Five Things We Learned #61

Comeback Kings

They did it again. Wigan defied the odds for a second straight week to come back and win, despite trailing 8-0 to Leeds with just nine minutes left. Just last week they did a similar thing to Catalans, winning 32-23 despite being 21-0 down in the second half.

It’s a pretty handy trait to have, being able to dig deep when it looks like you’re out of the game. Character like that is the sign of a champion team and it’s something Shaun Wane will look to enhance and use later in the season. The Warriors can’t, however, rely on that late burst of energy and belief all year because sooner or later they’ll be found out and it could cost them games.

 

Saints have their first real blip

Have table-toppers St Helens hit their first rough patch of the season? They narrowly lost out to a very good Wakefield side, but couldn’t seem to hit the heights of previous weeks. I guess they were due a scratchy performance, as it’s unheard of for a team to have a perfect full season.

Attack-wise, they played ok. They weren’t as slick as usual but still held a good shape and pulled off some impressive plays. It was defence that let them down. There was no intensity or desire to work for each other, with Wakefield walking through the line on numerous occasions. You only have to watch Justin Horo or Bill Tupou’s tries to see what I mean. Saints were missing talismanic captain James Roby, but there’s still plenty of natural leaders in that side that should have stepped up. It’s a disappointing week for Justin Holbrook, but the focus now will be to get his side back on track, as two defeats in a row would be a real cause for concern.

 

Women’s Super League gets underway

The 2018 Women’s Super League got off to a surprising start on Sunday, with the newly-formed Leeds Rhinos beating last year’s unbeaten champions Bradford Bulls 32-16. Not only is it good to see the women’s game getting so much support and publicity, but to see the Leeds v Bradford rivalry reignited is exciting for all fans – there was even a sin-binning for fighting.

The seven-team competition is set to be a huge success, especially if the opening weekend is anything to go by. The Bradford v Leeds game was played after the Bulls v Coventry men’s game, with the majority of the crowd staying to watch. Elsewhere, there was also good support as St Helens beat York 40-0 and Wigan beat Featherstone 54-0. The future looks bright for women’s rugby league, so with even further publicity and coverage it will only continue to grow.

 

Hauraki deserves more credit

He isn’t talked about much, but Weller Hauraki has to be one of the most skilful second rowers in Super League. He starred as his Salford side beat Huddersfield at the weekend, getting a try and an assist, and is going to be key if the Red Devils want to make the top eight.

The 33-year-old is great friends with former Devil Rangi Chase, and they clearly share the same charismatic nature. Hauraki’s superb handling to set up Jake Bibby (below), for example, was the kind of play you’d have expected to see Chase pull off. The win was key for Ian Watson’s side and moves them just ahead of Widnes, into eighth. That eighth-place spot will be highly sought after by both clubs, so points will be vital from hereon in.

 

Fev break Barrow’s run

One of rugby league’s most impressive runs was broken on Sunday, with Featherstone’s 38-26 win over Barrow at Craven Park being the Cumbrian outfit’s first home defeat in 23 months. They last lost at home to Toulouse in May 2016, even defending the record against the likes of Leigh and Toronto.

While it’s disappointing for the Raiders, it moves Featherstone up into second, which is a huge boost with just 12 games to go until the Qualifiers. It should be a surprise to see a part-time team mixing it near the top of the table, but the Rovers have the quality to be right up there. They’ve plenty of depth across the board and have threats all over. Luke Briscoe’s record speaks for itself, while young Leeds centre Harry Newman is continuing to impress while on dual-registration. I really hope they make the top four come August, because I really think they’ll surprise some Super League teams.