Rugby League Recap

Easter weekend has come and gone so that means two things: my mom made these unreal homemade chocolate eggs and there was a ton of rugby league to recap.

Toronto Wolfpack

What a big weekend for the Pack! The Wolfpack went into Easter 4th overall in the standings. Now, after defeating Featherstone Rovers and Toulouse Olympique, two teams above them, the Wolfpack sit first overall in the Championship. I mentioned last week that the Wolfpack’s depth was going to be tested this week and they came through in a big way. Andy Ackers has been outstanding at hooker since Bob Beswick went down. He is making great decisions with the ball off the rucks and really driving the Wolfpack’s offense. He also has a great understanding of when to take it himself and demonstrated that against Toulouse with a great try from dummy half. Richard Whiting had two tries against Featherstone after coming off the bench. Nick Rawsthorne was probably going to earn man of the match honours against Toulouse right up until Liam Kay’s game saving tackle. Rawsthorne was terrific scoring 2 tries and coming up with a big assist on Kay’s try. QLT continues to dazzle in whatever position he is told to play. All the props and forwards who are playing out of position continue to find ways to make it work. Paul Rowley said last week that he was proud of the gutsy win vs Rochdale. Well he must be the happiest coach in world after this weekend.

The game against Toulouse was outstanding. This game marked the Wolfpack’s first trip to France, so they decided to rock some new Canada themed kit. This was everything you’d expect a game between two teams battling for first place to be. It truly was the best game of the week. That includes Super League and the NRL. Both teams played brilliantly. Honestly, if you have never seen a game of rugby league before check it out, it might be the game that turns you into a fan:

The Wolfpack completely dominated the first half of this game. They did a great job of really testing the Toulouse defense. Ryan Brierley was on his game. He was instrumental in the Wolfpack getting 4 sets in a row. His kicks were perfectly placed and the chase from the Pack made it impossible for the Olympique to get out of their own try zone. The Wolfpack eventually capitalized on all this pressure with a try from Rawsthorne in the 38th minute. Ackers added his try to send the Pack to the sheds up 20-6.

I have to say though, the best part of this game was watching the Wolfpack defence. Last season, the Wolfpack steamrolled their way to a League 1 title. There weren’t very many games when the Wolfpack were forced to play defense. Even if they were, they were probably up by 50 anyways. This game was different as we got numerous points where the Wolfpack were under siege. Toulouse came out hard in the second half and really tested the Wolfpack’s defense. There were two pretty big defensive plays that stood out in the second half. First, after some nice ball movement from Toulouse, winger Tony Maurel looked off to the races. Just as Maurel got to the line Jonny Ponwall got a piece of him. Maurel slowed down just enough for Ryan Brierley and Greg Worthington to hold him up in the try zone and drive him into touch. With under 2 minutes to play, the Wolfpack led 24-22. Toulouse was driving back up the field after their try minutes earlier. On 5th tackle, Toulouse got the ball to the outside winger Paul Marcon who seemed to have a step on everyone. Liam Kay hunted him down just inside the 5m line. The Wolfpack forced the turnover and held onto the ball for the remainder of the match.

Ultimately, the big Easter weekend should be a great confidence builder for the Wolfpack. The roster is depleted, guys are playing out of position, and they just knocked off two of the best teams in the league. If the postgame song is any indication, yeah they seem pretty confident.

In off the pitch news, the Wolfpack appeared to have been the club to win the bidding war for Manly Sea Eagles’ prop Darcy Lussick. Initially, I thought the signing was interesting because due to injuries, the Wolfpack have been using a lot of props lately. Where would Lussick fit in the lineup was my immediate concern. However, despite the rumours, the deal has not yet been confirmed. Now, due to how Manly’s weekend played out, Lussick seems to be in limbo. The Sea Eagles suffered two major injuries to their forward group in Saturday’s 32-16 win over Canberra. Both Kelepi Tanginoa and Curtis Sironen have torn their ACLs and will be out for the remainder of the season. Obviously, Manly would not like to lose 3 forwards at once, so they are putting in the efforts to convince Lussick to stay. It will be interesting to see where Lussick does end up as the story develops.

Super League

Every now and then a game will happen that will remind you how much fun sport can actually be. This was the case on Monday as the Warrington Wolves took on the Castleford Tigers. The Tigers home is affectionately referred to as “The Jungle”. However, on Monday it resemble more of a rainforest or Shrek’s house. The rain was pouring down, the field was littered with massive puddles, and the players and fans looked like they were having the time of their lives. The highlight of the match came late in the first half when Josh Charnley set up Toby King who dove head first into a massive puddle for the try.

The Huddersfield Giants began the Chris Thorman era on Friday night when they took on Leeds. It was performance that left a lot of Giants fan and analysts wondering “where has this been all year?” The Giants were able to move the ball more effectively and infused some creativity into the offense. The Giants were up 14-6 going into the half, a score no one expected heading into this one. Unfortunately, the Giants were not quite able to hold on and had to settle for the 22-22 draw. It was great to see the Giants get back on their feet following the firing of Rick Stone. Unfortunately they followed it up by losing to the worst team in the league on Monday.

St. Helens continues to shine as they picked up two Easter weekend wins over Widnes and Wigan. 2009 was the last time St. Helens claimed a victor of Wigan in the Good Friday Derby match. It was a big win for St. Helens as their local rivals sit directly behind them in the standings and the 4 point lead remains intact.

Ben Barba was exceptional in his first Easter Weekend experience. Since coming over from the NRL halfway through last season, Barba has done nothing but illustrate that he is the best fullback in Super League at this moment. Barba’s domination is a big reason why the Saints are so far ahead in the standings. He leads all fullbacks in nearly every major offensive statistic; tries, try assist, tackle breaks, and clean breaks. Only Warrington’s Stefan Ratchford tops him in any statistic. Ratchford is first in the league in both metres gained and carries (the two go hand in hand).

Hull FC also had a big weekend. Hull FC defeated Hull Kingstone Rovers in the annual Good Friday Hull derby match and edged out Wakefield Trinity in an absolute thriller. The wet conditions made for some fun and unpredictable rugby league. Both teams were able to capitalize on their opponents mistakes as well as take advantage of some fortunate bounces. Wakefield tied the game late with a try from Mason Caton-Brown. This set up the late heroics from Hull FC’s Marc Sneyd who nailed a 51m drop goal to seal the win. It was an amazing play, but we will go into more detail later in this post.

NRL

The New Zealand Warriors are off to the best start in franchise history. They went into the weekend looking to continue to improve on that record. However, as they prepared for their contest with the Sydney Roosters, the Warriors realized they were missing a few key pieces. First, their leading scorer Shaun Johnson would be out of the lineup. Second, they have no jerseys. The Warriors reported their jerseys as stolen earlier in the week. This resulted in having to bra out some specialty jerseys, normally reserved for the NRL Heritage Weekend. Never the less, the Warriors put in a dominate performance defeating the Roosters 30-6.

South Sydney Rabbitohs were dealt a major blow this weekend as well. Sam Burgess has been suspended for two games for throwing an elbow to the throat of Canterbury Bulldogs centre Josh Morris. Before I share my opinion, I will allow you to make yours. You can view the incident straight from the NRL’s website here:

https://www.nrl.com/news/2018/03/30/sam-burgess-on-report-for-raised-forearm/

In my opinion, two games seems a little much. I can understand the player’s safety element of this. At the end of the day this is an elbow to the throat, which is dangerous. However, there is clearly no intent from Burgess here. Burgess is bracing for the oncoming tackle, but is also trying to power through it. He raises his arms to protect himself and the ball. Unfortunately, he caught Morris in the throat. It’s not like Burgess turned into Jon Jones trying to end a fight here. Burgess has the ball in hand, and he seems to just raise his forearm with unfortunate timing rather than actually throwing an elbow.

Regardless, Souths will be without Burgess for two weeks now. He will miss a big match up with St. George Illawarra Dragons next week and against Sydney the week after.

Play of the Week​

Liam Kay, I am so sorry buddy. I know I haven’t given you or the Wolfpack a lot of love in the Play of the Week. I promise I will make up for it soon. Your game saving tackle on Macron was outstanding. I jumped up. I cheered. I might have cried a little. It’s probably the best Wolfpack play all season. I was ready to give you POW honours. Then I watched Hull FC vs Wakefield Trinity, and I’m sorry, but it just happened. I have to do it. Tie game, under a minute left, take it away Marc Sneyd…

Honestly, who even tries this? Marc Sneyd delivers a perfect strike and slots a 51m drop goal to win the game. Just absolutely ridiculous! Everything about this play is perfect. Hull FC do a great job setting up a pocket for Sneyd. Sneyd sets up right in the middle of the field allowing for a dead straight angle. Sneyd makes absolutely no mistake. He even had some room to spare. Truly a remarkable kick. Sneyd also gets bonus points for dropping the “are you not entertained” celly as his teammates mob him. Again, my apologies Liam. Good luck next week!

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