Five things we learned from this week #9

Salford Red Devils vs Widnes Vikings

Crisis at Catalans

It’s been a mixed week for the Dragons, with good and bad news aplenty in the south of France. Tony Gigot returned to the squad for the weekend, after having his ban for an “inappropriate exchange” with an anti-doping officer reduced to three months. The fullback then starred for the Dragons, as they ended their four-game losing streak with a 37-26 victory over Leigh.

However, the win will be bittersweet for coach Laurent Frayssinous, as his already depleted squad was dealt a further blow with the news that both Luke Burgess and Jason Baitieri are facing considerable spells on the sidelines. Burgess’ season looks set to be over after he suffered anterior cruciate ligament, while Baitieri has been ruled out for 10 to 12 weeks with a broken wrist. The pair join the likes of Justin Horo, Jodie Broughton, Fouad Yaha and Greg Bird on the treatment table, meaning Frayssinous may be forced to dip into the club’s youth resources in the coming weeks.

Wolfpack run riot

The Canadian revolution rumbled on Sunday afternoon, as Toronto produced their most dominant display so far, with an 84-6 drubbing of Doncaster. Blake Wallace and Jack Bussey starred for Paul Rowley’s side, who are looking more dangerous by the week.

Doncaster were billed as the Wolfpack’s biggest challenge to date, but were swiftly swept aside mainly thanks to 48 unanswered second half points. Just About everyone was expecting Toronto to be dominant this year, while promotion was just about a given. But the true question is… can anybody even come close to challenging them? Their toughest test comes in just two weeks, when they face Super League’s form side Salford in the Challenge Cup.

Westwood got lucky…

While Warrington got their first win of the season against Leeds on Friday, one of the big talking points was Ben Westwood’s challenge on Liam Sutcliffe in the second minute of the game. And while referee James Child only gave Westwood a yellow card, the general consensus from fans is that he was lucky to stay on the pitch.

The challenge arguably changed the complexity of the whole match, as Sutcliffe was unable to come back on, meaning the Rhinos’ tactics had to be changed drastically from an early stage. And this has thrown up multiple debates on what action should be taken when a player is unable to return to the field. Some believe the team’s 18th man should be added as an extra sub, while others are of the opinion that the perpetrator of the incident should also miss the rest of the match. Whether it had an effect on the game’s outcome or not, it was still a nasty challenge and Westwood should be made an example of by the RFL.

…But Patton excelled

On the flip side, it was an extremely positive performance from Declan Patton, who was brought back into the squad for the injured Kevin Brown. The 21-year-old has missed his side’s last four games after being dropped by coach Tony Smith, but Friday gave him the perfect opportunity to prove he has what it takes to challenge Brown and Gidley for starting spots.

He added the spark that the Wolves have been lacking for most of the season and is undoubtedly an old head on young shoulders with the way he carries himself on the field. Patton is an essential part of the Wolves’ strike-force, and needs to be one of Tony Smith’s first choice players if the Wolves are to push on.

Salford dark horses?

Salford have gone under the radar as one of the teams to watch this season, and are currently sat in second. They’ve produced some notable scalps, overcoming the likes of St Helens, Castleford and most recently Hull. They defeated the Airlie Birds 54-18, a result that no one saw coming against one of the front-runners for the title this season.

However, is it really a fluke that Ian Watson’s men are so far up the table? The squad itself is full of quality in both the backs and forwards, while Michael Dobson has returned to the form that made him one of the competition’s most sought-after halves a number of years ago. Add this to the strong chemistry that seems to be running through the squad at the minute, and you create a real buzz around the club. If results keep going their way, Salford could easily be the surprise package of Super League.