Israel Folau has courted more controversy by refusing to join teammates and opponents in taking a knee to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement in Super League’s return on Sunday.
Round 5 of the English Super League saw four of the six matches decided by 20 points or more, with Leeds, St Helens and Wigan all flexing their muscles, while Warrington and Huddersfield both received a heavy dose of reality.
The round was bookended with a roller-coaster finish between Hull FC and Catalans. Here’s how the action unfolded.
Castleford cruise away in second half
Castleford scored 20 unanswered second half points to run out 28-8 winners over a plucky but ultimately outclassed Hull KR.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as Hull KR frustrated the Tigers early on through some clever kicking and dogged defence.
Hull opened the scoring through a try to Ben Cook, extending his incredible try-scoring record of seven tries in five outings by plucking the ball out of the air ahead of Peter Matauti’a.
Despite their early lead, the alarm bells should have been ringing for Hull as Castleford continued to slice through the middle with relative ease.
Eventually the pressure told when Tigers’ hooker Paul McShane opened up the defensive line out of dummy half before spreading the ball out to Michael Shenton to dive over in the corner.
Hull briefly wrested back the lead before halftime. However, after losing halfback Ryan Brierley to the sin bin for a professional foul early in the second half, it became a procession for Castleford who ran in a further three tries to seal the result off the back of a generous second half penalty count.
With four wins and a loss to start the season, Castleford are shaping as genuine title contenders after not conceding a second half point for two weeks running.
Wolves’ away woes continue
Leeds added to Warrington’s poor away record with a 36-0 rout on a Headingley pitch that resembled a cow paddock, as the Wire registered their eighth consecutive loss on the road.
There were ominous signs for Warrington early on, with Blake Austin left struggling for much of the match after being cleaned up in a crunching tackle from ex-Shark Matt Prior before Rhinos’ fullback Jack Walker scooted over from close range.
Leeds dominated the middle as they out-enthused their opponents. The home side eventually turned their good field position into points through back to back penalty goals, and further extended their lead to 14-0 when Richie Myler strode over on the cusp of half-time.
The Wire did little to improve on a woeful 50 per cent first half completion rate in the second half, and soon found themselves further behind when Brad Dwyer pounced on a ricocheted kick to make it 18-0. Warrington’s night then went from bad to worse when Ben Murdoch-Masila was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.
After that the floodgates opened, with Konrad Hurrell, Ava Seumanufagai and Ash Handley all crossing for Leeds.
After a couple of lean seasons, Leeds are looking promising having posted 110 points to 18 in their last three games, and will fancy themselves to continue their run of form next week against Toronto.
Lomax leads the way for Saint Helens
Five-eighth Johnny Lomax piled on the misery for Toronto as Saint Helens handed the Wolfpack their fifth straight defeat, 32-0.
By the 21st minute Lomax had already struck twice, waltzing through some turnstile Toronto defence on both occasions. Lomax later threw the final pass to send James Bentley and Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook over for four-pointers. Toronto’s night took a turn for the worse in the 66th minute, when Bodene Thompson was sent off for a shoulder charge to the head of Saints’ second-rower Matthew Lees.
Toronto proved their own worst enemy at times, racking up 19 errors and 38 missed tackles. Once again there were some solid individual performances for the ‘Pack, the stand out being Jon Wilkin, who put in a gutsy effort against the side he played over 400 games for, the 36-year-old coming up with 67 tackles despite delaying knee surgery to cover for his side’s other injuries.
Warriors bring Giants back to earth
Wigan inflicted a high-flying Huddersfield’s first defeat of the season, crushing the previously undefeated Giants 42-10.
Neither side had let in more than two tries in a match all season, and at first it looked like that trend might continue as both sides were evenly matched early on.
Wigan posted the first four pointer with a try to Willie Isa, before Huddersfield replied through Adam O’Brien and three goals off the boot of Adam Sezer to lead 10-4 at the half hour mark.
However, in the 34th minute the match turned on its head when Adam Sezer was sent to the sin-bin for a high shot on Thomas Leulai.
Wigan then took full advantage, notching three quick-fire tries just before the break and an astounding five in thirteen minutes, including a hat-trick to winger Liam Marshall.
Marshall’s second is an early front-runner for try of the season, after receiving the ball from the kick-off and, noticing no one was at fullback for the Giants, kicked ahead and regathered for a stunning length of the field four-pointer.
George Burgess iced the result by celebrating his return from a hip injury with a try for Wigan at the death. The Warriors now find themselves at the top of the ladder, while Huddersfield face another acid test away next week against Saint Helens.
Maloney breaks Hull hearts at the death
Hull FC will be kicking themselves after they threw away a substantial second half lead to go down to Catalans 34-29 in the match of the round. Hull were ahead 28-10 with less than 20 minutes remaining before Catalans shocked the home side with three tries in ten minutes.
A first half double to Mane Fonua, followed up by a long-range effort by Jamie Shaul and a barnstorming effort by Manu Ma’u left Hull sitting pretty with an eighteen point advantage.
However, Hull confirmed a worrying trend from their previous outings against Wigan and St Helens by failing to turn up for 80 minutes.
They first let in a soft try to Dragons second-rower Benjamin Jullien, before fullback Sam Tomkins twice provided the final pass after some slick lead up play to send Josh Drinkwater and Samisoni Langi over for Catalans to lock the scores up at 28-all with eight minutes to play.
It looked as though Hull might escape with the win after all when halfback Marc Sneyd nailed a late drop goal from forty metres out to restore the lead.
James Maloney had other ideas though, dummying and burrowing through some tired defence in the dying seconds to snatch victory after Israel Folau had been instrumental in regathering the ball for Catalans from the restart.
Hull have now been sent packing in their last three games and will need a big performance against Wakefield next week if they’re any hope of living up to the pre-season hype.
Trinity tighten up to overcome Salford
Wakefield earned a valuable 22-12 away victory over Salford on Sunday. After bearing the brunt of two sin-bins and a lopsided penalty count in their last encounter at Castleford, Trinity put in a much more disciplined performance against the Red Devils.
Despite Wakefield having the better of the opening exchanges, Salford struck first through Tui Lolohea in the 14 minute, before stand in five-eighth Max Jowitt got Wakefield on the board 10 minutes later. Not unlike last week’s loss to Leeds, Salford played themselves into a match-winning position with a try to Ken Sio to give them an 8-6 lead at the 50th minute mark.
However, Trinity replied off the back of a low second half error rate with a trio of tries in a thirteen minute burst to Bill Tupou, Kelepi Tanginoa and Tom Johnstone, who has now scored in his previous three games since returning from injury.
Ken Sio got one back for Salford in the 71st minute, but by that stage the horse had bolted. Salford’s chances of claiming victory were not helped by some wayward goalkicking from Tui Lolohea, who has now missed with his previous five attempts.
Salford now sit at the foot of the table with just two competition points from five outings, despite playing four of their first five games at home.
Leeds recruit Konrad Hurrell was a constant thorn in the side of Warrington, running for 194 metres and scoring a try, albeit controversially, as replays could not confirm whether he had actually grounded the ball.
Ex-Cowboy Robert Lui was also heavily involved with some clever kicks and had a hand in a number of Leeds’ tries, while former Manly forward Adam Cuthbertson was effective off the bench by running for 154 metres and contributing four offloads.
Former Titan Albert Kelly had a busy afternoon for Hull FC as he registered three try assists, the pick of the bunch being a crafty offload to put former Tigers winger Mahe Fonua over in the corner.
Bevan French was also heavily involved in Wigan’s towelling of Huddersfield, contributing a try assist, six tackle busts and 142 metres.
Player to watch
One of the keys to Castleford’s success has been the champagne form of hooker Paul McShane. McShane is proving a constant menace to opposition defences with his dangerous running out of dummy half, ability to break a tackle, and crafty short and long kicking game.
In Thursday’s clash he racked up a handy 117 metres, 34 tackles and two line breaks and turned the tide in the Tigers’ favour when he burst through the centre to set up Castleford’s first try.
Roarers, what are your thoughts on Round 5?