Widnes Vikings 24-16 Salford Red Devils
By Nathan Okell, Thursday
Thursday night’s televised game saw viewers witness the Widnes Vikings coming from behind to defeat Salford 24-16. Despite appearing to be on the back foot for most of the game, two tries in the final 10 minutes from Greg Burke and Aaron Heremaia saw the Vikings take the lead and hold out for the victory.
Craig Kopczak opened the scoring for the visitors after Widnes failed to deal with a high, hanging bomb before Joe Mellor sent second rower Chris Dean crashing over to level the scores. The Red Devils maintained their lead by securing two penalty goals, however were rocked by the sin-binning of Lama Tasi, which allowed the home side back into the game, sending Krisnan Inu over in the corner. The return of Tasi to the field saw Salford again cross the whitewash in the form of Weller Hauraki with another Lui kick causing havoc. The Red Devils were guilty of putting the cue on the rack however, with the late tries snatching a much-needed win for the Cheshire outfit.
The defeat would have been increasingly disappointing for Ian Watson after their excellent winning performance last week against Hull FC, whilst for Denis Betts, his side’s gritty comeback would have pleased him, but will need more to gain anything from a tricky Easter schedule against Warrington and St Helens.
Leeds Rhinos 24-25 Castleford Tigers
By Nathan Okell, Friday
Undoubtedly the game of the round came from the unusual venue of Elland Road, in front of a Leeds Rhinos club Super League record attendance of 23,246 which saw Castleford Tigers hold off a huge challenge from the home side to secure a narrow 25-24 victory. Only a Luke Gale drop goal in the closing stages of the first half separated the sides at the end of the 80 minutes, with the Rhinos fighting until the very end, inspired by a Ryan Hall try 3 minutes from time to set up a nail-biting finish.
Castleford, looking to avenge their Grand Final defeat in the first competitive meeting between the two sides, raced into an early 24-0 lead through well worked tries from Jamie Ellis, James Clare, Alex Foster and Junior Moors before Leeds hit back through a questionable effort from Kallum Watkins, which appeared to be short but was awarded by the video referee, and a try from Ash Handley.
The second half was dominated by the home side, restricting the Tigers to zero points in the half and scoring three spectacular tries of their own through Ryan Hall and second tries for both Watkins and Handley. Ultimately though, the Tigers fantastic first half performance saw them home, with the Rhinos giving themselves too much to do after such a poor start.
Warrington Wolves 34-24 Wakefield Trinity
By Nathan Okell, Friday
Warrington made it back-to-back victories for the second time this season following an impressive home win against Wakefield Trinity. Despite their impressive start, Trinity have faded slightly of late, losing their last two and having their game abandoned against Widnes due to a relentless blizzard sweeping through West Yorkshire.
Tom Lineham opened the scoring for the Wolves, showing his power to shrug off the challenge from Scott Grix before Reece Lyne dummied his way over in reply for Wakefield. A more or less carbon copy of the opening try saw Lineham cross for the second with this again being cancelled out by Bill Tupou in the opposite corner. The visitors broke the trend before the half time interval with Liam Finn putting the final touches on a superb move for Wakefield, allowing them to head inside with the lead.
This lead only lasted one second half minute however, with Bryson Goodwin cutting inside after receiving Stefan Ratchford’s pass, and the Wolves began to assert their authority soon after with Mike Cooper pouncing on a Toby King grubber. The Wire made the result safe with a rampaging Ben Murdock-Masila leaving Trinity defenders in his wake to score and Lineham completing his hat-trick with a length of the field effort. Tom Johnstone added a superb consolation try late on but the result was just out of reach for the Yorkshire side.
Wigan Warriors 48-10 Huddersfield Giants
By Nathan Okell, Friday
Wigan set up a block-buster Good Friday derby with St Helens by thrashing the Huddersfield Giants 48-10. The only blemish on the Warriors record this season was their defeat at the Halliwell Jones Stadium following their return from Australia, meaning they go to St Helens with an extra incentive to leapfrog them at the top of the table. Huddersfield meanwhile are in the doldrums, with only one win in their last five and a tricky visit of Leeds to the John Smiths Stadium looming.
Wigan began the rout with Tom Davies powering over in the corner, before a wild Sam Tomkins pass was intercepted by Jermaine McGillvary. Things soon went downhill for the visitors, with Oliver Gildart, Joe Burgess, John Bateman and Davies again crossing for tries before the end of the half. The second 40 involved much of the same, with George Williams, Ryan Sutton and Willie Isa chalking their names on the score-sheet and Burgess also securing a brace. Ryan Hinchcliffe added a late try for the Giants to nudge them into double figures; however it did little to add respectability to the score line.
Hull KR 6-30 St Helens
By Nathan Okell, Friday
St Helens returned to winning ways after their disappointing display against Leeds last weekend, putting Hull KR to the sword by 30-6. Justin Holbrook commended both his side’s attack and defence in a game which saw them run in five tries and conceded only one, whilst Tim Sheens bemoaned his players attacking performance, but acknowledged their effort after losing a number of players to injury during the game.
Luke Thompson was rewarded with his stellar performances this campaign with the opening try in East Hull with a barnstorming run making him too powerful to stop. This lead was doubled soon after with a piece of brilliance from on-fire full-back Ben Barba, who sliced through the Rovers defence from the scrum to cross in the corner. Ryan Shaw finished a cross-field move before the interval to set up an interesting second half.
The visitors stepped up their performance in the second 40 however, with Barba again darting over the whitewash after a clever inside pass from Zeb Taia. This was followed by a well worked try from Jonny Lomax after Barba threw a slick cut-out pass for Makinson who evaded the winger and full-back and supplied Lomax who crossed in the corner. The icing on the cake was added by the ever-improving Dom Peyroux, who’s sidestepping run bypassed Adam Quinlan to touchdown beside the posts.
Hull FC 42-16 Catalans Dragons
By Ian Judson, Friday
Lee Radford got exactly the sort of response he was looking for from his side, after the dismal display in defeat at Salford.
Right from the off, when Scott Taylor nearly made Remi Casty part of the pitch in the first tackle, the Airlie Birds looked in ruthless mood, although it did take until the 3rd quarter of the game for the Airlie Birds to really assert their authority.
In truth the Black & Whites never looked in any trouble, leading 12-4 at half time, a burst of four tries in 19 minutes, left the Dragons, who already look like a doomed side, chasing shadows.
Two late tries, one very controversially given after no fewer than three attempts to ground the ball, gave them a tiny bit of respite, before Josh Griffin put the seal on an impressive performance for the home side with his 2nd try as the hooter sounded.
Unbeaten there so far this year, it seems that the Challenge Cup holders are making the KCOM Stadium into the fortress they want it to be, certainly no team will look forward to visiting it.