It was another packed pre-season weekend as the new season draws ever closer.
Here are reports of the matches we went to, plus a roundup of the other matches.
Toronto claim Castleford scalp (Jack Conlon)
A 16-10 loss and a Sonny Bill no-show didn’t dampen the occasion on an afternoon where Castleford honoured one of their greatest local exports.
Michael Shenton’s career has included over 350 appearances, 150+ tries and 10 England caps, so it was great to see him receive such a warm reception from fans, players and coaches alike as he led the Tigers onto the field accompanied by his children.
The first half was fairly short of clear-cut chances, with tries from Gareth O’Brien and Danny Richardson both coming as a result of well-worked training ground moves, which both sides seemed keen to experiment with.
There were, however, several big hits from the likes of Shenton, George Griffin and Hakim Miloudi, which were met by the kind of excitable winces that you’d expect from a crowd who are still getting back into the swing of live rugby league after being deprived of it for over two months.
The second 40 minutes saw both sides play more expansive, free-flowing rugby. Overseas import Sosaia Feki got on the scoresheet for the home side after a superb break from Danny Richardson but it was scores from Joe Mellor and Blake Wallace that saw Toronto take the game.
The signs look positive for the Wolfpack as they prepare for their Super League bow – again against the Tigers – in two weeks’ time. The attacking structures seem to be well in place, with the likes of O’Brien, Mellor, Wallace and Josh McCrone constantly in and around the ruck dictating play, while their defence looked solid for the most part.
The afternoon, however, was all about one man. Shenton’s game was unfortunately cut short after receiving one of those big hits around the 30-minute mark but the majority of the 3,300-crowd stayed to hear him address them afterwards – a well-deserved gesture for a loyal servant of both the game and the club.
Halifax light up second half against York (Joe Neadley)
Halifax RLFC continued their strong pre-season with a hard-fought 16-6 win against York City Knights at Bootham Crescent.
Tries from Shaun Robinson, Steve Tyrer and Corey Roberts were enough to see them home, with the hosts scoring through Matty Marsh.
Both sides played out a frustrating first half that saw both draw a blank.
It was a tale of missed chances rather than ‘stonewall’ defending in a half that was error-strewn.
The story was pretty much the same in the second half before the visitors eventually found a way through on the hour mark.
A cross-field kick from Tom Gilmore was juggled and eventually collected by winger Robinson, who had enough sheer power to force his way over in the left corner.
Tyrer converted from the touchline but the hosts soon responded just five minutes later.
The Knights forced a knock on before a cheeky grubber kick by Connor Robinson ricocheted off the ‘Fax defence before Marsh gathered up the ball to score under the black dot.
Robinson easily converted to level things up again but the fatigue factor soon reared its head and the visitors cashed in on 74 minutes.
The Knights desperately tried to keep the ball alive but a loose carry on halfway eventually saw Tyrer finish off a delicate cross-field kick by Scott Grix to score in the other corner.
Tyrer was off target with his conversion attempt but youngster Roberts soon wrapped up proceedings following a Grix line break.
Another goal ended the scoring with ‘Fax gaining another victory.
Saints mark LMS testimonial with a win (Steven Hughes)
St Helens played their first game under new Head Coach Kristian Woolf, and marked the occasion with a 36-6 win over London Broncos.
It was a match very much dictated by the conditions. Heavy fog was often hanging on the pitch.
However, it took Saints just five minutes to get off the mark as Jack Welsby managed to go over after good work from Saints to spread the ball. Lachlan Coote converted.
They found a lot of joy down London’s left-hand side and their next two tries came from there, as Mark Percival and Jonny Lomax went over. Coote missed both conversions, meaning their lead was 14 points.
Despite London being under the cosh for most of the first half, they did get a try as Sadiq Adebiyi broke impressively and found his way to the line. Kieran Dixon converted to being the Broncos back to within eight points.
But Saints asserted their dominance before the break with two more tries as Percival grabbed his second, and he then he turned provider for Regan Grace. Coote added one more conversion to bring Saints up to 24 points.
The fog was getting worse in the second half, and both sides were struggling to gain any sort of momentum.
But the second half was brought to life by a brilliant run by Grace. He picked up the ball about 15 metres from his own try line, and broke through the defence to score. Lewis Dodd converted to being Saints up to 30 points.
There was even time for Joe Batchelor to grab his first senior try for Saints to round off the scoring. Dodd was again on target to round off a 30-point victory for Saints.
Hull KR 16-14 Featherstone Rovers
Doncaster 18-36 Sheffield Eagles
Batley Bulldogs 6-38 Hull FC
Whitehaven 24-18 Workington Town
Dewsbury Rams 25-12 Bradford Bulls
Wigan Warriors 10-22 Leeds Rhinos
Widnes Vikings 34-16 North Wales Crusaders
Catalans Dragons 22-10 Toulouse (Saturday)
Oldham 32-12 St Helens Reserves (Saturday)