Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Super 8s- Super League Final Round Review

After a roller-coaster season of 29 games, the final round of Super League action saw the battle for the League Leaders Shield go right down to the final minute on Friday night in a superb 80 minutes at the DW and John Smith's Stadium's.

Wonderful Wolves Stall Saints Shield Hopes

Thursday's round opener came from Langtree Park as St Helens hosted Warrington Wolves with Saints knowing anything but a win would see them relinquish their hold on the League Leaders Shield and force them to travel in the play-offs.

The hosts made a superb start as Joe Greenwood opened the scoring inside nine minutes with a clever conversion from Luke Walsh creating a 6-0 lead but the Wolves took just four minutes to reply with Jack Johnson crossing for a try and Chris Sandow converting to level at 6-6. Warrington took the lead on the half hour as Joel Monaghan claimed a try in his final game to make it 10-6 and extend a record of a try per game across his Wolves career with 145 in as many appearances. 

Chris Hill ensured that the Wolves led into the interval as he registered a 35th minute try for 14-6 and the Wolves charge continued into the second half as Ryan Atkins crossed within nine minutes of the restart with Sandow converting for 20-6. St Helens have been experts at coming from behind this season and they began such a task with two tries in four minutes from Adam Swift and Mark Flanagan with Walsh adding a conversion for 20-16. 

However, their hopes were dashed late on as Roy Asotasi and Kevin Penny posted tries with Sandow converting the latter and a fitting farewell for Monaghan saw him convert the latter to confirm a 32-16 victory. The result meant St Helens finished fourth and that top spot was now a three horse race.

Last Gasp Leeds Halt Huddersfield

Friday's televised action came from the John Smith's Stadium as Leeds Rhinos hosted Huddersfield Giants with both knowing a win could secure the League Leaders Shield whereas a defeat would result in an away trip in the play-offs.

The Rhinos struck first as Stevie Ward crossed for the opening try inside ten minutes with Kevin Sinfield converting for 6-0 but the Giants responded almost instantly as Jermaine McGillvary crossed with Danny Brough converting to level at 6-6. Leeds went into the interval with a slim lead after Sinfield added a penalty just two minutes before the break for 8-6.

However, Huddersfield were level within nine minutes of the restart as Brough levelled at 8-8 with a penalty before the Giants extended their lead to eight after the hour as Ellis registered a try which Brough converted before adding another penalty for 16-8.

The LLS looked to be heading towards Wigan with them leading against Castleford but Leeds staged an awesome comeback with Tom Briscoe (Sinfield conv) closing the gap to 16-14 before a Sinfield penalty in the 79th minute made it 16-16 and the icing came as Ryan Hall raced clear in the final seconds to secure a first League Leaders Shield for the Rhinos in six years at 20-16.

Wondrous Warriors Trounce Tigers

Friday's alternative viewing came from the DW Stadium as Wigan Warriors hosted Castleford Tigers with the Warriors knowing a win coupled with a draw or Hudds win in the other tie would see them claim the League Leaders Shield but a win alone would secure a home play-off tie. 

The hosts made a superb start as they raced into a 10-0 lead inside the first six minutes as Dom Manfredi and Matt Bowen crossed for tries with Bowen converting just his own score. Castleford took until the 27th minute to reply but with two scores in seven minutes, they went ahead at 12-10 as Luke Dorn and Junior Moors registered efforts which were both converted by Luke Gale for a narrow lead at the interval.

Wigan stormed back in front with three tries from Manfredi as the winger crossed in the 49th (Bowen conv) and 59th minutes to complete his hat-trick before scoring a fourth in the 62nd minute to open up a 24-12 lead. Matty Smith boosted the score with a drop goal just three minutes later before a stunning five minute streak from the Warriors was completed by a fifth try of the season from Oliver Gildart which Bowen converted for 31-12.

George Williams proved just why he was short-listed for Young Player of the Year with a superb try six minutes from the end before scores from the departing duo of Joe Burgess and Larne Patrick in the final four minutes were coupled with two conversions from Bowen to complete a huge 47-12 victory which was dampened by the news they would finish second on points difference after Leeds' last-gasp win. 

Dragons Delight As FC Fall

The round and the campaign as a whole culminated on Sunday afternoon at the KC Stadium as Hull FC hosted Catalans Dragons with the the visitors looking to defy their woeful away form with a final success.

The Dragons started the pursuit of a rare away win with early success as Jordan Sigismeau crossed for the opening try inside four minutes for a 4-0 lead which became 14-0 after two tries in four minutes before the half hour from Ian Henderson and Krisnan Inu. Scott Dureau converted just the former before adding another conversion on the half hour mark after Elliot Whitehead's try for 20-0.

Hull fought back with two tries in the final seven minutes of the half as Tom Lineham scored a farewell try and Jordan Abdull crossed for 20-8 into the interval. The hosts continued to cut the gap as Curtis Naughton and a second try from Lineham made it a close game at 20-16. Thomas Bosc (Dureau conv) crossed to push the Dragons lead to ten at 26-16 before Dureau added a penalty with seven minutes remaining for 28-16.

Hull came so close to ruining the Dragons' joy as Lineham sealed a stunning farewell before heading to Warrington as he completed his hat-trick on 74 minutes before scoring a fourth in the final minute for 28-24 but FC will curse their luck after scoring six tries but not converting a single one as the Dragons celebrated the chance for an enjoyable trip back to France.