Five Super League sides were in action today as they prepare for the new season which is only weeks away.
Here’s a round up of the action.
Salford Red Devils 26-22 Swinton Lions: 1pm at the AJ Bell Stadium
Salford Red Devils were the entertainers in 2022 and that was again the case in the first half today against Swinton Lions as Paul Rowley’s side ran in four first half tries.
Four minutes in the Red Devils got the show on the road with a lovely scrum move and the typically destructive Tim Lafai creating a try for Rhys Williams playing in the place of Joe Burgess today in the only absence in Salford’s first choice backline from last season.
The second try came from a familiar source and another member of that potent backline in the shape 2021 Super League top try scorer and back-to-back Dream Team member Ken Sio.
This time Marc Sneyd, with brilliant feet, and Brodie Croft combined to create the try with Croft’s try putting Sio in.
It was three tries in nine minutes as Croft quintessentially broke through and found Andy Ackers in support to score.
By the 10 minute mark it was 16-0 thanks to two goals from Marc Sneyd.
Then a debut try from Ellis Longstaff as the Warrington Wolves loanee spun in the tackle to ground the ball and make it 22-0.
It was a big day for Ryan Brierley. The fullback was returning from injury today and was playing against the club he made his Salford debut for last year scoring a try and he did the same again today as Salford kept the ball alive and Sio and Brierley linked together for the fullback to score.
As Rowley made a number of changes, Swinton scored within the first 10 minutes of the second half as Lowe went through a gap to get them on the board.
More changes were made and Swinton scored again with Anthony Dyne getting over in the corner from some good play from Mike Butt.
Swinton added two more tries in the last five minutes through Gavin Bennon and Callum Hughes but the attacking masterclass from Salford in the first 10 minutes proved to be enough as debutant Longstaff was crowned Man of the Match in the 26-22 win.
Wakefield Trinity 24-12 Featherstone Rovers: 2pm at Belle Vue
There were plenty of games today but the most anticipated matchup for the neutral was undoubtedly the clash between two of the unbeaten teams in pre-season so far.
Championship favourites Featherstone travelled across West Yorkshire to face rivals Wakefield Trinity with both sides having clocked two wins so far, both in impressive fashion as well.
Could Featherstone beat another Super League team or would Mark Applegarth’s perfect start at Belle Vue continue?
The answer that we got came during a brilliant game of rugby league but it went the way of Wakefield.
Early on, Fev through some good shapes at Trinity but some solid defence from the Super League side, notably from veteran Reece Lyne, kept them quite.
Eventually, after lots of back and forth, it was the Rovers who drew first blood and it was a player Wakefield fans know very well.
It was their former winger Kyle Evans who scored from a lovely kick.
Trinity looked to battle back with a former Rovers winger, Tom Lineham, having a chance but the Rovers had the numbers to deny him.
It was a chance Wakefield would regret not taking as minutes later Elijah Taylor crossed. Another player Wakefield will know well after they tried to sign him from Salford Red Devils.
It came from a lovely reverse kick from Lacans and made it 12-0 and it stayed that way till halftime though the Rovers could have had more. A brilliant try saver from Lineham stopped Hankinson on the break and later Hankinson dropped a pass when a try beckoned.
Trinity needed the first try of the second half and nearly got it through prolific winger Lewis Murphy but again Fev defended well.
It did come though and the game looked set for a grandstand final twenty following props Eddie Battye and Renouf Atoni crossing over in close succession to tie the game up at 12-12.
Mason Lino had converted Battye’s try but the starting half-back had to leave the field for a HIA meaning the kicking duties went to full-back Max Jowitt, who was in action just minutes later on the hour mark when Atoni powered over.
The NRL signing is proving to be a real handful in these pre-season games having also scored against Leeds in the Boxing Day clash.
Both sides came close as they fought to keep their unbeaten record of the pre-season in tact but it was a game played with full competitivity, at times becoming easy to forget it was pre-season based on the intensity.
With six minutes to go, Wakefield finally took the lead as Lyne caused havoc in the Fev defence paving the way for Corey Hall to score the winner on his return to the side from injury.
Trinity then wrapped up the contest as Max Jowitt danced through to make it 24-12.
Leeds Rhinos 24-10 Bradford Bulls: 2.30pm at Headingley
In both Leeds’ pre-season fixtures prior to today, new signing from Doncaster Leon Ruan has been impressive even having an assist against Wakefield Trinity but today he got the opening try hitting a good line from Richie Myler’s ball to score.
Bradford were clearly happy to keep the ball alive and were stretching Leeds with Jack Walker especially impressive. They mounted pressure and eventually forced Rhyse Martin to take out one of their attacking player resulting in a sin bin. Sadly the Bulls knocked on straight after that.
Jack Walker was shinning at his old stomping ground. A constant threat out the back he popped up down the right to put Joe Arundel through a gap for the Bulls to get a deserved try.
Straight after that, Leeds won the ball back in an attacking position from a short kick off. After a rampant run by Sam Lisone, Cameron Smith showed what he can bring to the number 13 shirt at Leeds in his first minutes of the season when his flat ball allowed Sam Walters to turn in the tackle and offload to allow Morgan Gannon to stroll over. With Marin in the bin, Smith went on to convert and make it 12-4.
A lovely short ball saw Leeds academy product AJ Wallace tear through he then tried to fend off Ash Handley at fullback. As Handley held on Wallace offloaded for what seemed like a lovely try but the pass was ruled forward.
After a similar opening down the right a few minutes earlier, the ball found its way out to Joe Gibbons and the young man staked a claim for a first team spot when he tore through and found Ash Handley in support. He then tipped it on to Myler to make it 18-4 on the stroke of halftime.
Leeds nearly started the second half with a try when a lovely kick was taken by Liam Tindall but the Bulls managed to get underneath the ball.
Young Mr Gibbons again showed his class when he went from provider to try scorer as he took a drop off from Jack Sinfield to score. Joe is the son of former Leeds player David who worked as assistant coach for the Rhinos’ women’s team until recently. A nice moment to see two sons of ex-Leeds players link up for a try.
For the first time two exciting stars of the future were in each other’s cross hairs as a lovely Sinfield kick was taken by Huddersfield Giants bound George Flanagan Jr. He jinked and weaved his way through only to be hit by a brilliant tackle by Sinfield. As the years tick by expect these two to meet more and more.
The Bulls built some pressure on the Leeds line by forcing a goal line drop out and as they attacked the ball hit a player or two and landed in the hands of George Flanagan Sr to score.
A brilliant break down the left from the Bulls looked set to yield points until Liam Tindall tracked back and dragged down Gill which meant the scores stayed 24-10 to Leeds.
Barrow Raiders 26-14 Wigan Warriors: 3pm at Craven Park
First team winger Abbas Miski gave Wigan the lead and the Warriors were in control for the first half but the Raiders pulled level just before the break to make it 4-4. As technical issues plagued Wigan TV, the Warriors went behind, made 10-10 but ultimately slipped behind once again and the Raiders were able to take a 20-10 lead.
In the end Wigan succumbed to a 26-14 defeat.
Hunslet 12-20 Batley Bulldogs: 3pm at the South Leeds Stadium
Oldham 18-14 Rochdale: 3pm at Whitebank Stadium
Sheffield Eagles 36-24 Doncaster: 3pm at Olympic Legacy Park
Whitehaven 4-38 Castleford Tigers: 3pm at the LEL Arena
A brilliant first half from the Tigers set themselves on the road to victory. They led 18-0 thanks to tries from Alex Mellor, Jack Broadbent and Bureta Faraimo who crossed in the second half as did Jake Mamo after his move to the number 21 shirt for 2023.
The tries kept coming for the Tigers as they ran out 38-4 winners with seven tries.