Super League Round 1 has come to a close and it was a special introduction to the 26th instalment of Super League. It was very competitive, tense and dramatic. The new rules have contributed to an even faster pace and better rugby. We were treated to spectacular tries and some brilliant games as this season’s narratives begin to show themselves.
1. St Helens still the team to beat
On Friday night Champions St Helens kicked off the Super League season with a 29-6 win over Salford. Despite a spirited effort from the Red Devils, Saints always looked in control. The Champions seemed to be biding their time and waiting for the pressure to tell. Eventually it did and the Saints eased to their first win of the season fairly comfortably. They looked like Champions from start to finish always remaining composed and in control waiting for Salford to break. They were quietly impressive and still appear to be the team to beat.
2. Young centres the flavour of the week
Saturday seemed like the day of young centres. First young Leeds centre Jack Broadbent produced a stellar performance against Wakefield. He scored the winning try having already carved Trinity open with a dynamic surge up the middle that led to a try for fellow young centre Alex Sutcliffe. In the game after Mathieu Laguerre claimed the man of the match on debut for Catalans even getting over the try line as the Dragons claimed an opening weekend win. Then on Sunday the impressive Toby King was joined by youngster Connor Wrench filling in for Greg Inglis.
3. The resurgence of the one-on-one strip
Saturday saw an abundance of one-on-one strips – an artform that has been long dead in Super League. Leeds Rhinos came up with two momentum-shifting one-on-one strips against in the first half with the second from Matt Prior leading to a crucial try. They even added a third in the second half. Former Rhino Matt Parcell then got in on the act for Hull KR as the game wore on and the Robins desperately tried to take the contest to golden point. Its resurgence no doubt comes from the use of NRL rules allowing a strip to take place after players have joined and then left the tackle. We also saw it feature as Hull and Huddersfield did battle on Sunday.
4. Selection headache for Shaun Wane
With the World Cup on the horizon, Shaun Wane will be watching Super League intently and it appears he may have a selection headache when it comes to wingers. Tommy Makinson reminded everyone of his class on Friday night as Saints beat Salford before Tom Johnstone scored two stunning long-range tries for Wakefield on Saturday. That was followed up by a hat-trick from Ryan Hall who produced a very complete performance for Hull KR in defeat. And not to be forgotten he still has the likes of Ash Handley – last season’s top try scorer – and Liam Marshall waiting to return after injury.
5. A really competitive season ahead
If Round 1 showed us anything it’s that a really competitive season awaits us. On Friday night newly promoted Leigh pushed Wigan all the way and were unlucky to lose 20-18. Then on Saturday Hull KR – who finished 11th last season – produced a superb comeback against Catalans. They forced the game to golden point and look set to be a much more competitive outfit in 2021. The same could be said for Wakefield who were fantastic against Leeds on Saturday helping to produce a classic West Yorkshire derby. Even Salford, despite being soundly beaten by St Helens in the end, looked like a very resolute team showing great fight to stay in the game as long as they did. Meanwhile on Sunday, even though Hull always seemed in control against Huddersfield, the Giants battled hard and if some of their star players had featured it might’ve been a different story. They only lost by 12 don’t forget. And of course the weekend closed with another close encounter between Castleford and Warrington as two play-off hopefuls produced a superb clash going the way of the Tigers by 21-12.