It’s been another off-season from hell for the NRL, although this year the bad-news stories are the kind that head office would almost be happy about.
As the NRL sides toil away over the Aussie summer preseason the English Super League is already back in full swing.
There was plenty of rumblings in the lead-up to Round 2, with discontent surrounding Catalans’ recruitment drive. Mother Nature had the last laugh, with Catalans, Wakefield, Leeds and Huddersfield all forced to postpone their matches for another week until Storm Ciara passes through.
Nevertheless, there were lots of sparks in the four matches played. Here’s how Round 2 panned out.
Warrington 19-0 St Helens
Warrington made the rest of the competition sit up and take notice with a 19-0 shut-out of an undermanned St Helens. Up against a side that averaged over 31 points a game last season, the Wolves kept their opponents from registering on the scoresheet for the first time since 2016.
The Wire showed some desperate second-half goal-line defence to keep Kevin Naiqama and later John Lomax at bay; however, Warrington showed they’re just as handy with the ball as well, tiring out the St Helens defence with some plucky offloading, which now sees the Wolves leading the league in this regard.
Fullback Stefan Ratchford celebrated a midweek contract extension by bombing and regaining to set up the Wolves’ second try while tormenting St Helens with a booming 45-metre penalty goal late in proceedings.
Hull FC 25-16 Hull Kingston Rovers
Hull Kingston Rovers set alight their local derby with Hull FC with an early contender for try of the season. Ten minutes into the second half of a seesawing affair with Hull KR rucking out of their own half, the ball passed through ten sets of hands as it swung from right to left, including a delightful one-handed offload from Shaun Kenny-Dowall and a no-look bat-on to get the ball out wide for Ben Crooks to slide over in the left corner for his fifth try in just two games.
Unfortunately for Hull KR, that was as good as it got for their evening as FC half Marc Sneyd took control of proceedings, adding a try, a try assist and a drop goal to his two earlier try assists, Hull FC running out 25-16 victors.
Castleford 16-12 Wigan
Castleford shot to equal first on the table with a brave win over a penalty-prone Wigan. The Tigers started with seven first-graders missing; however, Wigan were also without regular half Sam Powell and subsequently struggled to find their mojo in attack throughout the match. Time and again Wigan coughed up penalties within Danny Richardson’s kicking range, and he was only too happy to oblige by kicking Castleford out to a ten-point lead late in the game before Joe Burgess added some respectability to the final score for Wigan with a late try.
Warriors coach Adrian Lam will no doubt be pushing his charges to stay on the right side of the officialdom for their next clash, with the Warriors now heading the league for penalties conceded.
Salford 24-16 Toronto
Toronto Wolfpack suffered their second straight defeat in the top flight with an improved performance against 2019 runners-up Salford. After the Reds got out to a 12-point lead, Toronto clawed their way back into the contest to level it up at 16 apiece with ten minutes remaining before Salford put the result beyond doubt with late tries to Dan Sarginson and Niall Evalds.
Sonny-Bill Williams was better in his first start for the Wolfpack, ominously jagging seven offloads in the process. Yet it was another veteran who led the way for the Wolfpack, with spritely 36-year-old Jon Wilkin amassing a herculean 55 tackles to go with the 48 he effected in Round 1. Nevertheless, the newcomers’ defence continues to pose some concern for coach Brian MacDermott, conceding five tries for the second week in a row – indeed the final margin could have been less flattering had Tui Lolohea had his kicking boots with him.
Salford will breathe a sigh of relief that last week’s 40-point drubbing was a mere aberration now with their first points on the board for 2020.