Wednesday and Thursday were huge nights in the story of this season. They impacted the play-off race to no end whilst Catalans took another step closer to the League Leaders’ Shield with a win over Salford. But what were the major talking points from this week’s rugby and what do they mean for Monday’s action?
1. A long 200 minutes for Wigan
204 minutes. That’s how many minutes of rugby have passed since Wigan last crossed the whitewash. It’s an unexpected problem, one not many people anticipated the Warriors would have this season given their wealth of attacking talent in the shape of players like Jackson Hastings and Jai Field. Yet, it’s something they desperately need to change if they want to remain inside the top six. Their play-off hopes are certainly hanging in the balance. They face a difficult run-in and need to start scoring otherwise they’ll slip out of the top six and their chances of returning to the Grand Final will go up in smoke.
2. West Yorkshire clubs show their character
I was very impressed with the character both Leeds and Castleford showed this week. Away from home against top six rivals, both teams defended resurgently, displayed good game management and hung in there when the going got tough. I thought both sides displayed the guts and character of a side set for the play-offs. If they maintain that and their current form they’ll make the top six, I’m sure.
3. Problems in East Yorkshire
Meanwhile, question marks were raised over the two Hull teams both of whom lost on the same night as the pair slipped out of the top six. I was somewhat surprised by Hull FC’s performance against Castleford. Having been superb against Hull KR, they were outperformed by the Tigers on Thursday night. Perhaps they were drained from the Hull derby and maybe the same excuse could be used to explain Hull KR’s loss to Wakefield as their top six hopes become threatened.
4. Winning Wakefield
Despite the fact I was shocked by Hull KR’s second consecutive defeat, the fact Wakefield continued their recent upturn in form did not surprise me one bit. They have a side full of superb players who are excelling thanks to the freedom provided by stand-in coach Willie Poching. They’ll meet Leeds on Monday, and could very well shock the Rhinos again playing a role in the play-off race.
5. Too little too late for Leigh
Leigh caused St Helens plenty of problems on Thursday despite sitting at the bottom of the table with just one win. It’s clear to me that the Centurions have turned things around in recent weeks. They pushed Hull KR all the way, only trailed by four points at halftime against Leeds before downing Salford last week. If only Leigh had found this form earlier in the season. Maybe then they wouldn’t be certainties for the drop.