Hull and Featherstone let themselves down
“It was a disgrace. I want to apologise to all the fans who watched that.” Those were the words of Hull coach Lee Radford after his side’s 38-20 win over Featherstone on Thursday. The game was marred by the indiscipline of both sides, with a total of eight cards shown throughout the 80 minutes.
All week it was billed as one of the highlights of the round. There was history, a potential broken record and a real chance of an upset, but by the end of the 80 minutes it had all ensued into unprofessional, unnecessary madness. There were high tackles and near-brawls every two minutes, which is simply unacceptable from two professional sides. I hope both teams suffer from bans in the coming weeks, because Thursday set a really bad example for young players and fans.
Hull down to the bare bones
While the Black and Whites will be licking their wounds, their cross-city rivals will be licking their lips. Lee Radford was already without five key players through injury before Josh Bowden, Carlos Tuimavave and Fetuli Talanoa all picked up what looked like fairly serious knocks on Thursday. Add a couple of suspensions into the mix and you have to consider the Rovers to be favourites.
I can’t see Bureta Faraimo or Josh Griffin escaping without a ban, while Shaul, Connor and Washbrook will all be hoping to go unpunished after their sin-binnings. The inevitable squad changes will, however, give Radford the chance to blood some of his best youngsters on the big stage. Rookies like Jack Sanderson, Ross Osborne and Cameron Scott could well be called into action. There’s also whispers that Kirk Yeaman (above) could come out of retirement to make a surprise appearance, which would give the Hull derby another interesting sub-plot.
Toronto are their own worst enemies
The Toronto players must have taken tips from Hull on Friday, as their discipline against Warrington was just as poor. They got one red and three yellow cards themselves, three of which were for petulant offences that could’ve easily been prevented. With just 10 men on the pitch at one point, the Wolves blew them away in the second half with 54 unanswered points
It was a disappointing result to what was shaping up as a cracking game. The Wolfpack completely matched their Super League counterparts in the first half, and certainly didn’t look like a side from a league below, albeit with similar standard players. Had they kept their discipline, I genuinely reckon they could have won. The one positive is that Paul Rowley now has a better idea of where his team is at. There’s no doubt they can compete at Super League level, it’s just a case of not letting tempers boil over.
Leigh on the up?
Fair play to Leigh. They’ve managed to turn what looked like a surprisingly dreadful season into a potentially positive one. Keiron Purtill’s men pulled off the weekend’s only cup shock, taking down Super League Salford 22-10.
Here’s how @LeighCenturions knocked out Super League side Salford to make the Quarter-Finals! pic.twitter.com/5MS8JzPXNn
— The Challenge Cup (@TheChallengeCup) May 12, 2018
As far as promotion goes, the Centurions are still in fifth and so have plenty of work to do. They have, however, now gone eight games unbeaten, which is beyond what anyone could have expected a couple of months ago. I think the poor start they had really took the pressure off them and allowed them to play a more relaxed and fluent game. When they were sitting close to bottom after the first six rounds, nobody really saw them coming back but it’s had the best effect possible. Drew Hutchison and Ben Reynolds seem to have settled together in the halves too, which is always key for a successful side.
League 1 quality being eyed up
I was chuffed to hear that Joe Batchelor has signed for St Helens for the next three years. The League 1 competition is really thriving this year and Batchelor’s York are leading the way as one of the strongest sides. The 23-year-old himself has been superb, and definitely has the potential to make it big.
Truth is, there’s plenty of players all across League 1 that could excel at Super League level. The likes of Bradford’s Ethan Ryan, Doncaster’s Brandan Wilkinson, Keighley’s Trae O’Sullivan and Newcastle’s Lewis Young are all young, talented players that have used League 1 as a platform to promote themselves and in turn improve the standard of competition. I hope the RFL have been paying as much attention to it as we all have as it’s a real hotbed for talent, while the games are arguably more entertaining than most Super League ones.