When we opened this chapter of Super League history, we expected the usual storylines, the highs and lows of every club, and the same old scintillating rugby.
However, 2020 was a season like no other with the global situation resulting in behind-closed-doors matches and one of the most bizarre rugby league seasons in history.
We should say well done to every club for fending away all the disruption and adapting to the new normal, things that had to be done by all players and staff so the season was able to finish.
It did finish, and in some style, so taking everything into account, we have graded all 11 teams who finished the season based purely on their on-field performance during the 2020 campaign.
Finishing 11th out of 11 sounds disastrous; however Hull KR can look on some positives at the end of 2020. With no threat of relegation in the second half of the year, they were able to express themselves taking Champions St Helens to golden point and vanquishing table-topping Wigan. They looked like a side capable of challenging anyone and everyone.
Unfortunately, Tony Smith’s young side seemed to run out of energy at the end, resulting in only three wins all season. Plus points include the superb displays of Elliot Minchella and their attractive and expansive style of rugby, brought about by some solid recruitment.
Trinity will be disappointed with their efforts for much of this year, struggling to find form and losing far too many games as they finished 10th. It took them 11 games to register their first post-lockdown win and they somehow finished beneath a Salford side who had three wins taken off them.
It’s not all doom and gloom though with Wakefield looking a much more formidable unit when injuries are at a minimum. The displays of Dream Team member Kelepi Tanginoa are also a huge positive with head coach Chris Chester definitely having a good foundation to build on in 2021.
Salford Red Devils
Many expected 2019 Grand Finalists Salford to really struggle this season after losing several of their star players. In reality they were superb for much of the season, with quality recruits like Luke Yates helping the Red Devils pick up eight wins, which included triumphs over both Saints and Wigan.
The highlight though was unquestionably their run to the Challenge Cup final, defeating Catalans and Warrington before falling agonisingly short at Wembley in a 17-16 defeat to Leeds. The departure of Ian Watson did put a dampener on things somewhat, with a three-point deduction at the end of the season for previous off-the-field matters seeing them end the campaign in ninth.
It all started so well for the Tigers. The West Yorkshire side went into lockdown joint top of the league having just completely outplayed champions St Helens. But the restart seemed to stop the Tigers’ momentum dead in its tracks.
They only won two out of their 11 post-lockdown games as they slipped out of the play-off hunt completely, eventually finishing eighth. There were some positives to take out of this season such as the displays of eventual Man of Steel Paul McShane and clinical winger Darrell Olpherts, while the half-back combination of Jake Trueman and Danny Richardson showed much promise.
The year 2020 was a positive campaign for Huddersfield. They started the season in great form thwarting St Helens in their own backyard after annihilated Catalans in France in the season opener. They were still a solid side after lockdown as Luke Robinson took the reins following the departure of Simon Woolford.
Things might have been different if the Giants had won their first two post-lockdown games, both of which they lost by a single point. Overall, Huddersfield enjoyed a solid year, with the masterful Aidan Sezer improving them tenfold, with the appointment of Ian Watson as head coach likely to see them mount a serious playoff challenge next season.
Another crazy season on the black and white side of Hull but there were a number of recognisable traits. An inconsistent start saw Lee Radford dismissed just before lockdown, with Andy Last taking the hot seat but struggling for the most part to ignite a serious challenge, finishing the campaign in sixth, a not too uncommon league position for the Airlie Birds.
The league restructure saw them make the playoffs and produce a stunning win at Warrington to go within the Grand Final, but they were put the sword by Wigan the following week. Plus points include the displays of Josh Griffin, who earned an England call-up, as well as young, dynamic forward Joe Cator.
After two years of fending off relegation with the glory days becoming a distant memory, the Rhinos needed to start making headway back up the table. After a slow start, they sprung up the league with big wins over Hull KR and Warrington, as well as a sublime comeback against Huddersfield, ending the campaign in fifth.
Things got a bit tougher as the season progressed but they were still able to mastermind a perfect wet-weather performance to get to the Challenge Cup final, and at Wembley they won a 14th Challenge Cup. It wasn’t to be in the playoffs but 2020 saw the Rhinos establish themselves back among the elite, with head coach Richard Agar and captain Luke Gale proving the doubters wrong.
Despite a slow start to the season and the restart, the Dragons had a successful campaign. Things kicked into gear after a statement win over Castleford in August which set the French side up for their second highest finish in Super League history, before they made it to within 80 minutes of the Grand Final.
They did exceptionally well to finish the season in the circumstances, benefitting from the points percentage system to end the campaign in fourth, and when the Dragons did play at their best, they looked a very dangerous team. The likes of Sam Tomkins, Israel Folau and James Maloney showed flashes of brilliance, but they were ultimately outclassed by Saints in the playoff semi-final.
It really did look like 2020 could be Warrington’s year when they demolished champions St Helens in round two, but then it all went wrong. Despite having Gareth Widdop and Blake Austin in the halves, their attack never clicked and their form became very inconsistent.
They put together a good run after the restart, with players like Toby King and Daryl Clark hitting a purple patch; however it all ended in tears again for the Wolves. They were downed in the Challenge Cup semis by underdogs Salford before putting in another below average display to depart the playoffs at the hands of Hull FC. Steve Price will be disappointed how the season ended, but their third-place finish was far from a disaster.
After a big winter of recruitment, expectations were high at Wigan and the Warriors hit the ground running going into lockdown top of the table. After the restart, they weren’t quite as eye-catching, but a classic victory over St Helens helped them regain top spot as they went onto claim a first League Leaders’ Shield in eight years.
A poor showing in their cup semi-final defeat to Leeds was well forgotten by the time Adrian Lam’s side powered past Hull FC to make the Grand Final, but they were denied the title in incredible circumstances. Their last-gasp loss to Saints won’t be forgotten quickly, but Wigan will fancy their chances of going one better in 2021.
If Saints hadn’t won the Grand Final, they wouldn’t have got A. This year hasn’t been the dominant season many expected from Kristian Woolf’s side who started sluggishly being nilled by Warrington and losing at home to Huddersfield.
Straight after the restart they did go 10 games unbeaten and the League Leaders’ Shield seemed theirs until back-to-back defeats saw them finish second. They also fell short in the Challenge Cup, losing to Warrington in the quarter-finals, so the pressure was on come the playoffs. Thankfully for Saints fans, big-game players Lachlan Coote, Jonny Lomax and Alex Walmsley stepped up as they battered Catalans before their sensational last minute Grand Final win over Wigan, with Jack Welsby writing his name into St Helens RFC folklore to secure the club a second consecutive Super League title.