Round 1 of the English Super League is in the books, so let’s look over the first weekend of action.
St. Helens down defending premiers
Wigan Warriors’ title defence got off to a shaky start as they succumbed to early season favourites St. Helens at Totally Wicked Stadium.
Supported by a near-capacity home crowd of 16,508, St. Helens raced to an early 12-0 lead courtesy of tries to former Wests Tigers winger Kevin Naiqama – playing in his Super League debut – and five-eighth Jonny Lomax.
Wigan prop Ben Flower got his side back into the contest when he crashed over near halftime to half the deficit.
Liam Campbell’s 80-metre intercept try minutes later off a Lachlan Coote pass levelled the scores at 12-all at the end of the opening forty minutes.
The home side ensured there was no come from behind victory, however, as they shut out their opponents in the second half through a combination of rugged defence and a superior display in offence.
Winger Regan Grace put his side ahead in the 50th minute following an impressive display of athleticism as he touched down in the corner, an effort which went unconverted as St. Helens went ahead 16-12.
Despite having several scoring opportunities toward the closing stages of the game, Wigan were unable to capitalise and, with six minutes remaining, St. Helens captain James Roby put the final nail in the coffin of the defending champions when he scooted over from dummy half to give his side a match-winning ten point buffer.
“It was always going to be a tough game and to come away with a win was the most pleasing thing”, said Saints coach Justin Holbrook following the match.
“Obviously we started really well and I thought we were unlucky to be 12-all at half-time, I thought we could have skipped away. But the second half was a great defensive effort.”
Meanwhile, Wigan coach Adrian Lam seemed at a loss to describe his team’s performance.
“I’m a little bit confused to be honest. We didn’t play the way we trained.
“I knew we needed a good start and dropping the ball in the first set and being on the defensive for the first 20 minutes took the gas out of us.”
St. Helens 22 (Kevin Naiqama, Jonny Lomax, Regan Grace, James Roby tries; Mark Percival 3 goals) def. Wigan Warriors 12 (Ben Flower, Liam Marshall tries; Zak Hardaker 2 goals) at Totally Wicked Stadium (Crowd: 16,508)
Castleford kick-off campaign with hard-fought victory
Winger Greg Eden crossed for two tries as the Castleford Tigers opened their season with a 20-4 victory over the Catalans Dragons at Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The Dragons’ woeful record at ‘The Jungle’ continued, as their winless record at the Tigers home ground was extended to eight games following an impressive defensive display from the home side.
Castleford hooker Paul McShane was a standout performer for his side, stepping up in the absence of injured halfback Luke Gale. McShane scored the opening try and kicked four goals in a man of the match performance which earned him special praise from coach Tony Powell following the game.
“He is a pretty special player isn’t he? Powell said. McShane is a general for us with Luke Gale not in the team due to his injury.”
Despite creating plenty of chances in attack, including several forced drop-outs and a 40-20 kick, the Dragons were unable to capatalise on many of their opportunities as the Tigers held firm in a professional display.
“I thought we defended outstandingly,” said Powell. “We were under a lot of pressure with a few penalties in the first half. They got three repeat sets in first half too.”
Castleford led 12-0 at halftime, and extended the deficit to 14 points soon after the break following a penalty goal by McShane.
Catalans gave themselves some hope of victory after Tierney crossed in the corner to make it 14-4, but Eden’s second try minutes from fulltime sealed the victory for the home side in what was a professional outing to their 2019 campaign.
Castleford Tigers 20 (Greg Eden 2, Paul McShane tries; McShane 4 goals) def. Catalans Dragons 4 (Lewis Tierney try) at Mend-A-Hose Jungle (Crowd: 7,494)
Salford put Giants to the sword in impressive win
A hat-trick to Salford fullback Niall Evalds helped the Red Devils kick off their 2019 campaign in impressive fashion, defeating Huddersfield 34-14 at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Despite conceding the first points courtesy of a penalty goal to Giants five-eighth Izaac Farrell, the Red Devils quickly found their groove as they began to cause damage down the left side, culminating in a try to Junior Sa’u in the 13th minute.
It was a bittersweet four-pointer for the Red Devils, as Sa’u sustained an injury during the try which resulted in him needing to leave the field.
Salford went to halftime holding a slim 8-2 lead following a try to Ken Sio which went unconverted.
Former Newcastle and Manly winger Akuila Uate leveled the score at 8-all when he crossed the line soon after the break, but a penalty goal to Darcy Lussik soon after restored the lead for Salford.
After weathering an early storm in the second half by Huddersfield, Salford regained the momentum through a double to Evalds in the space of three minutes.
The Red Devils continued to apply pressure to the Giants’ defensive line as they looked to extend their 12 point lead, forcing two successive goal line dropouts before Ken Sio crossed for his second try of the game following an impressive piece of play which once again involved Evalds, as well as halfback Jackson Hastings.
The Salford fullback completed his hat-trick when he dummied his way through the defensive line and crossed the try line in the 73rd minute.
Reflecting on his team’s victory after the match, head coach Ian Watson said that he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We looked a lot at ourselves in the week leading up to this game rather than looking at Huddersfield.
We wanted to build on what we’ve been working on in pre-season and our pre-season friendlies to make sure that we were good and there were large parts of the game which I’m really pleased with. I thought if we had executed a little better in the first half, we could have put some more points on in that first period.”
Salford Red Devils 34 (Niall Evalds 3, Ken Sio 2, Junior Sa’u, Derrell Olpherts tries; Joey Lussick 2, Ken Sio goals) def. Huddersfield Giants 14 (Akuila Uate, Kruise Leeming tries; Izaac Farrell 3 goals) at John Smith’s Stadium (Crowd: 5,387)
Hull KR claim the spoils in thrilling last minute win
A last minute try to centre Jimmy Keinhorst saw Hull KR win in dramatic fashion in front of a record crowd at KCOM Craven Park.
Bureta Faraimo’s try thirteen minutes from fulltime looked to have sealed the victory for the away side, who were looking for their first victory in seven months.
Ultimately, Keinhorst’s spectacular effort with just six seconds remaining ensured that Hull FC would emerge from the derby with their 12th consecutive loss.
In the aftermath of the game, Rovers coach Tim Sheens was delighted for his team following their victory.
“I’m very happy for the club – we’ve had a lot to contend with during the off-season and we’ll be a lot more coherent as the season goes on,” he said. “When the video referee was checking and checking I left my box, then I heard the cheering and I knew.”
It was a disappointing loss for Hull, who let the game slip from their grasp after holding a 12-point lead at one point in the first half after tries to Sika Manu and Matty Dawson-Jones.
Rovers bounced back in strong fashion, though, as they soon regained the lead courtesy of Joel Tomkins and Mitch Garbutt, whose tries were both converted, followed by a penalty goal to Josh Drinkwater as the home side led 14-12 at halftime.
Hull FC emerged from the break a seemingly more resilient team, courtesy of a rousing half-time talk by coach Lee Radford.
“Their heads were down when I went in the sheds but I gave them a bit of a bollocking and told them to pick themselves up,” said the Hull coach after the game, who appeared somewhat optimistic despite the circumstances surrounding his team’s loss. “If we continue to turn up with that attitude and we add some finesse down the other end, we’ll be OK.”
The Rovers failed to a capatalise on a number of opportunities at several stages in the second stanza, and looked to have botched their chances of victory when Faraimo scored in the 67th minute.
Tryscoring hero Keinhorst labeled the match as one of the best games he’d ever played in.
“It was a great experience. I’m really proud and honoured to be involved in the Hull derby, it’s up there with the best games I’ve played in. I can’t wait for the next ones later in the season,” Keinhorst told reporters after the game.
“It was a big finish, wasn’t it? At the end of the day we were just happy to get the two points. The lads dug deep from 1-17. We knew we’d get another chance in the last minute and thankfully we took it.”
Hull KR 18 (Joel Tomkins, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst tries; Josh Drinkwater 3 goals) def. Hull FC 16 (Sika Manu, Matty Dawson, Bureta Faraimo tries; Marc Sneyd 2 goals) at KCOM Craven Park (Crowd: 12,100)
Warrington clinical in opening round defeat of Leeds
New arrival Blake Austin certainly lived up to the hype as he helped Warrington to an emphatic defeat of Leeds at Halliwell Jones Stadium.
One of the biggest off-season Super League recruits, Austin was electrifying in his debut outing for the Wolves, scoring a second half try which effectively ended any hope of a Rhinos victory.
Reflecting on his side’s victory following the match, the former Canberra Raiders five-eighth tried to shift the attention away from his individual performance, instead highlighting how Warrington’s teamwork was the key factor in their victory.
“To be honest, collectively as a team and the way we were down to 12 men for 20 minutes, everyone dug in deep,” he said, referring to co-captain Jack Hughes and Toby King spending time in the sin bin.
“And with the two less interchanges as well this year, the forwards had to dig in deep.
“On the left I thought Bryson Goodwin was awesome with his carries, Stef Ratchford and Blake, the middles, I think collectively as a team everyone was good.
“The team came together and that’s what we need.”
A late four-pointer to Leeds forward Stevie Ward ensured that the Rhinos would avoid the embarrassment of being just the third team in Super League history to be kept scoreless – a point of consolation in an otherwise forgettable afternoon.
Warrington Wolves 26 (Stefan Ratchford, Josh Charnley, Daryl Clark, Blake Austin tries; Stefan Ratchford 5 goals) def. Leeds Rhinos 6 (Stevie Ward try; Tuimoala Lolohea goal) at Halliwell Jones Stadium (Crowd: 13,098)
Broncos defeat Wakefield in high scoring affair
In their first Super League match in five years, the London Broncos defeated Wakefield Trinity in entertaining fashion before an enthusiastic home crowd at Trailfinders Sports Ground.
Despite being pre-season favourites for relegation, the Broncos trailed 18-6 early on before they hit back through tries to Rhys Williams, Kieran Dixon, Eddie Battye and Matty Fozard, leading 26-18 at halftime.
Kyle Wood got Wakefield back into the contest soon after the break, crossing the line for a try which was converted by Danny Brough to reduce the deficit to two points.
Rhys Williams was the next to score as he crossed in the 58th minute for a try which went unconverted, pushing the margin out to twelve points.
A yellow card to Danny Brough for dissent proved too much of a deficit for Wakefield Trinity to overcome, as Elliot Kear finished off a fantastic piece of offense to score a try which sealed the victory for the home side.
Broncos head coach Joey Grima was relieved that his side was finally able to get their season underway, particularly after having been written off before a ball was even kicked.
“I already knew what they were capable of and I think it will give the boys real belief as well.
“They were probably were a little bit nervy going into it and I did get that sense in warm-up that it might have just dawned on them that they were in the Super League now and coming up against some quality players.”
Meanwhile, Wakefield coach Chris Chester lamented his side’s lack of execution as well as critical errors throughout the game.
“Without taking too much credit away from London, we killed ourselves today with a lack of respect for the ball.
“I’m extremely disappointed. It’s probably the worst performance since I’ve been involved here.”
London Broncos 42 (Rhys Williams 2, Eddie Battye 2, Kieran Dixon, Matty Fleming, Matty Fozard, Elliot Kear tries; Kieran Dixon 4, Jordan Abdull goals) def. Wakefield Trinity 24 (Craig Kopczak, Ryan Hampshire, Jacob Miller, Kyle Wood tries; Danny Brough 4 goals) at Trailfinders Sports Ground (Crowd: 2,149)