Leigh need to improve
The Centurions’ long-awaited return to the top flight certainly wasn’t the warm welcome the fans would have been hoping for, with coach Neil Jukes admitting they need to be much better in future. His side were beaten 44-16 by a competitive Castleford side and were dominated for most the match. They were able to stay in the game early on and kept their opponents scoreless for the first 18 minutes, but seemed to crumble from thereon, conceding 26 unanswered points before halftime.
There were some promising signs in the second half, with Drinkwater and Ridyard able to pull some strings and create some impressive pieces of play that led to Leigh’s three tries. They did still, however, concede a further 18 points. They may have gotten away sub-par performance in the Championship, but they will need to be much more consistent to compete in Super League.
Burgess is back!
With Josh Charnley leaving the club at the end of 2016, Wigan needed a quality winger to replace him and bringing back fan favourite Joe Burgess was certainly the right decision. Having spent a year playing in Australia, the pacy wide-man comes back into Super League better than ever, having honed his skills alongside the likes of Greg Inglis and Blake Ferguson.
And he didn’t disappoint on Saturday, scoring a try as well as an acrobatic assist for Oliver Gildart’s first score. He was a potent attacking threat in his last spell with the cherry and whites, and I have no doubt will be again this season.
No one can predict the Championship
We are only 2 games into the Championship competition, but already the table has been flipped on its head. Two out of last year’s top 4, London and Batley, find themselves in 8th and 9th respectively, while Dewsbury and Halifax currently sit on zero points, with only points-deducted Bradford below them. Meanwhile at the other end, the two newcomers, Toulouse and Rochdale, are both in the top four, with the latter leading the competition.
There’s still a huge chunk of the season to go so you can’t read too much into these standings, but I don’t imagine anyone predicted the 2017 campaign to start like this.
Rhinos’ new star?
While the Rhinos couldn’t muster a win on Thursday, one positive that can be taken from the game is the performance of youngster Ashton Golding. The 19-year-old has a lot of pressure on his shoulders, after being given the prestigious number 1 shirt for the 2017 season, vacated by England international Zak Hardaker.
But the pressure didn’t seem to faze him on Thursday night, as he put in a confident performance and was arguably the Rhinos’ best player. Saving three tries and having a major hand in his side’s attack, Golding really put himself about and drew much praise from his coach Brian McDermott. Fullback was very much a problem position for the Rhinos last year, but Golding looks set to make it his own.
The return of ‘classy’ Cas?
While many people criticised Leigh’s performance on Friday, including me admittedly, the home side certainly deserve credit for what was a confident and well-drilled performance. If nothing else, Castleford’s impressive showing is certainly a statement of intent for the rest of 2017.
The Tigers looked slick and were executing plays with ease; Luke Gale as the orchestrator with the likes of Ben Roberts, Rangi Chase and Zak Hardaker supporting and creating further space out wide. No one is really backing Daryl Powell’s men to challenge the likes of Wigan and Warrington for the title this year, but after Friday night you can’t deny how strong they look. They could easily be the dark horses this year.