Round 8 was a shocking, at times bizarre, and exhilarating weekend of Super League. Once more, we know a little more about how this season might unfold. So, with that in mind, here’s the five major talking points from this weekend’s rugby.
1. A new name on the trophy in 2021
Going into this season many expected another Wigan-Saints Grand Final and early season form seemed to confirm those suspicions. But Catalans have thrown a spanner into the works over the last fortnight. The Dragons have ended both St Helens’ and Wigan’s unbeaten starts and now sit alongside them at the top of the league. Don’t forget Catalans are unbeaten away so far this season disproving the notion that their place in the table is helped by home form. This may not be another false dawn and yesterday they showed all the signs of Champions. The same could be said for Warrington especially in attack. There’s no better team to watch than the Wolves at the moment. Yes, they’re a little inconsistent but if they can find the right defensive formula by October they’ll be in with a shout. A Catalans-Warrington Grand Final this year?
2. Hull still have some learning to do
Another of the tipped Challengers this season have stalled in recent weeks. Despite their gutsy win over Leeds last Sunday, the Black and Whites have struggled in the league and have fallen out of the top four. Their defeat to St Helens summed up where they are at the moment. At times they impressed but St Helens looked slightly faster and more in control than the Airlie Birds. Hull are close to being amongst the very best teams but still have one or two things to improve.
3. The battle for play-off spots hots up
In the early days of this season, the top six looked almost certain as the likes of Castleford joined the five clubs we’ve already discussed at the top. However, the drop off from the Tigers and Hull in recent weeks has opened the door for Huddersfield, Hull KR and Leeds to close the gap. Even Wakefield – who were impressive against the Giants on Sunday – aren’t a million miles away. It could be a fascinating battle for the play-off spots this season. To the surprise of many, 6th place is currently held by Hull KR a side tipped to struggle by many before the season.
4. The Powell conundrum
In terms of success with limited resources, no coach has surpassed Daryl Powell at Castleford. In fact, no coach has impressed me more than Powell since he took over at the Jungle except for Ian Watson during his time at Salford. However, we now know that his time as a Tiger is coming to a close with Warrington waiting. Initially, that didn’t seem to affect Cas as they started the season impressively. But in recent weeks they’ve looked sluggish and many are asking the question, “do players play for a coach they know will be joining a rival team next season?” It’s interesting to ponder especially following the recent up-turn in form of Steve Price’s Warrington.
5. The latest chapter in the fullback battle
One of the subplots in 2021 has been the battle between English fullbacks although Zak Hardaker may have taken that term a little literally this week. With the World Cup waiting, many wondered which of Sam Tomkins, Zak Hardaker and Jake Connor would get the nod from Shaun Wane. Right now, it seems like it will be Tomkins following his exploits yesterday. He was outstanding against Wigan whilst Hardaker failed to make his usual impression on the game. However, the season is only a third of the way through. Hardaker and Connor have time to force their into Wane’s plans again. Hardaker especially following the injury to Bevan French.