Thursday, 4 December 2014

Young Warriors Undone By Australian Schoolboys

Just over two months ago, the Wigan U19s claimed Grand Final glory but their 2014 saw an extension as they hosted the touring Australian Schoolboys.

The young Warriors debuted their brand new Academy kit but sadly were unable to make a winning start in the 2015 shirt after a superb second half fight back from the Aussies who used the power of their bench to claim the victory.

Both sides started the game well with the first try coming in the 10th minute as Connor Cox crossed for the visitors with Brock Lamb converting for a 6-0 lead which was superbly cancelled out in the 21st minute by Jamie Doran who dummied before crossing for a clever try with Jake Shorrocks converting to level at 6-6.

Wigan took the lead just four minutes later as Oliver Gildart warmed up for the international double header against the Aussies with a try which was converted by Jake Shorrocks for a 12-6 lead which improved to 16-6 in the 35th minute after Josh Woods scored a try with his first touch after coming off the bench and Jake Shorrocks narrowly missed the conversion attempt.

However, the Wigan kicker made amends with two minutes of the half remaining as he converted a penalty goal for a 18-6 lead into the interval but the lead remained intact in the first 15 minutes of the first half as both sides seemed evenly matched.

Latrell Mitchell reduced he deficit for the visitors with a try in the 56th minute which was followed by Brock Lamb's conversion for 18-12 before a mass brawl saw both sides disciplined on the hour, Macauley Davies and Tevita Cottrell were both sent off while Jacob Liddle was sent to the sin bin leaving the Aussie's down to 11 men.

However, the numerical disadvantage didn't seem to affect the tourists who drew level just three minutes later with a try from Keegan Yorsten with Brock Lamb's conversion levelling the score at 18-18 before the tourists went ahead four minutes later with a try from Nat Butcher with Brock Lamb again converting for a 24-18 lead.

Australia's big pack seemed to be proving deadly in the second half and left Wigan depleted by injuries leaving them with limited choices from the bench in the final ten minutes. The Aussie's took advantage with two late tries with Connor Cox's second in the 74th minute followed three minutes later by Tyrell Fuiamono's effort with both converted by Brock Lamb for a final score of 36-18. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

SL KITS

The countdown to the ‘New Era’ of Super League in 2015 is in full swing after a mixed reaction to the fixtures was buoyed by a superb set of kit releases with many sides inspired by historic successes while others have based designs on fan feedback but what do the fans really think?


As a travelling Warrior, I get to see a lot of the kits and this season looks to be a really good year overall but there are some designs that really bring to mind the phrase ‘What were they thinking?’

Castleford Tigers


After a superb season in 2014, Castleford have announced their home and away kits which will hopefully spur them on to another good season in 2015 with new partner XBlades producing both shirts.
Home- A primarily orange design featuring a black Vee looks very good and works well with the main sponsor logo of CBR Engineering so in my view, XBlades have made a very good debut with this incarnation.8/10


Away- A striped design featuring orange and white works well with the club logo and the nicely positioned logo of main sponsor CBR Engineering enhances the look of the shirt with the black trim adding a good effect down the sides of the stripes. 8/10



Catalan Dragons 


Catalan have continued their trend of a treble reveal with a home/away/cup reveal with all three inspired by their historic formation and the celebration of 10 years as a Super League team. 


Home- A sleek design inspired by the XIII Catalan side that spearheaded the merger in 2000 featuring a red/yellow chevron that fits well with the club logo. The primary white looks good for now but in time will surely be dominated by the muddy conditions of Super League 2015. 8/10


Away- Alike fellow Catalan side FC Barcelona, a superbly colourful design that has been inspired by St Estève who in merging with XIII Catalan resulted in Union Treiziste Catalane. The inclusion of a yellow chevron makes the shirt look even better and will be one to look out for when the Dragons travel. 10/10


Cup-  A somewhat strange design which seems to have no clearly announced inspiration will be used in the Challenge Cup in 2015 and on first impression, the tapestry detail is nice but could be compared to the hallowed grey kit of Manchester United which caused confusion between players so the jury is out on this one I feel. 6/10
 
 
Huddersfield Giants

Huddersfield have been criticised for a number of releases in the past so with the announcement of both home and away kits, of course the critics of the past will look to dampen the joy of the reveals.
Home- A design of claret and gold inspired by the club logo which as a result blends in a bit too much and suffers with the somewhat lack of symmetry with the main sponsor Bond IT which would look better even if only the white background was extended to match the stripes.  5/10.

Away- A nice purple design which works well and coupled with the white stripes ironically bonds well with the main sponsor logo which looks more prominent than its primary partner and could prove that the alternate sells better than the primary shirt. 8/10



Hull FC


Hull FC have got one over their fierce city rivals again with the announcement of both home and away kits with each having a special story behind them ahead of a season that could be a truly new era for the Black and Whites.


Home- A design that reverts back to the famous black and white hoops is inspired by the clubs 150th anniversary with a special HullFC150 crest featuring proudly on the shirt and is a fitting tribute to previous incarnations of the kit including the famous 1982 Challenge Cup triumph.  8/10


Away- A wonderfully colourful purple design which draws on the history of the club but most fittingly the focus has to be on the inclusion of club legend Steve Prescott with the Steve Prescott Foundation being carried on the shirt in place of a sponsor which is an amazing gesture and adds to what is a superb shirt. 10/10

Hull Kingston Rovers


Hull Kingston Rovers at present have a single reveal in the form of their home with their away kit due to be revealed tomorrow night (27th Nov) but have continued a rich heritage of stylish designs in their primary reveal.


Home- A striking red base is coupled well with the blue of club sponsor Clearsky and gives the shirt a really bright influence which is inspired by the 1882 Hull Kingston Amateurs along with the famous double winning side of 1983/84.8/10


Away- A design inspired by the City of Culture in 2017 which can be seen inthe colour scheme, the shirt looks good with the use of white working well with the KR logo. 8/10.



Leeds Rhinos

Leeds at present have only announced their home kit with no currently released information concerning the away reveal but the single reveal has so far seen a good reaction from the Rhinos' faithful.

Home- A design with a modern twist on traditional incarnations of the shirt sees the classic blue and yellow maintained but with a new design for main sponsor Leeds Building Society on a dark background. The change is good in my view as being one of few clubs to remain with ISC, this is a good design overall. 8/10

Away-A new-look design featuring naby/ocean stripes includes the new Leeds Building Society logo which is accompanied by a special Jamie Peacock logo in tribute to his final season with £1 from each sale donated to his testimonial fund. A nice looking kit overall but the lack of traditional yellow dents the rating a touch. 7/10





Salford Red Devils

After a debut season since their re-branding, Salford have changed even further with the acquisition of a new kit partner in Under Armour who have a good reputation in both football and rugby union.

Home- A nice design overall surely inspired by the club logo with the colours of red and black very prominent, the detail looks good and the clear display of main sponsor Lowry Outlet is nice. However this kit suffers hugely in my view because of one word - Salford, not one mention of the city itself is on the shirt and it dampens the rating in my opinion. 7/10

Away- A similar design to its primary partner, the alternate kit features a black and grey scheme accompanied by a gold star which sits prominently above the main sponsor logo but of course the lack of any mention of the city is a negative for me. 7/10 



St Helens


Ahead of a season as defending champions, St Helens have revealed home and away kits with striking differences but with some traditional kept intact.


Home- A design that sees the return of a deep ‘Red Vee’ featuring main sponsor Typhoo prominently and including Roofing Consultants at the tip of the Vee which goes well with the club logo makes for a good debut for O’Neills who have taken over from ISC as the manufacturer. 8/10


Away A design with a sky blue base which blends well with the textured black featured in a small chevron of which the size makes the shirt looks inferior to its primary partner and despite the prominence of sponsor Typhoo just doesn’t look right to me. 7/10
  

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 

Wakefield will look to mount a challenge on the top eight next season and will do so with two fairly similar designs in the home and away kits. 
Home- A design surely inspired by the club logo with the red and blue stripes accompanying the logo with a white and grey background featuring trinity fleur-de-lis which can be seen on the club logo but the pattern just looks strange and as a result dampens what is otherwise a good design. 5/10

Away- A slightly different design to its primary partner with the blue looking quite nice alongside a more prominent main sponsor logo for Plumbcare.com which stands out well, trinity fleur-de-lis design actually looks nice on this shirt which makes the colour choice a good decision. 8/10




Warrington Wolves


Warrington have announced both home and away kits with a similar design but one which is synonymous with the club and will hopefully go down well with the Wolves faithful.


Home- A striking design featuring primrose and blue horizontal stripes accompanied by a very prominent sponsor in the form of Fly Emirates links well with the club logo with the only negative being the varies size of the stripes. 8/10


Away- Another striking design with a prominence of primrose which features a blue chevron which works well with the club logo but the sponsor being somewhat put aside dampens compared to its prominence on the home shirt dampens the rating a touch. 7/10

Widnes Vikings
Widnes at present have announced just their principal kit with their new home shirt manufactured by O'Neills who are in the sixth mseason of a partnership with the club.
Home- A design that features a lime green trim alongside the Viking 'V' which has become synonymous with the club since their 2012 Super League return works well with the traditional black and white colours and the addition of main sponsor The Parcel Centre makes the shirt look even better. 9/10.

Away- Launched with the tag 'Fear it', a striking black design features a new sponsor in the form of Electrod UK Ltd with their bolt logo featured prominently aside a flash of electric pink which looks really good. 9/10



Wigan Warriors

Last but by no means least in this review, Wigan have announced two of a trio of potential kits with the home and a first ever Academy kits announced with the away reveal likely to be in the next few days and all three will be produced by new kit partner Errea after the partnership with ISC ended.

Home- A sleek design inspired by the 50 year anniversary of the 1965 Challenge Cup triumph over Hunslet regarded as one of the best finals of all time, Errea have debuted in style with narrow cherry and white hoops featuring the Wigan crest on a black patch and accompanied by a black collar which has gone down very well with the Warriors' faithful after 2014's poor showing. 10/10.

Academy- For the first time in their history, Wigan have revealed a specific kit just for the Academy and the design is a superb one, so good some fans have preferred it to the principal kit. The shirt features an abstract cherry and white hoop with red sleeves accompanied by a white panels and a very prominent logo for main sponsor Morris e3Quality Bakers. 10/10.

Away- A unique design that signals the club's return to black is accomapnied by vibrant splashes of cherry and white and features a well placed castle taken from the club crest. At first, the shirt seemed ok but on closer view it does look really good and coupled with the clubs other releases will empty the pockets of the Warriors' faithful. 9/10


Overall, a really good set of kits that will feature prominently in the 2015 season and match well with the 'New Era' slogan but I have given my views, what are yours?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Flower Sees Red In Saints Triumph

In what was to be the last Super League Grand Final of the current structure, League Leaders Shield winners St Helens and reigning champions Wigan met in an 80 minute face-off that will go down in history for its negatives rather than positives.

Wigan suffered a pre-match blow with the news that influential hooker Michael McIlorum would not be risked due to an eye injury suffered in the semi-final which meant Sam Powell took his place in the starting 13 and George Williams was named on the bench.

A superb programme of entertainment featuring James performing a set of hits including the memorable 'Sit Down' and the singing of Jerusalem by Laura Wright got the Old Trafford crowd into a buoyant mood ahead what would hopefully be a fantastic 80 minute chase for the right to be First Utility Super League Champions.

St Helens kicked off the game to a roar from the entire crowd and Wigan looked to make an instant impact with their first set which to their joy was extended after a high tackle resulted in a penalty against the Saints.

Wigan pushed on and kicked on the final drive but from there all hell broke loose as despite Dom Crosby claiming the ball, Ben Flower reacted to a forearm hit from Lance Hohaia with a thunderous punch before horrifically delivering a second blow to the Saints halfback who lay flat on the ground. 

A brawl ensued between the sides which Phil Bentham calmed before dismissing the Wigan prop with a red card leaving Wigan with the mighty task of playing 78 minutes with only 12 men and meant the Welshman became the first player to be dismissed in Grand Final history.

St Helens had to replace the injured Hohaia instantly as they looked to punish Wigan's indiscipline and despite being unable to find an end product they got a bit of luck after Matt Bowen knocked on after failing to collect the Saints attacking kick.

Wigan soon regained possession and looked to threaten the Saints defence and despite being a man down, they found space on the right with Anthony Gelling offloading to Josh Charnley who raced over halfway before being caught by the Saints chase. The Warriors continued to mount attacks and in the 15th minute after Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook blocked Dan Sarginson in a tackle, Wigan were awarded a penalty which Matty Smith elected to kick at goal and did so successfully for a 2-0 lead. 

St Helens looked to respond but wasted the efforts of a good passing set by committing a crossing offence before regaining the ball after Anthony Gelling spilled the ball on Wigan's final drive which allowed Adam Swift to race down the field before a mix of fumbles near the touchline saw St Helens benefit from a Wigan knock-on with a scrum which became a penalty after lying on in the tackle from Wigan. 

Saints elected to go for goal with Mark Percival kicking through the posts to level the score at 2-2 but St Helens looked to have gone ahead in the 38th minute when a melee near the Wigan line saw Phil Bentham go to the screen for a possible try among some confusion. After a replay, Ben Thaler deemed that the Saints player had been tackled into touch before offloading meaning a no try decision.

Wigan used the near try scare to their advantage and with just 34 seconds left of the first half, they regained the lead as a superb pass from Blake Green found the arms of Joe Burgess who crossed for a try to the joy of the ecstatic Warriors fans who applauded their charges into the interval despite a missed conversion from Matty Smith at 6-2. 

The second half began with St Helens looking to draw level but it was Wigan who came the closest with Matt Bowen just inches from touching down on the Saints line in the 45th minute but the Warriors fullback made a huge error at the other end which went unpunished thanks to an error from St Helens in the resulting set which regained possession for the Warriors.

However, Eddy Pettybourne knocked on in his own half and Saints took advantage with Sia Soliola collecting a pass from James Roby to cross for a try which was awarded after a video review as he had scored despite huge pressure from the Wigan defenders. Mark Percival converted and St Helens led 8-6.

Wigan came achingly close to reducing the deficit just minutes later as a stunning run from Liam Farrell put the Warriors in a great position but from the next drive, Matt Bowen's failed offload near the try line saw the move break down. 

Wigan had another good chance just after the hour mark when a clever dash from Joe Burgess saw them gain a penalty which Matty Smith missed poorly and failed to even kick dead which gave Saints possession. St Helens' attacking soon paid off as a high kick from Paul Wellens found the grasp of Tommy Makinson who touched down near the posts giving Mark Percival a good angle to convert which saw the lead extended to 14-6.

A short kick-off from the Warriors paid off and they attacked the Saints line but wasted the chance to score when Anthony Gelling lost the ball giving Saints possession. Wigan made two late interchanges with Sam Powell and Tony Clubb replaced by George Williams and Eddy Pettybourne and one last charge saw Sia Soliola collect the ball in-goal subsequent to a challenge from John Bateman which proved to be the last meaningful action.

The final hooter bellowed and St Helens celebrated a first Super League title in eight years since their 2006 triumph while Wigan were left to reflect on a battling performance with 12 men for 78 minutes where they were still in the game until the last ten minutes but just fell short.

The game should be remembered for Saints ending a run of five successive Grand Final defeats but will ultimately be thought of as the Grand Final where Ben Flower saw red in horrific circumstances.

A bad end to what has been a good season for Wigan despite losing their grasp on the trophies won in 2013, finishing second in the regular season and Grand Final coupled with a harrowing World Club Challenge will be a good learning curve for a side with a good future ahead.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Grand Final Derby Day

It is hard to believe that five seasons ago when I attended my first Grand Final to watch Wigan triumph over St Helens in 2010, that it would take another four years until the fierce rivals faced off at Old Trafford again.

However, two superb season runs from the Saints and the Warriors have seen them both defy lengthy injury lists and media put-downs to secure a place in tonight's season-ending showpiece at the Theatre of Dreams. A name very apt for some of the players who will take to the field tonight namely the rookie Wigan winger Joe Burgess who is set to record one of the best ever debut seasons in Super League.

Unlucky to miss out on the shortlist for the Young Player of the Year award, the pacy winger has played and scored in the World Club Challenge, Super League, Challenge Cup and the U19s Academy and will be odds on to repeat the feat in tonight's Grand Final. Wigan will also look to power forward with Burgess' fellow winger Josh Charnley who after a stunning 2013, stuttered early in 2014 before a superb scoring spree in the back end of the season.

Speaking of wingers, St Helens also have duo of a young pacy try scorers who could become heroes tonight in the form of Tommy Makinson who has set the league alight with his unique scoring technique of a dive and single-handed touchdown and Adam Swift whose dashing runs have saw him rip through several Super League defences in devastating style.

Given their recent form, Wigan are firm favourites to retain their title as they come into the match on the back of four consecutive wins all against sides in the top five with victories over Leeds and Huddersfield coupled with a double triumph over last season's Grand Final opponents Warrington which saw a last-gasp Joe Burgess try seal a 16-12 win in last Friday's qualifying semi final.

St Helens despite claiming the League Leaders Shield go into tonight's final in mixed form with three wins from their last five games with defeats to Warrington and Huddersfield ending their regular season before they bounced back with play-off wins over Castleford and Catalans with the Saints securing their place at Old Trafford with a 30-12 triumph over the Dragons.

Aside from the wing quarter mentioned above the ones to watch for each side cannot go much further than opposing hooker's James Roby and Michael McIlorum both of whom have the passion of the sides fierce rivalry pumping in their blood. Roby was unlucky to miss out on the inaugural Steve Prescott Man of Steel award and would not have been undeserving had he claimed the accolade as he has carried St Helens through good and bad for a long time and especially important this season and could be a good tip to secure the Harry Sunderland trophy for man of the match tonight.

Micheal McIlorum despite not always standing out from the crowd has also been influential this season as after suffering a broken arm in the summer, he bounced back and fired Wigan through a thunderous run of tough games which ended with him coming out battered an bruised last Friday after the win over Warrington. McIlorum's passion and 'hatred' for St Helens has been plain to see in recent years with two notable sendings off against the Saints coming in the 2011 Magic Weekend brawl and a disappointing dismissal in the final regular season game of 2012 at the DW Stadium but his passion could be a huge factor in sealing the title for the Warriors.

Should the game be a close one the kicking skills of former Saints but current Warriors  halfback Matty Smith and Saints centre Mark Percival could be vital with the former kicking 96 goals this season but sadly missing 42. Due to the injury to first and second choice kickers Luke Walsh and Jonny Lomax, Mark Percival has deputised well with 34 goals with only 11 missed so both will have to shrug off the negative kicks in order to fire their respective teams to victory.


St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Dawson, Richards, Thompson.
Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, L. Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hughes, McIlorum, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Tomkins.

Although this is my final preview of the season and I usually make an impartial decision on the result this one has to come from the heart and I tip the Warriors to secure back to back titles so St Helens 18 Wigan 30.




Thursday, 9 October 2014

Derby Duo Setup Old Trafford Clash

After what has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable Super League seasons of all time, the final chase for Old Trafford saw the excitement continue but the unpredictability end as both favourites secured their place at the season-ending showpiece.


Saints Extinguish Fiery Dragons

St Helens will grace Old Trafford for the first time since 2011 after they cruised to a 30-12 win at home to a Catalan Dragons side that just fell one game short of a perfect end to the season.

The hosts could have gone ahead inside nine minutes when they elected to kick for goal from a well positioned penalty but Mark Percival's effort missed the target keeping the score at 0-0. Catalan used the near-miss as wake-up call which proved effective as Morgan Escare crossed for a try in the 22nd minute which was awarded prior to a video review and Thomas Bosc converted for a 6-0 lead.

St Helens looked to have made a rapid response as Jordan Turner crossed for a try and after a video review saw the try awarded, Mark Percival converted to level the score at 6-6 before the Saints took the lead with just two minutes left of the first half as Adam Swift dashed through the Dragons defence for a try which was eventually given after a video review with Mark Percival's conversion ensuring a 12-6 lead at the interval.

Catalan fell further behind just seven minutes into the second half as Willie Manu crossed for a try which Mark Percival converted for 18-6 and meant Catalan would need to score next to have any hopes of reaching a first Grand Final.

However, St Helens were awarded a penalty in the 55th minute and wary of a potential Dragons fight back they elected to go for goal with Mark Percival successfully opening up a 20-6 lead before two tries in the space of four minutes for the Saints all but wrapped up the win.

Mose Masoe powered over for a try on the hour before Mark Percival converted and then ran in for a try of his own before failing to convert his own try at 30-6. Catalan responded in the 68th minute with a try from Micheal Oldfield with Thomas Bosc converting for 30-12.

The Dragons battled for a third try but were denied by a resolute Saints defence thus ending the Dragons superb play-off run and confirming St Helens participation in the Grand Final.
 
Destination Old Trafford for Wigan

After watching St Helens seal their place in the Grand Final the previous evening, Wigan and Warrington faced off knowing only one of them would have the chance to grace Old Trafford on October 11th.

Both sides made a good start in completing their opening sets but after a superb run from Matt Bowen, Wigan were awarded a penalty in a great position and elected to kick at goal with Matty Smith successful in the sixth minute to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.

Wigan could have extended the lead in the 12th minute when a clever high kick from Blake Green came achingly close to finding Joe Burgess out on the wing for a try but just seconds later Wigan did cross for a try, or so they thought as Liam Farrell looked to have scored under pressure. However, the try was chalked off after a video review as the Wigan forward had been held-up.

Warrington came close to scoring after they sent a dangerous kick into the Wigan in-goal area but to no avail and from the next set, Wigan increased their lead as a stellar run from Blake Green saw him offload to Joel Tomkins who powered over the line for a try with Matty Smith adding a successful conversion for 8-0.

Wigan defended well to stop Warrington from reducing the deficit as Rhys Evans was tackled into touch just metres from the Wigan line on the half hour mark with the Wolves changing their setup as Chris Bridge went off injured with fullback Matty Russell entering in his place.

Warrington did reduce the deficit with just four minutes left of the first 40 as a lucky bounce off the head of Ben Currie saw the Wolves force a goal-line dropout which resulted in a fine passing play that saw Joel Monaghan touch down for a try with Stefan Ratchford unable to convert at 8-4.

Wigan looked to have regained their eight point lead in the final seconds of the first half as a forward pass from Matty Russell saw Wigan take possession and a clever kick forward saw Josh Charnley collect before crossing for a try which was chalked off after a video review.

Recent meetings between the sides had seen a Warrington/Wigan split across the halves so with Wigan having lit up the first 40, it was no surprise that Warrington started the second half the better. A clever high kick from Gareth O'Brien fooled Matt Bowen who allowed the ball to bounce and saw O'Brien collect to cross for an easy try which the Warrington man converted for 10-8.

Wigan regained the lead in the 54th minute as a superb passing set saw the ball reach Anthony Gelling on the right side with the Wigan centre racing towards the Warrington line before crossing for a try in front of a joyous South Stand but a failure to convert from Matty Smith left the score at 12-10.

However, Warrington levelled in the 65th minute as Stefan Ratchford elected to kick for goal from a well positioned penalty and did so successfully for 12-12 to set up a tense last 15 minutes which began with Matty Smith missing with a drop goal attempt as Wigan looked to edge ahead.

Warrington threatened the Wigan defence in the 72nd minute but a misjudged move saw them penalised for crossing as Wigan breathed a sigh of relief with the Warriors attempting another drop goal via Matty Smith from the next set but sadly he missed to leave the tie at 12-12 with six minutes remaining.

Sam Powell's knock-on gave Warrington great field position and on the last drive, Richie Myler attempted a drop goal only to see it head horribly wide of the posts. Wigan utilised the next set to threaten the Warrington defence as a dash from Anthony Gelling out them in a great position which resulted in a pass out wide to Dan Sarginson who crossed for a try.

The try was chalked off after a video review as the game entered the final minutes and in true play-off fashion, Wigan secured the victory in the final minute as a superb pass out wide from Sean O'Loughlin found Joe Burgess who battled over the line to a raucous celebration from the home crowd whose joy was not dampened by the resulting missed conversion from Matt Bowen with 45 seconds remaining.

Warrington took a short kick-off but were unable to fashion an end product in the final seconds as Wigan celebrated a superbly hard-fought victory that sends them to Old Trafford for the third time in five seasons and puts them just one win away from retaining their Super League crown.


 


Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Young Warriors Retain Academy Title

After reaching the Grand Final the hard way with wins over Hull KR, Leeds and St Helens, Wigan U19s travelled to face League Leaders Warrington U19s at the Halliwell Jones Stadium looking for their sixth title in seven years.

Wigan made a near perfect start as they raced into an 8-0 lead inside nine minutes with tries from Lewis Tierney and Oliver Gildart but tough angles for both scores meant Ryan Hampshire was unable to convert either effort.  Warrington looked to mount a response but left themselves open to two further tries from the Warriors.

Liam Marshall crossed for a try in the 21st minute which Ryan Hampshire successfully converted for 12-0 before Brad Lawrence crossed for the Warriors fourth try of the afternoon on the half hour mark and despite Hampshire being unable to convert, Wigan led 18-0.

Warrington ensured they would avoid a first half nilling as they scored in the 39th minute with an effort from Joe Philbin but Harvey Livett was unable to convert making the half-time score 18-4 to Wigan who made a superb start to the second half with a second try for Lewis Tierney with Ryan Hampshire converting for 24-4.

Warrington had a mountain to climb to prevent Wigan from retaining their title and the fightback began just three minutes later as Joe Philbin crossed for his second try of the game with Harvey Livett converting for 24-10.

The Wolves continued their charge with a try in the 61st minute as Joe Philbin completed his hat-trick and with Harvey Livett converting, Wigan's lead was cut to eight points at 24-16. Wigan were limited to a few attacks as Warrington's pressure forced them to defend well but they were carved open in the 73rd minute as Jack Johnson crossed for a try and with Harvey Livett converting, the sides were just two points apart at 24-22.

Wigan held the Warrington charge off in the final minutes and a frantic set near their own line nearly allowed Warrington to intercept but the Warriors held on and at the final whistle celebrated a hard fought win that means they retain their title and win their sixth in seven years.


Destination Old Trafford For Wigan

After watching St Helens seal their place in the Grand Final the previous evening, Wigan and Warrington faced off knowing only one of them would have the chance to grace Old Trafford on October 11th.

Both sides made a good start in completing their opening sets but after a superb run from Matt Bowen, Wigan were awarded a penalty in a great position and elected to kick at goal with Matty Smith successful in the sixth minute to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.

Wigan could have extended the lead in the 12th minute when a clever high kick from Blake Green came achingly close to finding Joe Burgess out on the wing for a try but just seconds later Wigan did cross for a try, or so they thought as Liam Farrell looked to have scored under pressure. However, the try was chalked off after a video review as the Wigan forward had been held-up.

Warrington came close to scoring after they sent a dangerous kick into the Wigan in-goal area but to no avail and from the next set, Wigan increased their lead as a stellar run from Blake Green saw him offload to Joel Tomkins who powered over the line for a try with Matty Smith adding a successful conversion for 8-0.

Wigan defended well to stop Warrington from reducing the deficit as Rhys Evans was tackled into touch just metres from the Wigan line on the half hour mark with the Wolves changing their setup as Chris Bridge went off injured with fullback Matty Russell entering in his place.

Warrington did reduce the deficit with just four minutes left of the first 40 as a lucky bounce off the head of Ben Currie saw the Wolves force a goal-line dropout which resulted in a fine passing play that saw Joel Monaghan touch down for a try with Stefan Ratchford unable to convert at 8-4.

Wigan looked to have regained their eight point lead in the final seconds of the first half as a forward pass from Matty Russell saw Wigan take possession and a clever kick forward saw Josh Charnley collect before crossing for a try which was chalked off after a video review.

Recent meetings between the sides had seen a Warrington/Wigan split across the halves so with Wigan having lit up the first 40, it was no surprise that Warrington started the second half the better. A clever high kick from Gareth O'Brien fooled Matt Bowen who allowed the ball to bounce and saw O'Brien collect to cross for an easy try which the Warrington man converted for 10-8.

Wigan regained the lead in the 54th minute as a superb passing set saw the ball reach Anthony Gelling on the right side with the Wigan centre racing towards the Warrington line before crossing for a try in front of a joyous South Stand but a failure to convert from Matty Smith left the score at 12-10.

However, Warrington levelled in the 65th minute as Stefan Ratchford elected to kick for goal from a well positioned penalty and did so successfully for 12-12 to set up a tense last 15 minutes which began with Matty Smith missing with a drop goal attempt as Wigan looked to edge ahead.

Warrington threatened the Wigan defence in the 72nd minute but a misjudged move saw them penalised for crossing as Wigan breathed a sigh of relief with the Warriors attempting another drop goal via Matty Smith from the next set but sadly he missed to leave the tie at 12-12 with six minutes remaining.

Sam Powell's knock-on gave Warrington great field position and on the last drive, Richie Myler attempted a drop goal only to see it head horribly wide of the posts. Wigan utilised the next set to threaten the Warrington defence as a dash from Anthony Gelling out them in a great position which resulted in a pass out wide to Dan Sarginson who crossed for a try.

The try was chalked off after a video review as the game entered the final minutes and in true play-off fashion, Wigan secured the victory in the final minute as a superb pass out wide from Sean O'Loughlin found Joe Burgess who battled over the line to a raucous celebration from the home crowd whose joy was not dampened by the resulting missed conversion from Matt Bowen with 45 seconds remaining.

Warrington took a short kick-off but were unable to fashion an end product in the final seconds as Wigan celebrated a superbly hard-fought victory that sends them to Old Trafford for the third time in five seasons and puts them just one win away from retaining their Super League crown.


Thursday, 2 October 2014

Super League Play Off Semi Finals Preview

"Just one more push, lads" - a quote that four Super League coaches are sure to replicate over the next two nights as the season reaches its penultimate stage with the play off semi finals with League Leaders Shield winners St Helens, Catalan Dragons and last seasons Grand Final pair of Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves competing for a trip to Old Trafford.

Tonight's clash sees table toppers St Helens host surprise package Catalan Dragons after Saints used their Clubcall to avoid Warrington and choose an 'easier' option in the travelling Catalan side.

St Helens will be looking to reach the Grand Final for the first time since their 2011 defeat to Leeds while looking to fix a disastrous record in the showpiece event of five consecutive defeats and go into the sudden death qualifier with three wins in their last five games. The Saints have had the advantage of a week's rest after routing Castleford 41-0 in week one but will be wary of a Catalan side brimming with confidence.

Catalan have defied many odds this year to even to make the play offs having been tipped for relegation after losing each of their five opening games but a superb end to the season has seen them win five consecutive games including dispatching the Yorkshire duo of Leeds (24-20) and Huddersfield (18-16) in the last fortnight.

The sides have a win apiece from their regular season meetings with St Helens winning 40-22 in March before they were humiliated 42-0 in June by a rampant Catalan performance and will be glad to be at home at Langtree Park tonight given Catalan only suffered two defeats in Perpignan across the season.


St Helens are still without the services of star trio Jon Wilkin, Luke Walsh and Jonny Lomax but will be buoyed by the return of Alex Walmsley from suspension while Catalan name an unchanged squad but have a few minor injury doubts.

St Helens : Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Wheeler, Richards, Thompson.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Bousquet, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Williams.

Two main factors could decide this game with a fresh but mixed form St Helens favourites against a tired but in-form Catalan and I will defy the odds and tip the Dragons for success so St Helens 22 Catalan 26.


Tomorrow night sees a repeat of last season's Grand Final as champions Wigan host runners-up Warrington in a clash that many pundits tipped to be this season's Grand Final but sadly for the duo only one will fulfil that vision.

This time last year, Warrington would have been delighted to face Wigan given that they had not suffered defeat to the Warriors since 2010 in the league programme but a superb turnaround in the last 12 months will mean that the Wolves faithful will be the more fearful of the two sets of fans.

Wigan staged a superb comeback from 16-2 down at Old Trafford to stun Warrington with a 30-16 victory, a defeat that Warrington will be keen to avenge should they knock Wigan out of the running tomorrow. However, Wigan secured a league double over Warrington for the first time in 11 years with a battling 12-4 win back in March before securing a 24-20 win at the DW Stadium just three weeks ago.

Ironically both sides go into the game with three wins and a draw from their last five games with the only differences being Wigan winning their last three and Warrington victorious in their last two after the Wolves lost to the Warriors on September 11th.

Wigan have a three game winning streak over Warringto with the Wolves last joy coming in a 22-12 victory last June so it is no surprise that Wigan are favourites to secure a second consecutive trip to Old Trafford.

Wigan include Scott Taylor in place of Gil Dudson in an otherwise unchanged 19 while Warrington include Matty Russell who will face a late fitness check with Stefan Ratchford likely to resume at fullback should Russell miss out with Ben Westwood and Simon Grix still sidelined.


Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, L. Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hughes, McIlorum, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Tomkins.
Warrington Wolves: Asotasi, Atkins, C. Bridge, Currie, England, B. Evans, R. Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J. Monaghan, M. Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ratchford, Russell, Waterhouse, Wood.

Usually bias is cast aside but at this stage of the season, my Warrior soul shines through and I hope to be booking tickets for Old Trafford after a Wigan win so Wigan 24 Warrington 22. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Young Warriors Rout Derby Rivals

After securing a 26-12 win over Leeds in the previous play off eliminator, Wigan made the short trip to fierce rivals St Helens in the Grand Final qualifer where table topping Warrington await the winners on October 4th.

Both sides named strong squads and with many of the starters having made their senior debuts this season for their respective sides this was the chance to prove themselves and maybe book a place in two prospective grand final lineups.

The sides had both won away in the regular season so the onus was on the Warriors to continue the rend and put themselves just one win away from retaining their Academy crown from 2013 but their hopes suffered an early blow as Matty Fozzard crossed for the Saints opening try in the seventh minute with Lewis Charnock converting for 6-0.

Matty Fleming added a second try for the hosts in the 19th minute with Lewis Charnock again successful with the conversion as St Helens opened up a 12-0 lead but Wigan fought back superbly with the foundations of a comeback laid in the 28th minute with a try from Liam Forsyth with Ryan Hampshire converting for 12-6.

Liam Forsyth crossed for a second try just six minutes later and Ryan Hampshire was on hand to convert yet again to level the score at 12-1 before the Warriors completed their stellar comeback with just three minutes left of the first half as Grant Beecham touched down for a try which with Ryan Hampshire's third successful conversion gave the Warriors an 18-12 lead at the interval.

Wigan continued their scoring spree with just two minutes played in the second half as Liam Marshall raced through the Saints defence and crossed for a try which Ryan Hampshire converted for a 24-12 lead and the Warriors took control of tie tie just four minutes later. Lewis Tierney broke through the St Helens defence for a try and despite a tough angle Ryan Hampshire converted for 30-12.

St Helens had to score next to have any hope of staging a comeback but the next score came for Wigan who used a well positioned penalty to allow Ryan Hampshire to pick out Liam Marshall for his second try of the afternoon with a tough angle resulting in Ryan Hampshire's first miss of the game at 34-12.

The win and a place in the Grand Final against Warrington was a certainty in the 68th minute as Lewis Tierney secured his second effort of the game and despite Ryan Hampshire missing a second consecutive conversion at 38-12, Wigan were comfortable.

St Helens did have the last say on the scoreboard in the 75th minute as Lewis Galbraith crossed for a try which Dave Miller converted successfully for a final score of 38-18 which sets up a Wigan/Warrington double this weekend. The senior sides will face off at the DW on Friday with the Academy Grand Final taking place at the Halliwell Jones on Saturday.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Giants Lit Up By Fiery Dragons


After the shock exit of Leeds in week one of the play offs, fellow Yorkshire duo Huddersfield and Castleford looked to keep up the hopes of an all-Yorkshire Grand Final as they hosted Catalan and Warrington in week two.

The league standings suggested a final four of first, second, third and fourth was on the cards but continuing the trend of what has been a truly unpredictable season there was a chance for both fifth and seventh to defy the odds and put themselves just one win away from a dream ticket to Old Trafford.


Wolves End Tigers Fairytale

After suffering a 41-0 humiliation to St Helens in week one, Castleford's second chance in the play offs saw them host Warrington who qualified for week two with a 22-19 win over Widnes.

Warrington went into the game with hopes of taking the next step towards a third consecutive Grand Final and began that journey superbly with a fourth minute try from Ryan Atkins which Stefan Ratchford converted for a 6-0 lead.

Castleford bounced back in the 24th minute with a try from Jamie Ellis but surprisingly their efficient goal kicker Marc Sneyd missed the resulting conversion attempt at 6-4 but after missing the chance to level, Castleford fell further behind within three minutes as Joel Monaghan crossed for a try for the Wolves who led 10-4 despite Stefan Ratchford's failure to convert.

Warrington increased their lead to eight points with a Stefan Ratchford penalty goal in the 52nd minute with Castleford responding with a try from Luke Dorn just five minutes later and this time around, Marc Sneyd converted successfully to reduced the deficit to two at 12-10.

However, Warrington regained their eight point lead in a clinical fashion with two tries in the space of four minutes as Gareth O'Brien and Rhys Evans both registered efforts with Stefan Ratchford converting once from two attempts for 22-10.

Stefan Ratchford increased his personal tally to eight with a second penalty goal in the 71st minute for 24-10 and surely secured a place in week three with only nine minutes remaining but Warrington made the victory certain just two minutes later with a second try of the evening for Joel Monaghan and with Stefan Ratchford's conversion, they led 30-10.

The Wolves did have a negative ending to a great win though as Rhys Evans was sent to the sin bin in the 75th minute and Castleford took of having an extra man as Micheal Shenton crossed for a try just a minute later but Marc Sneyd was unable to convert leaving the final score at 30-14. A correct result and not far off with the prediction of 24-20 to Warrington.

Giants Lit Up By Fiery Dragons

After a 57-4 mauling away to Wigan in week one, Huddersfield's second chance saw them host a Catalan side who stunned Leeds 24-20 with a last-gasp win.

The pre-match for the game was far from ideal for both sides as a major power failure at John Smith's Stadium left half of the pitch in darkness but a decision was made to allow the game ahead with hopes the lighting would eventually reach full capacity.

Huddersfield have a poor record in the play offs and their nerves looked to have cost them from the kick off as Michael Oldfield looked to have opened the scoring in the Dragons first set but after a video review it was deemed that Jodie Broughton had prevented the Dragons winger from grounding the ball.

The Giants shook off the early scare and opened the scoring in the fourth minute with Jodie Broughton crossing for a superb try which Danny Brough was unable to convert at 4-0 but Catalan fought back and drew level in the 12th minute with an effort from Darryl Millard with a tough conversion attempt missed by Thomas Bosc at 4-4.

Catalan looked to have gone ahead from the restart as Ben Pomeroy crossed for a try after a stellar back-handed pass from Elliot Whitehead but after a video review the try was chalked off for a knock-on in the build up.

The Dragons did go in front in the 20th minute as Michael Oldfield crossed for a try which was successfully converted by Thomas Bosc for a 10-4 lead but Huddersfield responded well and drew level in the 27th minute with Aaron Murphy's effort converted by Danny Brough for 10-10.

Huddersfield looked to have gone ahead just four minutes into the second half as Broughton broke through the Dragons defence to go over for a try but after a video review the effort was chalked off due an obstruction in the build-up.

Catalan were awarded a penalty just two minutes later and wary of the Giants attack, they elected to go for goal with Thomas Bosc converting successfully for a slim 12-10 lead. Video reviews seemed to be the theme of the evening as another was called for on the hour mark after Luke Robinson looked to have touched down for a try and the score was awarded with Danny Brough converting for 16-12.

Huddersfield have had their share of tight games this season with their 17-16 win over St Helens the most recent example so Catalan had to be wary of a drop goal attempt with as the game entered the final 15 minutes.

However the worry ceased in the 69th minute when Ben Pomeroy touched down to level the score at 16-16 and with huge pressure and a tight angle, Thomas Bosc swept over a superb conversion for 18-16 . Both sides pushed for more points but the final ten minutes saw both the Giants and Dragons defences hold firm.

A final score of 18-16 meant that the Dragons became team from seventh place to reach the last four and put them just one win away from Old Trafford for the first time since 2009 but the task will be a tough one as they were 'clubcalled' by League Leaders Shield winners St Helens. A correct result and not far off with the prediction of 28-24 to Catalan.

As mentioned above St Helens will face Catalan while the other semi final sees a repeat of last season's Grand Final as defending champions Wigan face runners-up Warrington in what will be a second meeting in the space of four weeks.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Super League Play Offs Week Two Preview

After seeing Leeds and Widnes exit the season-extending competition, the quartet of Castleford, Catalan, Huddersfield and Warrington will all be keen to avoid suffering the same fate while the reward for the two victors is a place in the semi-finals away to either St Helens or Wigan.

Tonight sees a fierce tie between Castleford and Warrington in what will be the first ever play-off fixture to be played at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle and given that very fact, Warrington will be favourites for the win having played in two of the last Grand Finals ending both as the runners-up.

Castleford go into the game with just two wins in their last five games and find themselves in week two after a humiliating 41-0 defeat away to League Leaders St Helens who came so close to losing the LLS to the Tigers themselves as a Castleford win in round 27 would have given the Tigers top spot.

Warrington go into the game in decent form with three wins and a draw from their last five games with their only recent blemish being the round 27 defeat away to Wigan and after top four finishes in the last few seasons, playing in week two after win is a strange concept for the Wolves. As mentioned above, they are gunning for a trio of Grand Final appearances and would favour a trip to St Helens over Wigan given their victory at Langtree Park in round 26.

The sides have a win apiece in their two meetings this season with both games won by the hosts with Castleford winning 40-6 back in April and Warrington triumphing 48-10 in August so the omen is with Castleford to continue the trend. Prior to this season, Warrington had won the last three meetings between the sides.

Both sides have named strong squads seemingly unchanged from last week as they look to book their place in the last four and as a result be just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final.

Castleford -Dixon, Shenton, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Wheeldon, Ellis, Channing, Clare, Finn, Jewitt.
Warrington-Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, England, B.Evans, R.Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ormsby, Ratchford, Waterhouse, Wood.

A close game between two very good sides but I see Warrington's knockout experience proving vital so Castleford 20 Warrington 24

Tomorrow's tie sees Huddersfield host Catalan with the Giants having to play in week two for a second year in a row having suffered defeat to Wigan while Catalan stunned Leeds.

Huddersfield go into the game with three wins and a draw from their last five games with the only blemish being last weeks play off defeat at Wigan with the Warriors storming to a 57-4 win which added to the Giants poor run of defeats in knockout games. The Giants are yet to grace a Grand Final and will be keen to put themselves just 80 minutes away with a win.

Catalan are in fine form with four wins in their last five games which includes the last-gasp win over Leeds last week which was the Dragons fist ever triumph at Headingley and given their mixed away form in 2014, it was a double triumph after such a long trip from the south of France.

The sides have a win apiece with each winning when at home with Catalan securing a 30-14 win in Perpignan in March before falling to a 38-16 defeat in July so the omen will be with the Giants to continue the trend but they have also won four of the last five with the March loss the only blemish in the last five meetings between the sides.

Huddersfield are without Scott Grix and Josh Johnson who are replaced in the 19 man squad by Anthony Mullally and Captain Danny Brough while Catalan are unchanged from the win over Leeds.

Huddersfield -Murphy, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Broughton, Brough, Robinson, Kopczak, Lunt, Kaufusi, Ferres, Ta'ai, Bailey, Crabtree, Patrick, Faiumu, Mullally, Lawrence, Connor.
Catalan - Escare, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Bousquet, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Williams. 

A close game and I have a sneaky feeling Catalan will make it two wins in a row in Yorkshire so Huddersfield 24 Catalan 28.