Five Things We Learned #59

Wakefield Trinity 10-16 Wigan Warriors

Derby day isn’t what it used to be

While there were some superb games on Good Friday, they were a far cry from the derby days we’ve had in the past. For me, only Wigan v Saints lived up to its pre-game hype, with the others being slightly underwhelming. Even the Hull derby didn’t live up to its usual billing, mainly because the difference in quality between the two sides is pretty vast. In reality, it’s going to take a mammoth performance from KR if they want to beat their rivals from the west next time out.

This time 10 years ago, the Easter weekend was one of the highlights of the season. The Hull derby could literally go either way, Saints v Wigan was always close and high-quality, while Bradford v Leeds had arguably the best atmosphere Super League has seen. Of course, Wakefield’s rise up the league has made their battle with Castleford much more interesting, but the Easter fixtures just aren’t as exciting as they used to be.

 

Saints have the perfect balance

At this point there’s only one Grand Final place up for grabs for 11 Super League teams, as I can’t see St Helens not reaching Old Trafford. Their performance against Wigan was superb, while they handled the damp conditions at Widnes to perfection and completely dominated the game.

What seems to be the key is the balance Justin Holbrook has across his side. Youth, experience, composure, flair and determination are just five of the key traits that different players bring to the side. Their spine is the best in the competition. Danny Richardson plays with a style way ahead of his years, Lomax and Fages complement him perfectly and don’t mind being supporting halves, while Roby and Barba are simply class in their own ways. Back that up with the strength of their forwards and the finishing ability of Makinson, Grace and Percival and you’ve got a title-winning team.

One-sided Warrington

It’s been a superb Easter weekend from the Wolves, winning both of their games against Widnes and Castleford. It seems, however, that they’re banking on their right side to produce the goods, with six of their eight tries over the two games coming down that same flank.

Whether that’s where the opposition’s weakness lies or it’s simply Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts’ favoured side, it certainly worked over the weekend. They do run the risk, though, of becoming predictable so it’s key they don’t keep neglecting Tom Lineham’s left edge. It’s a small problem and they’re clearly not suffering at the moment, so there’s no cause for concern for Steve Price just yet. On a lighter note, the torrential rain allowed new Wolf Josh Charnley to celebrate their win over Castleford in the only way he knows how. Welcome back to rugby league, Josh!

Marshall never disappoints

I don’t know what Liam Marshall has to do to earn a regular place in the Wigan squad. His four tries against Hull KR on Easter Monday took his season total to nine in four games, making him Wigan’s top try-scorer and giving him the best tries-to-game ratio in Super League.

Having such a prolific record isn’t a coincidence. He’s a superb finisher from all areas of the field and that shows in how much Wigan use the left wing when he’s playing. They constantly look to shift it to his wing and exploit his prolific pace to get behind their opponents line, whether that’s with a kick through for him to chase or creating an overlap to send him away. Hopefully his latest try-scoring spree will be the kick up the backside Shaun Wane needs to see him as the best wing option.

Leeds and Featherstone reaping benefits

Easter Monday proved to be a huge day for Featherstone, particularly winger Luke Briscoe. Briscoe scored a try for the 11th consecutive game, breaking Paul Newlove’s club record from 1993. Rovers ran out 42-0 winners over Rochdale in the end, moving them into third place in the Championship and hot on the tails of Toronto and Toulouse, after the Wolfpack narrowly defeated their French rivals 24-22.

Fev’s win was also a positive for Leeds Rhinos, who got their own 20-0 win over Salford. Teenage centre Harry Newman bagged a first-half hattrick while on dual-registration, taking his try tally to five in just three Rovers games. Newman is just the latest young Rhino to benefit from the dual-reg system, following in the footsteps of now-first team regulars Ash Handley, Mikolaj Oledzki and Jack Ormondroyd. At 18, he’s still very raw but his strength, speed and physique remind me of a young Kallum Watkins, so keep remember the name!

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