Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Super League Round Eighteen Review

The inaugural 'Eights' of rugby league are just five rounds away as the regular season enters its final quarter with round 18, a sextet of games that could prove vital with all but one seeing teams side by side in the league ladder facing off.

Rhinos Rumbled By Terrific Tigers

The round opened with Thursday's Yorkshire derby in the only split game of the week as table toppers Leeds Rhinos hosted top four hopefuls Castleford Tigers for only the second time since they met in last year's Challenge Cup final.

Castleford made a great start with the opening try on 11 minutes through Grant Millington which Luke Gale converted for 6-0 before a superb effort from Liam Finn just three minutes later saw Gale improve the lead to 12. A third try inside eight minutes saw Michael Shenton put the Tigers in control with Gale on target again for an 18-0 lead that stunned the Rhinos.

Leeds responded with a trio of tries which saw them cut the gap to 18-16 just before the interval as Carl Ablett, Ryan Hall and Adam Cuthbertson all crossed for scores with Liam Sutcliffe converting twice from three attempts.

However, the Leeds charge was halted just five minutes after the restart by a try from the in-form Denny Solomona which Gale converted for 24-16 before Jimmy Keinhorst kept Leeds in the hunt on 57 minutes with sub-kicker Kevin Sinfield converting for 24-22.

Sinfield drew the Rhinos level with nine minutes remaining with a penalty for 24-24, the same scoreline as last season's meeting but wary of an impending draw, Liam Finn swept over a drop goal for 25-24 before Solomona sealed a famous win for the Tigers a minute later with Gale converting for a 31-24 triumph.

Wasteful Warriors Suffer Saints Loss

Friday night featured another derby as second placed St Helens hosted fierce rivals Wigan Warriors with both having eyes on replacing Leeds atop the league ladder.

Wigan made the better start by taking an 11th minute lead through Dan Sarginson with former Saints halfback Matty Smith converting for 6-0 with Saints responding just before the half hour mark through Adam Swift but a failure to convert from Mark Percival saw them remain just behind at 6-4. 

However, they were soon in front as Jordan Turner crossed within three minutes but another failed conversion meant a narrow lead at 8-6. Wigan responded well and just before the interval regained their lead as Joe Burgess raced clear down the wing to cross but the tough angle saw a missed conversion attempt at 10-8.

St Helens fought back just four minutes after the break through Travis Burns with Percival successful for the first time for 14-10 before Joel Tomkins drew Wigan level at 14-14 with Smith missing with the boot. His miss was a costly one as Percival restored the Saints' lead with a penalty just five minutes later. 

Shannon McDonnell extended the lead on 66 minutes with Percival converting for 22-14 before a huge error from Warriors fullback Matty Bowen allowed Jon Wilkin to score for the hosts with another success from Percival making the lead 14 points with 12 minutes remaining. The gloss on the win came three minutes from the end as Percival swept over a penalty for 30-14 to sent the travelling Warriors home disappointed as the Saints move atop the league standings. 

FC Fall Short At Delighted Dragons

Saturday saw a fight between two hopefuls for the Super Eights as Catalans Dragons hosted Hull FC in a clash that could dent or boost both sides chances of qualifying in a close league ladder.

Despite their superb home form, Catalans usually concede before scoring and the trend continued as Jordan Rankin put FC in front inside ten minutes with Marc Sneyd converting for a 6-0 lead. The lead lasted just six minutes as Thomas Bosc crossed for the Dragons and Scott Dureau levelled with the boot for 6-6.

Sneyd regained the lead for FC on the half hour with a penalty for 8-6 but it was soon to be in vain as a four minute double from Tony Gigot and Greg Mouis saw the Dragons move to 18-8 as Dureau improved both efforts for a ten point lead at the interval.

Mark Minichello scored the first points of the second half to close the gap for FC with Sneyd's conversion narrowing the deficit to four points at 18-14 before Dureau sealed the two points for the Dragons with a 72nd minute penalty which confirmed a 20-14 victory.

Glorious Giants Dent Wolves Wishes

Sunday saw a trio of games all of which could prove to be vital to the shape of the table ahead of the next phase with the first featuring top four challengers Huddersfield Giants and Warrington Wolves face-off with hopes of catching the leading trio.

Warrington made a near perfect start with the opening try from Daryl Clark inside four minutes which Gareth O'Brien converted for a 6-0 lead which lasted until the 17th minute when Jake Connor got the Giants on the board with Danny Brough's conversion levelling at 6-6. The Wolves regained the lead with a self converted try from O'Brien on 27 minutes who added a drop goal just before the interval for a 13-6 lead at the break as both sides ended with 12 after a brawl saw Anthony England and Danny Brough sinbinned.

The Giants fought back within four minutes of the restart with a try from Jodie Broughton with Jamie Ellis converting in place of the sinbinned Brough for 13-12 before Ben Harrison restored the Wolves lead with O'Brien converting for 19-12. However, the Giants stormed in front with two tries in five minutes from Jermaine McGillvary and Jared Simpson with the returning Brough converting both for a 24-19 lead. 

As the tie entered the final ten minutes, Jamie Ellis scored back to back drop goals in a three minute period to prevent a potential Wolves score giving them he lead meaning the Giants opened up a seven point gap at 26-19. However, the two points were confirmed with five minutes remaining as McGillvary claimed his second try to secure a 30-19 triumph.

Ruthless Robins Vanquish Vikings

In a battle to avoid the Middle Eights and in turn reach the Super Eights, Hull KR hosted Widnes Vikings with both sitting in the bottom four ahead of the meeting.

The hosts opened the scoring on eight minutes through Kris Welham with Josh Mantellato converting for 6-0 before Stefan Marsh responded for the Vikings on 15 minutes for 6-4. A self-converted try from Mantellato saw the Robins move to 12-4 but the Viking fought back again as Kevin Brown touched down and Jack Owens' conversion narrowed the gap at 12-10. 

The Robins took control with three tries in five minutes before the interval as Mantellato claimed his second try ahead of efforts from Albert Kelly and Ken Sio with the former just converting once for a 26-10 at the break. 

Sio extended the lead with his second try just seven minutes after the restart with Kelly converting in place of the injured Mantellato for 32-10, Widnes responded with a try from Chris Dean with Owens converting for 32-16. The Robins sealed the two points with 13 minutes remaining as Sio completed his hat-trick with Kelly converting for a 38-16 final score.

Red Devils Extend Wildcats Woes

The final game of Sunday's treble was the battle at the bottom as rock bottom Wakefield Wildcats hosted Salford Red Devils who sit right above them in the table and both are fighting to get away from the impending Middle Eights.

Salford made the better start with two tries inside 14 minutes through Theo Fages and Scott Taylor with Josh Griffin converting both for a 12-0 lead. Wakefield responded with a try from Dan Smith which Joe Arundel converted for 12-6 but Salford took just five minutes to regain their 12 point lead as Harrison Hansen touched down with Griffin converting for 18-6, a score line that lasted into the interval. 

Ian Kirke cut the deficit for the Wildcats just two minutes after the restart for 18-10 but it proved to be in vain as Harrison Hansen claimed his second try with Griffin converting for 24-10. Wakefield had the last say on the hour mark as Danny Kirmond touched down with Arundel converting for 24-16 which saw the Red Devils hold on for a potentially vital victory.