After a busy Easter period, this weekend some fatigued sides fought it out again, including a huge game in the relegation battle between Leeds and Toulouse.
Castleford and Hull KR meanwhile extended their winning runs in the race for top six after slow starts to the season as Huddersfield’s strong start to 2022 stalled again at Warrington.
Meanwhile, Wigan joined St Helens at the top of the league. So, it was another big weekend but what were the biggest talking points?
Easter fixtures again under fire
Every time the Easter weekend comes back around, the debate over player welfare starts again. With fixtures on Good Friday, Easter Monday and then Friday again for some teams, there is a huge volume of fixtures in a short space of time. St. Helens highlighted the issues the schedule brings when they fielded an extremely weakened side against Castleford on Friday. With seven debutants and basically no starters from their full-strength side, they essentially sacrificed the two points in order to preserve their squad. Comments from Ryan Hall, John Bateman and others also echoed the growing feeling that the two-game weekend impacts player welfare. Changes are expected in 2023.
Saints youngsters impress
Despite losing to a much more experienced Castleford side, the future is clearly bright at St Helens. With some development clearly needed in the young players, Saints fans need not worry about who will fill the boots of their current stars. The attitude throughout the game was faultless, with impressive defence in the face of heavy Castleford pressure for large periods. They even looked like they would be able to mount a comeback after their second try, but Castleford did enough to put the game out of reach. There’s no doubt that many of those players will be making more appearances throughout the season going on to be regular starters.
Warrington getting back on track
After a terrible run that saw them lose five games in a row, Warrington have bounced back with two wins and a narrow loss to Hull FC in the last three games. It is not the sort of electric form that fans may have expected going into the season, but it is a step in the right direction if they are to get back into the play off places. This weekend saw them comfortably defeat the Huddersfield Giants, a result that just a fortnight ago would have seemed out of the question. But their performances will need to improve yet again as they face the top three sides in their next three games.
Toulouse in trouble?
Toulouse were always going to have to pull off something special to stay in the top flight, and it’s looking less likely as the weeks go by. Aside from a shock victory over league leaders St Helens, Toulouse have been unable to pick up points. Friday night saw them take on a struggling Leeds side, and it was a chance to take themselves off the foot of the table, but it wasn’t to be. With Castleford already having found form, the French side are at risk of being cut adrift, especially with Leeds almost certain to pick up one or two wins in the coming weeks on the back of Rohan Smith’s arrival. The French side need results and fast.
Huddersfield’s form takes another knock
Huddersfield went winless for the third game in a row as they lost to Warrington on Saturday. Despite looking like a team that would finish the season right at the top of the table, and with Ian Watson making bold claims about players in his squad, they are now struggling to find consistency. It started with a surprisingly poor performance in their draw against Leeds, in which they were lucky to take a point home. They then lost to St Helens three days later before suffering a second consecutive defeat which left them with one point over Easter. With injuries and suspension impacting available numbers, Watson needs to start getting the best out of his available players ahead of some important games.