Leigh in turmoil
Apart from their general on-field results, it seems as if the wheels are well and truly coming off the wagon down at the Leigh Sports Village. With the club not making the top four, Derek Beaumont conceded that they didn’t have anywhere near enough funds to keep the squad going, resulting in six of their highest earners all leaving within a couple of days.
The club will now battle it out for the Championship Shield, but what’s more concerning is their chances of promotion next season in a league that is getting more and more competitive each year. The four teams that miss out on Super League in this year’s Qualifiers will all be in the mix, while the likes of Batley, Dewsbury and Sheffield will be backing themselves. That’s without even mentioning the new league system being introduced that will make promotion even tougher. I hate to say this, as Leigh have been one of the most exciting sides in England in recent years, but it could be a while before we see the Centurions in the top flight again.
Saints still favourites, but not home and dry
St Helens may have all but secured the League Leaders’ Shield, but Thursday’s clash against Warrington showed that they are still more than beatable. Another moment of brilliance from Danny Richardson was all that clinched them the game against Warrington, with the 21-year-old thumping over a massive 55 metre penalty goal after the hooter to win the game 14-12.
Last second penalty in his own half to beat Wolves…
No problem for @DannyRich96 to win the game for @Saints1890 ??#SLStHWar pic.twitter.com/TlGJ1KFo3E
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 27, 2018
What’s good for Saints is that they’ve yet again showed they are capable of rescuing a game in the dying stages, which could be crucial in the last few weeks of the season. I mean, how often have we seen semi-final games boil down to a late penalty or drop goal? Steve Price, though, shouldn’t be worrying too much. From his point of view, Warrington matched Saints for 80 minutes and were just unlucky to lose. If nothing else, it shows the Wolves have the resolve and ability to beat them, which will give them confidence should the two sides meet in the playoffs.
Hastings the saviour
If one man can save Salford from relegation, then it’s their new Aussie import. Hastings shone on Friday, putting in a try-scoring debut that also saw him grab an assist as the Devils pulled the Rhinos to pieces. Alongside Rob Lui, Ian Watson has a very strong halves partnership to lead his side through the Qualifiers, and could have a huge bearing on whether or not they survive.
Welcome to Super League Jackson Hastings ?
The ex-Rooster and Manly half seriously impressed on his @SalfordDevils debut, including this break & assist! pic.twitter.com/HQIvUnyXVT
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 28, 2018
What’s quite refreshing is to see that both Hastings and his new side are on the same page. He’s only signed on a short-term deal and is seen as a bit of a ‘quick fix’, which both him and the club are fully aware of. Of course if he performs the Devils will be keen to keep him but if he goes back to Oz, then there’s no hard feelings, especially if he helps keep them in Super League. It’s not going to be another Segeyaro or Sandow situation. Away from the politics in his move, he’ll be an exciting player to watch. He has the X-Factor to complement Lui and isn’t afraid to take risks, which is what Salford need. If all goes well he could easily be one of the best pieces of business this season.
KR on the up, FC on the down
It was a bizarre Hull Derby to say the least. There were plenty of back stories coming into it, including Tim Sheens’ somewhat thrown together squad and Hull’s uncharacteristic thrashing the week before, but it had all the action, passion and quality we expected. Rovers came out on top and fully deserved the win – were simply the hungrier team and took their chances. It’s a victory that will fill them with confidence me stand them in good stead for the Qualifiers.
That’s how to make a comeback ???
Two brilliant tries and a mammoth penalty in a superb Craig Hall return performance for @hullkrofficial in the derby win! pic.twitter.com/95wlDeGU5v
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) July 28, 2018
The Black and Whites, on the other hand, seem to be stuck in a rut. Their defence was all over the place at times, while there’s no imagination in attack. The latter is massively affected by the absences of Jake Connor and Albert Kelly. Jordan Abdull is filling in in their place and while he has a solid passing and kicking game, he offers nothing in the way of creativity. Kelly is the only one due to return this season and that can’t come quick enough for Lee Radford, because Hull need that flare to play the exciting rugby that wins them games.
Halifax do it again
After four years of the Super 8’s, we’ve reached the point where no one is surprised by Halifax making the Qualifiers. 2016 was the only year they missed out, which is a remarkable feat for a part-time side competing on a low budget.
Their 38-6 win over Rochdale secured their top four finish, after what has probably been their most productive season in terms of squad development. Their reserve system is beginning to blossom and has seen no less than eight players feature in the first team, with Chester Butler and Sion Jones being two of the most notable, both of whom will play a huge part in their Qualifiers campaign. Just like every year, Fax aren’t expected to do much during the Qualifiers and so there’s no pressure on them whatsoever. For me, they could easily be the dark horses and, if nothing else, upset the outcome for other teams with a couple of shock wins.