campaign.

Of course, it’s good news for Leeds fans that there’s finally some stability surrounding the coaching staff next year, but it’s the potential style of play that may be worrying. In his only other head coaching job, at Canberra Raiders between 2009 and 2013, he was criticised by fans for the conservative, defensive style that his team played – a far cry from what the Rhinos have become renowned for in the past decade. He has, however, since had learned from experienced coaches Paul Green (Cowboys) and Anthony Seibold (Rabbitohs), so may have changed his style. Either way Furner will be looking to make a good impression, and should arrive with plenty of fresh ideas to turn around the club’s fortunes.

 

Good, bad and ugly for Salford

It’s safe to say we saw a few different sides to Salford on Saturday afternoon. They played some beautiful rugby – with Robert Lui and Jackson Hastings at the heart of it – and took down Toronto pretty convincingly. Hastings, however, was also at the heart of something else that has caused a fair bit of controversy.

His hit on Gareth O’Brien in the game’s final minute that saw him get sent off has divided opinion. For me the intent was there, as the two players had a coming together a few minutes earlier, but the contact with head was a result of sloppy technique from Hastings. The knee to the head as he was getting up, however, was completely uncalled for. As far as his ban goes, I think two games is a fair decision but Salford will definitely miss his influence.

 

Hall could be the signing of the season

What a signing Craig Hall has been for Hull KR. His four tries against Halifax on Sunday took his tally to 11 in five games, which is a class number by any standards. Rovers have struggled in the outside backs at times this season but Hall has brought in stability and confidence on their right edge, which has helped massively in their bid for Super League survival.

As a team, KR generally look much more settled now. Throughout the season they’ve used 38 different players and that constant change in personnel has meant they’ve struggled to find much consistency. Tim Sheens seems to have found some decent stability now though and although rotations are still made, they aren’t as drastic as they have been. KR have a strong looking squad going into 2019 and are playing well, so there’s no reason why they can’t make the top eight next year.