5 Things We Learned #67

Powell’s getting frustrated

If nothing else, Daryl Powell’s post-match interview on Thursday was very brief. While his main point was about his opinions on the refereeing standards, his actions reeked of someone becoming increasingly frustrated with his side’s performances. Castleford’s loss to St Helens was their fourth in their six games – a drastic dip in form that poses a serious threat to their top four hopes.

The fact is that Cas simply aren’t the team they were last year and Powell knows it. Perhaps his main qualm is that his team do still have the potential. Their late flurry of tries against Saints, for example, showed the kind of quality they’re capable of producing. I think the issue is a lack of confidence, linking all the way back to the Grand Final. With how dominant they were last year, it must’ve been a huge come-down to lose it all when it mattered. The real clue as to where they’re at will come once Luke Gale returns, as he always has a big impact on whether the Tigers tick or not.

 

Vaivai is one of the season’s best signings

Well no one saw that coming. In a season that’s lacked any real upsets, Hull KR turned the form book on it’s head on Friday night to beat Wigan 24-8 with a surprisingly dominant performance. The Robins came back from an eight-point deficit to score four unanswered tries, just a week after losing to derby rivals Hull FC at Magic Weekend.

One man that had a huge bearing on Friday’s game was Junior Vaivai. The 28-year-old scored two tries and is quickly becoming one of the signings of the season. Having watched him for a few weeks now, he’s really settling into that left centre role and suits it to a tee. He has genuine strength and pace as well as a great offloading game, making him a huge attacking threat. For me, he’s right up there as one of the best centres in the competition at the moment.

 

Huddersfield turning it around

I’ve been seriously fearing for Huddersfield all season. After 13 rounds they’d lost 10 games, including 40-plus point thrashings to Wigan and St Helens, and looked destined for the Qualifiers. Fast forward to now, however, and the Giants are unbeaten in four games. They’ve put in some real gutsy performances and managed to get scalps over Salford, Widnes and even twice against Wakefield.

Okay, so they’re all bottom half teams but it’s a great platform to build some good form on. Simon Woolford and Chris Thorman are welcoming injured players back into the squad every week but are also integrating some of the youngsters that came in during their absence. 20-year-old prop Matty English, for example, is growing into one of the Giants most reliable forwards after being given an opportunity within the last couple of months. Catalans are next up for Woolford’s side and they’ve won four out of their last five, so it will be an interesting battle between two of Super League’s form sides.

 

Summer Bash growing… but not in attendance

In terms of coverage and interest, it’s safe to say this year’s Summer Bash has been the most successful yet. While it’s had decent publicity before, the event has rather gone by the wayside but this year there was plenty of interaction from fans, particularly on social media.

The quality of play in the Championship has certainly risen this year, meaning there were plenty og exciting games and tries. Toronto v Leigh, despite the off-field drama involving the respective coaches, and Batley v Dewsbury were particularly interesting games, while Tony Maurel’s try (below) for Toulouse was undoubtedly the best of the weekend. The only disappointing aspect was all the empty seats. The entire weekend drew in a crowd of just over 11,000 – which is the lowest ever and very disappointing given the standard of play. If marketed right, the Summer Bash could easily attract much bigger audiences, while a relocation of venue would also probably do it good.

 

Plenty of new faces for Origin

Both Queensland and New South Wales named their squads for Origin I today, with no less than 14 debutants named. With the Maroons missing the retired trio of Cameron Smith, Jonathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, it’s shaping up to be a much closer contest than in years gone by.

In truth, I think the Blues may actually go into game I as favourites. They have a very in-form, well-rounded squad, with great mix of youth and experience and a backline that should cause some serious problems. Their explosive three-quarter line features Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts and Josh Addo-Carr, all of whom posses serious pace and power, so it’s out on the flanks where the game could be won or lost. 20-year-old halfback Nathan Cleary’s contribution will also be interesting to watch.

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