Monday, 10 August 2015

Super 8s - The Qualifiers Round One Review

After the breakaway of the top eight in Super League, the bottom four joined with the top four sides in the Championship to form the Super 8s-The Qualifiers. The prize in this competition is that the top three sides will play in next year's Super League while fourth and fifth will face off in the 'Million Pound Game' with the winner claiming the final Super League place.

Unlike the Super League and Championship Shield competitions, this one sees all eight sides begin on a level playing field with the points earned in the regular season reset meaning their is the outside possibility of four sides being promoted/relegated but also no change at all to the lineup of Super League.

Robins Relief As Centurions Collapse

The round began on Saturday at Leigh Sports Village as Championship table toppers Leigh Centurions hosted Super League side Hull Kingston Rovers. The Centurions aimed to maintain their two-year unbeaten home record which would be a huge task against a Robins side who last week secured a place in the Challenge Cup final.

As expected, the Robins made the better start with an opening try from Dane Chisholm in the ninth minute which Josh Mantellato converted for a 6-0 lead. However, Leigh battled back superbly with three tries in six minutes from Ryan Brierley, Greg McNally and Andrew Dixon and with Martin Ridyard converting all three, the Centurions opened up an 18-6 lead. The lead was extended in the final seconds of the half as Tom Armstrong scored with Ridyard's kick setting up a huge 24-6 half-time lead.

The Robins needed to strike early in the second half to prevent a potential humiliation and did just that as Kieran Dixon raced over for a try which Mantellato converted for 24-12 but Leigh continued to post points with a 54th minute penalty from Ridyard making it 26-12. The Robins had only one win to their name outside the city of Hull this year after they dumped Wigan out of the cup here at  LSV  and the prospect of a second victory in Leigh grew stronger just after the hour mark.

Maurice Blair and Tony Puletua crossed to dent the Centurions' lead with their efforts converted by Mantellato closing the gap to just two points at 26-24 but the Robins continued to attack the hosts' advantage and as the game entered the final ten minutes, their experience paid off.

Shaun Lunt and Ben Cockayne crossed on 73 and 77 minutes to complete a stellar comeback from the Robins with Mantellato ending the game with a perfect record with the boot for a 36-26 triumph.

Salford Success Sees Wakefield Wonder

Sunday featured the remaining three games of the round starting with the only all Super League clash at the AJ Bell Stadium as Salford Red Devils hosted Wakefield Wildcats with both sides keen to make a good start to the 8s after poor regular seasons. 

The hosts made a superb start by racing into a 10-0 lead inside 20 minutes with a brace of tries and a conversion by Josh Griffin. Alike his brother, George Griffin got on the board with a try six minutes before the interval with brother Josh converting for 16-0. Wakefield prevented a first half blank with a late try from Jacob Miller with Lee Smith converting for 16-6 at the interval.

Two quick scores after the restart from Miller and Danny Washbrook put the Wildcats in front with Smith's two conversion's making it 18-16 but the lead changed hands again as Cory Paterson added a self-converted try for 22-18. Three minutes later and another swing as Reece Lyne (Smith conv) put the Wildcats back in front at 24-22 before Smith added a penalty to extend the lead to four at 26-22.

Salford drew level with nine minutes remaining as Rangi Chase raced over for 26-26 with Griffin putting them 28-26 ahead with the boot but there was no reply from the visitors as Paterson sealed the win two minutes from the end with Griffin's conversion confirming a 34-26 win.  

                                                                        Fax Fall To Vikings Late Show

In a clash between the highest and lowest sides of the eight, Championship side Halifax hosted Super League side Widnes Vikings with the hosts hoping to stage a shock against a Vikings side that narrowly missed out on the SL top eight.

A tight first half saw a surprise 0-0 scoreline at the interval which saw the hosts the happier of the two sides as the strength of the visiting Vikings had failed to lead to any points on the board. The second half would surely see a gap appear with the hosts only being a part-time team and ten minutes after the restart, Widnes made a breakthrough as new signing Charly Runciman scored a debut try for 4-0.

Halifax did well to prevent any further scores and with five minute remaining knew a converted try would be enough to secure a shock win. Their hopes were dashed by two late scores in the space of a minute as Alex Gerrard (Lloyd White conv) and a second from Runciman secured a 14-0 win for Widnes but such a scoreline will give Halifax confidence given after holding a full time side to just three tries. 

Bulls Blitz Exposed Eagles

The only all Championship game of the opening round saw Bradford Bulls host Sheffield Eagles at the Provident Stadium with both sides harbouring hopes of a return to Super League with the Bulls being a full time side and the Eagles soon to be as of 2016.

As expected, Bradford opened the scoring as Danny Williams crossed inside three minutes before adding a second on eight minutes with Danny Addy converting only the latter for 10-0. Lee Gaskell and Jay Pitts added further tries before the 30 minute mark with Addy converting for 20-0.

Sheffield got on the board with a try from Misi Taulapapa with Kyle Briggs converting for 20-6 but the Bulls went into the interval with a 20 point lead as Adam Henry (Addy conv crossed for a 26-6 half-time lead.

Gaskell claimed two scored in 15 minutes with an Addy conversion pushing the Bulls to 36-6 before a debut try from former Castleford winger James Clare wrapped up the win with Addy's fifth conversion creating a huge 42-6 lead. Despite the impeding defeat, Sheffield had the last say on the score as Menzie Yere registered a try in the final seconds for a 42-10 final score