There were 10 friendlies scheduled for today but five of them were cancelled due to a frozen pitch, one was moved due to a frozen pitch and another ended after 53 minutes due to a floodlight failure.
Nonetheless, here is a round-up of the action.
St Helens Reserves 24-32 Swinton Lions
Swinton took an early third minute lead. A penalty on halfway allowed the visitors to push downfield and a few tackles later Gavin Rodden forced his way over from close range. Nick Gregson added the two, 0-6 Saints trailed.
The hosts responded well to the early try and grabbed one of their own in the 16th minute. A high kick was fumbled by the Lions after great pressure from Jumah Sambou, Will Roberts picked up the loose ball before racing away to score in the right corner. The half converted his own try, 6-6 the scores were tied.
The visitors regained the lead in the 23rd minute. The ball was camped on the Red Vee’s line and Kenny Baker forced his way over from close range. Gregson converted, 6-12. That lead was further increased two minutes later. A big break downfield saw a great tackle from Daniel Moss to hold Swinton up close to the line. Off the back of it the ball found Rodden who went over for his second try of the half. Joseph Romeo missed the two, 6-16.
Saints grabbed another try just before the break. A kick from Moss was collected by Roberts who went over for his second try under the sticks. Once again he converted his try with almost the final kick of the first half, 12-16 the Red Vee trailed at the break.
The visitors had another try early in the second half. The ball was moved from right to left and Calum Hughes scored in the corner. Romeo was unable to convert, 12-20. Romeo could not convert, 12-20. That lead as quickly extended as Scott Parnaby burrowed over from close range. Dan Abram converted, 12-26.
Saints grabbed their third try towards the end of the second half. A break down the middle of the pitch saw Nathan Bannerman find Ciaran Nolan, who strolled over underneath the sticks. Moss converted, 18-26. Another try quickly followed. A pass in midfield was intercepted by new signing for the first team from Australia Wes Bruines who went half the length of the field to score under the sticks. Moss converted again, 24-26 we trailed.
A knock on a few tackles into the restart ruined the Red Vee’s momentum. Swinton drove downfield and Baker threw a dummy before scoring under the sticks. Abram converted with the final kick of the game to seal a 24-32 victory for the Lions against a spirited Saints Reserve side.
Sheffield Eagles 20-22 Hull FC
Hull FC’s new start in 2023 under Tony Smith got off to a winning start as new signing Jake Clifford and Brad Dwyer proved key.
It was the worst possible start for Hull FC in their return to action, as they went behind within four minutes.
It came from a grubber kick into the in goal where Corey Aston, who was enjoying his return to Sheffield under father and former Lance Todd winner Mark, touched down and converted to make it 6-0.
Two minutes later, Sheffield crossed for a second try breaking down the left before Connor Bower finished off a lovely move. This time Aston couldn’t convert.
In a hectic first 10 minutes, Scott Taylor was denied before crossing eight minutes later. From a Darnell McIntosh grubber, Joe Lovodua tried to touch down but fortunately Taylor was on hand to ground the ball and make it 10-6 after debutant and former NRL man Jake Clifford converted.
Sheffield wouldn’t go away however and two minutes later took an eight point lead.
Hull knocked on at the restart and from the scrum Matty Dawson-Jones went over to make it 14-6. Aston again missing the shot at girl.
In a wild five minutes, Clifford made it eight points for himself on debut popping up to intercept an offload and race away to score and make it 14-12 when he converted his own try.
The Black and Whites thought they’d scored when McIntosh went over from a Tex Hoy pass but the try was disallowed for a forward pass then four minutes later and just minutes shy of halftime Sheffield re-established their eight point lead.
Aston again was on hand to score from a grubber that Hoy didn’t deal with. Aston converted to make it 20-12 at the break. Hull made four changes at the break as they added plenty of young faces but it was an older face who scored thanks to a break from one of Hull FC’s new faces.
Ex-Leeds Rhinos hooker Brad Dwyer sliced through in quintessential fashion before grubbering ahead for Danny Houghton to score.
15 minutes into the second half, Hull FC claimed the lead for the first time. Cameron Scott scored from a Ben McNamara kick as he showed good feet to get over.
As the game closed Hull had 11 academy product on the pitch and they held on to win the game 22-20.
Whitehaven 14-22 Wigan Warriors
Despite trailing 14-10 entering the final 10 minutes of the game, tries from Logan Astley, who made his Super League debut in 2022, from a Tom Forber break and a 75th minute score from Alex Sutton in a great team try saw the young Warriors defeat Whitehaven.
Barrow Raiders 14-4 Workington
The Barrow Raiders led 14-4 after 53 minutes thanks to a Bulman try but then the game was called off after the floodlights failed.
Oldham 20-42 Widnes Vikings
After a close first half which ended 14-12 in favour of Oldham, a hat-trick from second row Adam Lawton in the second half propelled the Vikings to a 42-20 win with former Batley Bulldogs halfback Tom Gilmore flawless with the boot.
Hunslet vs Halifax Panthers – Cancelled
Bradford Bulls vs Huddersfield Giants – Cancelled
Keighley Cougars vs Castleford Tigers – Cancelled
York RLFC vs Batley Bulldogs – Cancelled
Doncaster vs Newcastle Thunder – Cancelled
Leigh Leopards 14-12 Leeds Rhinos
Both teams showed graft and work rate and both defended brilliantly. There were flashes of brilliance in attack but often great defence stood up to deny chances.
In the end, the Leopards just edged it.
They won it at the death but started the better too. Ricky Leutele showed why so many teams were interested in his signature for 2023 when he got on the outside of his man and produced a flick pass to put Josh Charnley in at the corner. A statement try against the club who signed the man he replaces on the left: Nene MacDonald.
After being slightly caught out for that try, a former Leigh man made amends with a cracking try at the other end. Quick hands created a bit of space for young Luis Roberts who bumped off the defence to tear through and showed great confidence to dummy passed fullback Zak Hardaker to score on debut and against his home town club.
That battle proved interesting as Leutele made amends. Not the prettiest try this though it followed some sweeping rugby from Leigh which was met by some good Leeds scramble. But after that, their was a longer than usual delay and then Leutele burrowed over.
Leeds then produced a lovely pattern play down the right to take the lead once more. A number of runners down the right, moving the ball at speed, Sezer popped a short ball through for Walters who then offloaded to allow Leeming to score under the sticks.
Mere minutes into the second half, the game burst into life as Leigh put plenty of pressure on young Jack Sinfied who was hit late resulting in a bit of a brawl and a penalty for Leeds.
Around the hour mark, Leigh heaped pressure on Leeds but the young Rhinos stood up to the pressure with Levi Edwards tackle on Leutele a highlight.
Late on Leigh levelled the scores and who else but Zak Hardaker to do it. After a break from Kai O’Donnell, Leigh went out wide and the fullback burrowed over against his former club. On the third time of asking, Leigh finally converted a try through Reynolds to win the game.
Featherstone Rovers 28-0 Hull KR
In Craig Hall’s testimonial, his current side Featherstone Rovers celebrated the game with a win against one of his former sides, Hull KR.
The likes of former Leigh Leopards fullback and ex-Wakefield Trinity winger Kyle Evans debuted alongside the veteran Hall in the fixture whilst Hull KR gave debuts to centres Tom Opacic and former Huddersfield Giants man Louis Senior.
Sam Luckley also started at prop after joining from Salford Red Devils.
The Robins, thanks to a lovely Opacic offload, looked dangerous early on but shortly after a Senior error, Featherstone drew first blood and Craig Kopczak followed up his try against Castleford Tigers on New Year’s Eve with another as he burst through on a flat pass to score.
Chris Hankinson converted to make it 6-0.
It being Hull KR’s first pre-season fixture showed as they let their next attacking opportunity slip with a knock on meanwhile Featherstone chanced their arm with a Hankinson kick through which Senior cleaned up.
Hull KR soon mounted some pressure which ended with a Jimmy Keinhorst grubber. Then there was a wild moment as another Opacic moment of magic saw him break only for Connor Jones to intercept his offload however Senior was soon on hand to dump Jones into touch.
Opacic was again involved in a big moment as he was fingertips away from levelling the scores and it was a missed chance Featherstone Rovers would go on to rue as two minutes away Gareth Gale scored from a lovely Hankinson offload to make it 12-0 at the break.
The new half started with a new signing in McKenzie Yei being sin binned for Featherstone but his spell on the sidelines was punctuated by a Luke Briscoe try for Featherstone after he started on the bench.
As Hull KR introduced young players, Featherstone scored twice more at the end with Briscoe getting a second and Hankinson concluding the scoring late on with the man of the day Craig Hall nailing four out of five goals to wrap up a 28-0 win.