It feels like a long time since the final hooter sounded at Old Trafford to end the 2015 season but finally the 2016 season has begun. Round one saw some really close opening ties with just two games featuring a double figure winning margin.
The opening game of Super League XXI came from Headingley Stadium as 2015 treble winners Leeds Rhinos hosted a new-look Warrington Wolves. The Rhinos defence to their title began of course without the legendary trio of Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai. The mixed weather conditions and amount of new players in the sides resulted in a close first half which saw the sides remain level until the 37th minute when Chris Sandow crossed for the first try of 2016 which Kurt Gidley converted for a 6-0 lead.
Brad Singleton hit back for the hosts with 47 minutes on the clock with Zak Hardaker converting to level at 6-6 before a try from Ryan Hall just eight minutes later put the Rhinos ahead at 10-6. However, the final say came from the Wolves as Kevin Penny raced over to score in the 67th minute and with Gidley converting for a second time, he sealed a 12-10 victory.
Friday night saw a new-look Hull FC host Salford Red Devils at the KC Stadium with both sides looking to start well after mixed campaigns in 2015. A perfect start for the hosts saw Leon Pryce score the first try in the fourth minute with Marc Sneyd converting for 6-0 before Josh Griffin drew Salford level on 11 minutes at 6-6 with a self-converted try. Mahe Fonua marked his FC debut with a try on 19 minutes to make it 10-6 before three scores in seven minutes from Jordan Thompson, Fetuli Talanoa and debutant Carlos Tuimavave were coupled with two Sneyd conversions to open up a 26-6 lead at the interval.
The FC charge resumed just four minutes into the second half as Josh Bowden (Sneyd conv) pushed the score to 32-6 before two further scores in the next ten minutes from Jack Logan and Jamie Shaul (Sneyd conv) put FC in control at 42-6. Salford responded with a try from Junior Sa'u for 42-10 before a late fight back in the final ten minutes saw Niall Evalds score ahead of a second from Sa'u which Michael Dobson converted for a 42-20 final score.
Last season's Grand Final runners up Wigan Warriors opened their campaign at home to Catalan Dragons who were celebrating their 10th birthday as a Super League team. Horrible weather conditions meant the pitch at the DW Stadium was akin to a mud bath and in the first 20 minutes, Wigan utilised the conditions the better as Michael McIlorum ran in two tries in three minutes. Matty Smith converted only the latter to give the Warriors a 10-0 lead which lasted into the interval but their advantage was cut within two minutes of the restart as Justin Horo touched down allowing former Warriors legend Pat Richards to make it 10-6 with the conversion. Smith added a penalty goal for 12-6 on 52 minutes but with just a single score between the sides, the contest remained a tight one right until the final hooter as Wigan held on for the win.
Completing a Friday night trilogy was a meeting between last season's play-off losers as St Helens hosted Huddersfield Giants at Langtree Park. The Saints started superbly as Marc Percival crossed for the opening try inside six minutes for 4-0 but the Giants hit back through Aaron Murphy just seven minutes later as he levelled at 4-4. Atelea Vea regained the hosts' lead with a try on 23 minutes which Luke Walsh converted for 10-4 before adding another conversion on 36 minutes after Percival's second try for a 16-4 lead at the interval.
Jordan Turner (Walsh conv) crossed just seven minutes after the restart to extend the lead to 22-4 before a try just before the hour mark from Ukuma Ta'ai which Danny Brough converted made it 22-10. Luke Thompson regained the Saints' 18-point advantage with a 61st minute try which Walsh converted for 28-10 but the Giants remained in the hunt with ten minutes left as Jake Connor crossed for a try which Jamie Ellis converted for 28-16. The last say on the score came three minutes from the end as Walsh comfirmed a 30-16 win with his fifth successful goal.
Sunday saw the remaining two games in the opening round starting with Hull Kingston Rovers hosting Castleford Tigers at the KC Lightstream Stadium. The Tigers opened the scoring with an effort from Denny Solomona in the 17th minute which was converted by Luke Gale for a 6-0 lead. James Donaldson crossed for KR just before the interval with Josh Mantellato converting to send the sides into half-time level at 6-6.
Jake Webster regained the lead for the Tigers with a try against his former club just nine minutes after the restart with Gale converting for 12-6, Mantellato cut the gap to 12-10 with a try on 57 minutes before a second from Webster made it 16-10. The Tigers looked set to claim an opening victory as the game went into the final minutes but KR had other ideas as Mantellato claimed his second try and swept over a superb touchinr conversion with the final kick of the 80 minutes to seal a 16 all draw.
Wishful Wildcats As Vikings Victorious
The final game of the opening round came from the Rapid Solicitors Stadium as Wakefield Wildcats hosted Widnes Vikings in a battle between two sides who ended last season in the middle eights. The Wildcats made a superb start as Stuart Howarth put them 4-0 ahead inside seven minutes before a try from Setaimata Sa on 20 minutes which was converted by Rhys Hanbury put the Vikings ahead at 6-4.
Hanbury added a self-converted try to make it 12-4 in the 35th minute before a second score from Sa which Hanbury converted gave Widnes an 18-4 lead at the interval. Reece Lyne cut the gap to 18-8 before Liam Finn converted to make it 18-10 within four minutes of the restart. The Vikings regained a 14-point advantage on 51 minutes as Lloyd White (Hanbury conv) made it 24-10 but Wakefield remained in the hunt as Michael Sio crossed for a try on 69 minutes which Finn converted for 26-14 but it proved to be the final say on the outcome as Widnes held on for the win.