So, today we closed the book on the regular season for another year and it sure has been memorable. At the top we’ve enjoyed a fantastic two-way battle for the League Leaders’ Shield which ended when Catalans came up with an unthinkable come back to become only the eighth side to claim the silverware.
Meanwhile, four teams battled hard for play-off rugby in a tussle which went all the way to the final week. The bottom of the league hasn’t been as dull as you might think despite Leigh’s plight after a number of the lower-ranked teams have orchestrated upsets aplenty.
But now that all is said and done, what are the major talking points coming out of the final weekend?
1. The same old teams finding form at just the right time
Whether it was Wigan’s perfectly timed march to the double or Leeds back-to-back titles from fifth, the two clubs are well versed in securing Grand Final glory from outside the top two. In fact, the fourth-placed Warriors are the only club to win at Old Trafford from that spot whilst the fifth-placed Rhinos are the only side who have won the Grand Final from that particular league position and it again seems like both have found some form at just the right time. This week, Wigan came up with a season-best performance to beat league leaders Catalans whilst Leeds dismantled Hull KR at Headingley to go into the play-offs brimming with confidence. Both are a major threat to the top two if they can replicate those performances but only one can advance to the semi-finals after their meeting next week.
2. What next for Hull FC?
Hull were humbled at Wakefield on Friday night as their end of season collapsed reached an agonising end. They finish the year with one win from 10 which is an all too familiar situation for the Black and Whites. There’s a rumoured overhaul coming in the winter but which players should stay and which will be shown the door? There’s undoubted quality in that squad and an exciting – albeit unexperienced – Head Coach at the helm. If they make the right decisions over the off-season, perhaps they can turn the corner.
3. Considering Daryl Powell’s Castleford legacy
Daryl Powell’s legacy at the Jungle is a hard one to judge and his time there certainly didn’t have the ending he’d have hoped for. Ultimately, looking back it should be considered a success. He ensured the Tigers could again be referred to as classy Cas and made them a serious threat at the top guiding them to two Challenge Cup Finals and a Grand Final. You have to say he deserved a major final win for the way he transformed the club but still it alluded him and that will be a slight sully on his legacy. Nonetheless, he leaves the club in a better state than when he took over.
4. Time to give promoted teams a better crack
Today, Leigh’s season ended with a 42-24 defeat to Huddersfield. It rounded off a difficult year for the Centurions in which they were only able to win two games. Things were always going to be tough especially as they were forced to begin their recruitment after all of their rivals and to be honest that’s true of most promoted sides as they can’t promise their potential targets Super League rugby until after October. Thus, they’re always at a disadvantage when they finally begin the Super League season so it’s time to ask whether or not we need to do more to support promoted teams and give them a better chance of survival. Ultimately, this would make for a better more competitive season.
5. What Williams gives Warrington
Before Warrington ended Castleford’s season, questions were asked about George Williams. On Sky Sports the likes of Phil Clark questioned how much he’d changed the Wolves since taking over from the talented Blake Austin in the halves and whether or not he’d improved them. Ultimately, the last 10 minutes of that dramatic encounter showed exactly what Williams brings to Warrington. His intelligence and nuanced kicking game took the game away from the Tigers in the end and it’s that extra element that saw the Wolves pounce when he became available.