After a weekend of runaway victories last week, Round 6 saw three matches decided by two points or less, the first extra-time finish of the season and a major boil-over. Here’s how it all unfolded.
Wolfpack pummelled under Rhino stampede
Leeds continued their winning ways with a 66-12 thumping of Toronto. The Rhinos set up their fourth straight victory off the back of a dominant forward pack, which helped them clock up over 500 more running metres than the Wolfpack.
Halves pairing Robert Lui and Luke Gale did the rest, each crossing for a double and having a hand in a number of others. The pick of the bunch came in the seventh minute when stand-in fullback Richie Myler touched down under the sticks off a sublime flick pass from Gale that would have done Benji Marshall more than proud.
To their credit, the Wolfpack didn’t stop trying to throw the ball around and create chances, but were simply no match for a Rhinos side boasting attacking weapons across the paddock, perhaps best highlighted by second-rower Rhyse Martin, who also managed 11 from 11 with the boot, chipping ahead for winger Ash Handley to touch down on the stroke of half time.
The Rhinos are now firming as a force to be reckoned with after a couple of lean seasons, having won their last four outings by an average score of 44 points to eight.
Hull hold on to squeak a win at Wakefield
Hull very nearly let another hefty lead slip for the second week running, but this time escaped with the chocolates after edging Wakefield in an extra-time thriller 27-26. First-half tries to Mahe Fonua, Jamie Shaul and Kieran Buchanan off the back of some powerful running from Shaul and Josh Griffin put FC in the box seat at the break.
However, there must have been a creeping sense of deja vu for FC fans following last week’s heartbreaking loss to Catalans as their side began fritter away a 20-6 lead on 50 minutes. Trinity responded with four tries in a 25-minute burst, including two freakish finishes in the corner to winger Tom Johnstone, to level the scores at 26 apiece.
Hull scrumhalf Marc Sneyd ensured that there would be no repeat of last week, coolly potting a 30-metre drop goal in extra time to hand Hull a relieving victory, their first since Round 2. Nonetheless Trinity rallied well and can take some consolation at crossing for five tries to their opponents’ four.
Huddersfield bounce back against Saints
Huddersfield showed last week’s hiding to Wigan was a mere aberration as they ground out a 12-10 victory over a wasteful St Helens. Fortune favoured the Giants early on, when Saints winger Tom Makinson spilt an Aidan Sezer bomb into the path of Adam O’Brien to set up an early lead.
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Saints wasted little time in wresting back the advantage, posting two tries in ten minutes. Theo Fages popped up a delivery for Luke Thompson to crash over from close range, before Jonny Lomax deftly grubbered for Morgan Knowles to touch down in the corner.
Saints sat on their lead for the next 40 minutes, as the 2019 champions dominated field position but couldn’t land the knockout blow despite coming close on two occasions. An uncharacteristic 15 handling errors did little to help their cause.
Huddersfield finally made them pay in the 64th minute when Aidan Sezer drew in the defence on the left edge before sending Jack Wardle on a 50-metre sprint to the line. Sezer put the Giants ahead with a difficult conversion, before controlling proceedings in the dying stages to help his side to a major scalp.
Warrington pip Castleford at the death
Warrington scraped home over Castleford 9-8 courtesy of last-minute drop goal to Blake Austin. The only consistent thing about the Wire this season has been their inconsistency and they were desperate to rebound strongly after last week’s shut out at Leeds.
The first half saw few chances as both sides played mostly safety-first football, with Castleford striking first off the boot of Danny Richardson following a string of infringements from the Wolves. Warrington then snatched the ascendency in the 25th minute as they swept the ball left and found Ben Currie, who delivered a peach of an offload for Toby King to then put Tom Lineham over in the corner.
The Tigers regained the lead on the 52nd minute mark when Calum Turner was awarded a penalty try after copping a high shot as he went to ground the ball in the corner, with Richardson easily adding the extras from the improved position. When Stefan Ratchford drew Warrington level seven minutes later, the contest soon became a field-goal shootout.
Both sides squandered two attempts each despite of some quality field position, before Austin sent his second attempt over the black dot at the death. Despite the loss, Castleford’s second-half defensive wall stood firm – the Tigers now haven’t conceded a second half four-pointer since Round 3 – led by workhorse Paul McShane, who contributed 57 tackles.
Dragons too hot for Salford
Catalans registered their third straight win at the expense of Salford, 30 points to 14. The French outfit had the match all but sewn up at half time, following a first half double to Matt Whitley and a third to Michael McIlorum. However, Salford hit back early after the break with a superb solo try to fullback Niall Evalds, which also saw in-form Dragons fullback Sam Tomkins sent to the sin bin for a clumsy attempted trip on Evalds.
Tomkins’ afternoon was soon to get worse though, as he later gifted Red Devils winger Ken Sio his second try after inexplicably spilling the ball back infield after narrowly averting a Salford 40/20. Despite posting three straight second-half tries, wayward goal-kicking once again kept Salford just out of striking distance, Tui Lolohea having converted just five of their 16 tries for the season.
Late tries to Fouad Yaha and Lewis Tierney put the result beyond doubt, with Tomkins making up for his earlier indiscretions with a terrific cut-out pass to put Yaha over. The 2019 runners-up Salford have now slumped to their fifth defeat in six outings, and will face another difficult assignment against a red-hot Wigan next round.
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Warriors claim pole position
Wigan surged to outright first on the ladder after downing a plucky Hull KR by 30 points to 16. Despite of their lowly place on the ladder, KR made Wigan work for their win by posting three tries, a feat no other side has managed against Adrian Lam’s side this season.
It was Hull who drew first blood when Ryan Brierley intercepted a Bevan French pass with Wigan on the attack to put debutante Ethan Ryan away. The Warriors struck back with Jackson Hastings and Liam Farrell both showing their strength to power over from close range, before the Rovers drew level when Wigan dynamo Liam Marshall couldn’t handle a Joe Keyes bomb to leave Hull three-quarter Greg Minikin to pounce.
Wigan were back in front on the stroke of half time when French bamboozled Shaun Kenny-Dowall with a huge dummy before powering into the clear to send Hastings over for his second. Despite injuries to Keyes and Will Maher to add to their already lengthy casualty list, Hull refused to lie down, and responded shortly after the break via a 70-metre solo effort from Brierley off another Wigan error. It wouldn’t be enough, though, as Wigan powered away with tries to Sam Powell and Liam Marshall to take the contest out of Hull’s reach.
His side might be struggling, but former Knights winger Ken Sio has been one of Salford’s standout performers, scoring a double against Catalans to give him four in his last two appearances, and six for the season. The Devils flanker is also averaging over 100 metres a game and has an impressive ten line breaks for the season.
In opposition on Saturday was ex-Storm wrecking ball Sam Kasiano, who was a force to be reckoned with off the bench for Catalans as he racked up 166 metres at 13 metres a run.
Konrad Hurrell was a constant handful against the Wolfpack, as he contributed a try, an assist and two line breaks to Leeds’ effort, while teammate Robert Lui added 122 metres and three line breaks to his try-scoring double in what was an emphatic display from the former Cowboy.
Meanwhile, Blake Austin rebounded for Warrington after a disappointing outing against Leeds last week, and composed himself to kick the winning point after coming agonisingly close with an earlier attempt. Austin and Gareth Widdop looked increasingly settled in the halves while Austin’s kicking game was also much more threatening.
Player to watch
He might have had a couple of moments to forget on Saturday, but Sam Tomkins has been running riot for Catalans of late. His electric running from fullback, which produced 134 metres against Salford, gives an already star-studded Dragons line-up an extra bit of flair and another ball-playing option to James Maloney and Josh Drinkwater. His cut-out ball to put Yaha over in the corner was his fourth try assist in just four games, along with four tries of his own and nine line breaks, an average of over two per game.