Super League Weekend Review: Round 1

Leeds Rhinos 24-22 St Helens

Warrington Wolves 12-16 Leeds Rhinos

By Jack Conlon, Thursday

Leeds kicked off their title defence with what Brian McDermott described as an “ok” performance as they grinded out a win over Warrington. The reigning champions resisted a barrage of Wolves’ attack, holding their opponents up over the line on countless occasions along with a series of try-saving efforts from man-of-the-match Jack Walker. The 18-year-old insisted he is coming into 2018 bigger, faster and stronger and that certainly showed, as he singlehandedly stopped certain scores from Kevin Brown and Ryan Atkins.

Elsewhere, the Rhinos’ new halves combination seems to be bearing fruit. There were questions surrounding how Moon and Myler would perform but both seem to have adapted their games to suit one another. Both are typically running halfbacks and that influence looks to have changed their side’s tactics to the Rhinos of old – off-the-cuff rugby based on support play.

As for the Wolves, there were plenty of positives to take away. Tyrone Roberts looks like an exciting addition and is already bonding with Kevin Brown, while Ben Murdoch-Masila looked as good as promised. There’s still areas to improve overall but they’re definitely not destined for the Qualifiers.

Hull FC 38-12 Huddersfield Giants

By Ian Judson, Thursday

Super League player bans

Hull FC swatted off the 2013 League Leaders with sheer contempt, in a performance that belied a first game of the season. Rick Stone’s side got excited when taking a 12-4 lead, but the ease with which the home side then scored 34 unanswered points will have made for uncomfortable viewing for the Giants faithful.

They will point to being short of Leroy Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary, but with Hull short of Liam Watts and Carlos Tuimavave, that argument doesn’t really count for much. One of the really pleasing aspects for Lee Radford would have been the form of young prop Masimbaashe Matongo, who repeatedly caused the Giants defence problems with his carries.

Fetuli Talanoa started the season when he wants to earn a new deal with a hat-trick, his finish for the third being as contemptuous as the way the Giants were dismantled. Make no mistake, this was insignificant enough to not get people really taking notice, but was easily impressive enough to promise much for the Black & Whites this season.

Salford Red Devils 12-40 Wigan Warriors

By Sean Evans, Friday

Two tries from Liam Marshall and Oliver Gildart helped Wigan to a dominant victory against Salford Red Devils. Salford took an early lead thanks to Kris Welham, who went over the try line after just three minutes. O’Brien converted the try but that was the best it got for the Red Devils.

Tom Davies continued the fine form he produced last season to get over before Gildart put the Warriors ahead, a lead that would not be overturned. Morgan Escare returned to the Wigan side after a long spell out injured and came off the bench to get his first points of the season after some clever play from Liam Marshall. A clever Tomkins grubber set up Liam Marshall for his first try of the night.

Marshall then provided more great skill to set up a try for himself, and Gildart added to his first half effort as Wigan sailed into a 34-6 lead with 15 minutes to go. Wigan fan favourite, Tony Clubb, stepped one and carried two more to get his first try of the season, to spark huge celebrations in the away stand.

A Niall Evalds try and Gareth O’Brien conversion meant that Salford started and finished the night with a try but the scoreline read for comfortable viewing for any Wigan fan.

St Helens 46-6 Castleford Tigers

By Nathan Okell, Friday

2018’s first Super League Friday brought the first replay of last year’s exhilarating semi-final between St Helens and the Castleford Tigers, with the original entertainers putting last year’s league leaders to the sword by recording a convincing 46-6 victory. The Saints looked very impressive, with the mercurial Ben Barba putting in a man-of-the-match performance, even scoring two tries. Mark Percival and Zeb Taia were also superb, securing a hat-trick and brace respectively, while the evergreen James Roby led Saints around the park magnificently on his 400th appearance.

For the visitors, it was a game to forget, with coach Daryl Powell blasting his side as ‘embarrassing and shocking’. The Tigers looked toothless throughout and rarely threatened the Saints line, with Paul McShane grabbing their only try following a good offload from James Green. This would have greatly disheartened the Cas fans and coaching staff after last year’s stellar season.

Up next for Saints is a tricky away trip to the South of France to face Catalans; however Friday’s emphatic victory should fill them with confidence. The Tigers will be looking to bounce back and replicate last year’s form in an intriguing clash against Widnes, who started 2018 with a bang by defeating the Dragons 40-12.

Hull KR 6-28 Wakefield Trinity

By Zoe Shackleton, Friday

Any thoughts of Hull KR recording a winning start on their Super League return were thwarted by a resolute Wakefield side. Trinity rarely had to get out of second gear in an average game which was set alight by the comeback of winger Tom Johnstone.

Wakefield Trinity 30-4 Widnes Vikings

The 22-year-old scored a dazzling hat-trick and showed just why he walked straight back into the team after a near season-long absence. He was arguably in the form of his career at the time at the time of his knee injury last season, but I have a feeling this year he’s going to be even better.

I was also expecting a lot more from Danny McGuire’s debut performance. After a glittering career with Leeds, he swapped the Rhinos for the Robins but didn’t shine in this encounter. Chants of “Danny McGuire, you should’ve retired!” rang from the away end throughout.

It isn’t time to worry yet, but KR will need to gel together if they are to compete at the top level – and McGuire will have to somehow find his Leeds form to inspire the Robins.

Wakefield on the other hand, although they weren’t at their best, will be closer to the top end of the table come the play-offs.

Widnes Vikings 40-12 Catalans Dragons

By Ben Carney, Sunday

Despite being many people’s tip to finish bottom of the Super League table, Widnes started their 2018 campaign with an impressive 40-12 victory at home to Catalans Dragons.

After winning the Million Pound Game last season to avoid relegation, Steve McNamara was hoping for a quick start to the new season and they were well in the game at half-time as David Mead and Benjamin Jullien crossed to cancel out Chris Dean and Joe Mellor tries as the sides went in level.

However, after the break Denis Betts’ side took control of the game as ex-Dragon Krisnan Inu started the run of 28 unanswered points, with Dean’s second four-pointer added to by Patrick Ah Van, Charly Runciman and Stefan Marsh to secure the convincing win.