Sunday, 9 October 2016

Super League Grand Final Review

After a season that will live long in the memories for its excitement and unpredictability, last night saw a fitting finale as Warrington Wolves met Wigan Warriors in the Super League Grand Final. I covered the event as part of my Stadium Travels - Old Trafford.

Wigan Warriors are 2016 Super League Champions after a hard fought 12-6 over Warrington Wolves at Old Trafford ensuring all three trophies were won by different teams this season.

A tight opening few minutes saw a breakthrough come on nine minutes with Wigan awarded a penalty which Matty Smith converted for a 0-2 lead.  Warrington fought back with a self-converted try from Declan Patton to take a 6-2 lead on 21 minutes. The defence of both sides was prominent for the remainder of the first half as they went into the interval separated by just four points.

The Wolves were denied a try from Ryan Atkins after a referral confirmed he had knocked-on over the line and it was a warning that Wigan heeded as they levelled on 56 minutes after a superb move from Liam Farrell found Oliver Gildart who crossed for 6-6. Wigan looked to be on top and proved that as they retook the lead on 64 minutes after a kick through from Dan Sarginson saw Josh Charnley collect to touch down in the corner for 6-10.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, the winner was far from certain but Wigan boosted their hopes with a second penalty goal of the evening from Smith on 75 minutes for 6-12. Warrington battled to cut the gap but superb defence from Wigan kept them out and as the final hooter sounded, the Warriors celebrated their first title since 2013.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Super League Play Offs/Million Pound Game Review

The penultimate weekend of the 2016 domestic season saw just three main games with the two Super League play-offs on Thursday and Friday night determining who will contest the Grand Final. Also, the Million Pound Game on Saturday which would decide who survived and who was to be relegated from the top flight.

Wolves Win As Saints Suffer

Thursday's opening semi final saw Warrington Wolves seal a controversial 18-10 win over St Helens at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. 

A tight first quarter between two strong defences saw the first breakthrough come on 20 minutes as Declan Patton kicked a penalty goal for 2-0 but Saints hit back with a Luke Walsh penalty goal within six minutes to level at 2-2. 

Warrington regained the lead on the half hour mark with a Kurt Gidley try but yet again, Saints hit back and in style as a clever move resulted in Jonny Lomax crossing and with Walsh converting they were level at 8-8 before a last-gasp penalty from Walsh send the Saints into the interval leading 8-10. 

Warrington moved back in front with 11 minutes of  the second half gone as Stefan Ratchford crossed and Patton converted for 14-10 and they were in again on 64 minutes through Tom Lineham for 18-10. However, the replay of the score showed that the try should have been chalked off which was even more surprising given no referral from the official. Saints looked to have set up a tight finish when Peyroux crossed in the final minutes but after an extensive video referral, the try was denied despite clear proof on the reply leaving the Saints feeling robbed as Warrington held on to reach the Grand Final. 

Warriors' Late Show Stuns FC

Wigan Warriors stunned Hull FC to clinch a place in the Grand Final for the fourth consecutive season after a 28-18 win at the DW Stadium.

Wigan started the better of the two sides as they raced into an 8-0 lead as Lewis Tierney crossed twice inside 14 minutes. The sides were evenly matched for the rest of the first half until the final seconds when a fortuitous bounce from a last tackle kick from Matty Smith saw John Bateman race over for a try which Smith converted for a 14-0 lead at the interval.

FC hit back with tries from Josh Bowden and Liam Watts with Marc Sneyd converting both for 14-12 before Smith added a penalty for 16-12. The game took a strange turn though on 62 minutes with a potential knock-on for FC over the Wigan line resulting in a dash down field from Oliver Gildart who crossed for a try. However, the score went to a referral and the replay focused on the Hull effort which saw Steve Michaels awarded a try which levelled the game with Sneyd kicking FC ahead at 16-18.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, Wigan began to pressure the FC line heavily and they broke through superbly as Sam Powell crossed to regain the lead at 22-18. The Warriors have a habit of scoring late on in big games and this was no different as Anthony Gelling raced over to the joy of the home crowd to seal the win. Smith converted for 28-18 as Wigan celebrated the continuation of the Grand Final streak to a fourth season in a row. 

Robins Relegated As Salford Survive 

After two cracking semi-finals, no one predicted that Saturday's Million Pound Game would top them both but after going to Golden Point, Salford Red Devils secured a 19-18 win over Hull Kingston Rovers.
The Robins started the better of the two sides with early tries from Adam Walker and Josh Mantellato coupled with a conversion from the latter opened up a 10-0 advantage. The Red Devils replied with efforts from Ben Murdoch-Masila and Niall Evalds with a single conversion from Gareth O'Brien levelling the game at 10-10. The hosts went into the interval 12-10 ahead after a late penalty from Mantellato. 

Thomas Minns crossed just before the hour mark to put the Robins 18-10 ahead, a lead that looked to be enough to secure Super League survival as the clock ticked down into the final three minutes. However, Salford had other ideas as Evalds crossed for his second for 18-14 before a truly last-gasp effort from Greg Johnson came with just three seconds left of the 80 minutes to level at 18-18. 

Gareth O'Brien had the chance to win the game with the resulting conversion but he missed from a tight angle meaning the game would be decided by Golden Point. Less than a minute into the extra time period, O'Brien attempted a drop goal from just inside the Robins' half and it sailed between the sticks to seal a stunning 19-18 win that kept Salford in Super League and condemned Hull KR to next season's Championship.