Rugby League Recap
The Toronto Wolfpack handed the Barrow Raiders their second straight loss at Craven Park to advance to the 6th round of the Challenge Cup. The Wolfpack edged out a tightly contested 16-12 victory over the Raiders. Unfortunately, this game is a little difficult to analyze since it there was no television broadcast or internet stream of the game due to some rights conflicts. Radio Lonsdale offered a broadcast but unfortunately due to technical difficulties they could not bring us the second half. They are a solely volunteer radio station, so it’s difficult to fault them and we should just thank them for their efforts.
Here is what we do know about the game. As is becoming typical of Wolfpack-Raiders games, the game was incredibly tight with both teams going back and forth for 80min. The game featured 4 lead changes as the two teams traded tries throughout the game. The Wolfpack had 3 tries from Gaz O’Brien, Andy Ackers, and Nick Rawsthorne. Ryan Brierley converted 2/3 of those tries. Darcy Lussick came into the game at the 35th minute to make his Wolfpack debut. There was a scary moment at the end of the game as O’Brien took a huge hit while fielding a Raider attacking kick. O’Brien took a number of huge hits throughout the game but this was the one that finally kept him down. Fortunately, it looks like he is going to be fine and he even joked about it on twitter after the game.
The Wolfpack had a very eventful week off the field. Jake Butler-Fleming, Tom Armstrong, Joe Westerman, and Quinten Laulu-Togaga’e have all left the Wolfpack. Butler-Fleming has been loaned back to his old club York City Knights. He will finish the 2018 with the Knights and the Wolfpack do not have the option to recall him. Armstrong struggled with injuries and has never played a game with the Wolfpack. Westerman has decided to go to Hull FC after spending half a season with the Wolfpack. He was released to “explore different opportunities” which tells me this was Westerman’s call. Especially since he has taken a £10000 pay cut to go to Hull FC. The biggest name to depart was QLT. QLT was an integral part of the Wolfpack’s inaugural season and news of his departure was met with an outpouring of messages from fans on social media. QLT was always a fan favourite as he made electrifying plays from the fullback position and was always gracious to the fans in the beer garden post game. QLT heads to Halifax where he proceed to dominate in his first game with the club. QLT picked up a try and 3 assists to earn man of the match honours in Halifax’s 46-18 win over Dewsbury.
One final administrative note, Ashton Sims will no longer be facing a suspension for Grade B Kicking charge against Dewsbury after he was cleared by the RFL.
Thanks to the Challenge Cup Halifax vs Dewsbury was the only game in the Championship this weekend. Halifax’s victory was enough to propel them over Leigh and bring them up to 5th in the standings (only because they lose the tie breaker to London). The race for the top 4 is becoming incredibly tight. Only 6 points separates 1st and 6th. The teams will have to stay sharp as a two game losing skid could be enough to bump you out of the top 4.
The biggest Championship news of the week was that the Leigh Centurions have signed former Wolfpack prop Ryan Bailey. Bailey, along with Fuifui Moimoi and Dave Taylor, was kicked off the Wolfpack following an off-field incident at the team’s training camp in Portugal. Although the Wolfpack have never directly confirmed the cause of their release it is believed that the three props missed curfew which was the last straw after a number of infractions. Just a month prior the Wolfpack rejoiced as Bailey avoided a doping ban after he refused to take a drug test. Bailey’s argument that a water bottle handed to him by a testing official didn’t “crack” when he opened it and therefore could have been contaminated was seen as sufficient reason to refuse to take the test. The Wolfpack helped Bailey get through this case before sending him packing two months later.
The thing is, when you let a player go because of attitude problems, there will always be someone who is willing to deal with it. After spending the first part of the season with League 1’s Workington Town, Bailey returns to Championship. After a brutal start to their season Leigh have now won 5 in a row and added a 40-0 stopping of the London Broncos in the Challenge Cup this weekend. Leigh has already built up quite the rivalry with Toronto. Paul Rowley was Leigh’s coach before he joined the Wolfpack and he decided to take a number of players with him. Craig Hall has returned to Leigh and now Bailey joins their ranks which can only add to the rivalry. Toronto and Leigh play 2 more times this year in the regular season. If Bailey can help Leigh stay on their winning path, there is a good chance that the two teams will meet one more time in the Super 8 Qualifiers.
One of the more compelling features of the Challenge Cup is that Super League Clubs have to play teams in the lower divisions. Depending on how the draw goes the Super League teams might end up being the road team in those matches allowing a Championship or League 1 side to experience the massive crowds at home. Although the Super League team will always be favoured you never quite know what to expect. The Widnes Vikings, a bottom 4 Super League team, decided to take the opportunity for a “ruthless” victory. The Vikings needed something to try and get their season on track and the poor Coventry Bears (League 1) just happened to be the team in front of them. The Vikings were indeed ruthless as they put up 17 tries for the 90-0 win. Warrington and Hull Kingston Rovers were not nearly as ruthless. Josh Charnley had 4 tries in Warrington’s 56-6 win over the Bradford Bulls and Hull KR defeated Oldham 32-0. Then there is the Catalans Dragons. The Dragons are easily the worst team in Super League right now and they took on League 1’s York City Knights. The Knights crowd was fired up as they watched their team put some serious fear into the heart of the Dragons. When you watch a game and the commentators begin discussing who the next coach of the team will be when they lose, that team is having a bad day.
The York City Knights played unreal and had most of the rugby league world behind them as they attempted to knock off a Super League team. The Knights gave the Dragons all that they could handle. The game remained a one-possession game right up until the 65th minute. With the Dragons leading 22-16, the Dragons received a penalty 10m from the Knights try line. The Dragons opted to kick for goal and Lucas Albert extended Catalans lead to 24-16. In most circumstances this decision would be considered both safe and smart. An 8 point lead means the other team has to score twice now. However, in this case it showed the world that Catalans was scared of losing to a League 1 team. The decision was met with a loud chorus of boos from the York faithful which was done in a mocking “really you don’t think you can score a try with a full set from 10m out” tone. Unfortunately for York they seemed to run out of gas shortly after that. Jodie Broughton and Greg Bird each ran in a Dragons try within the next 10min. York was able to get the last word in as Joe Bachelor scored a 78th min try. The Dragons survived 34-22. Despite moving on in the Challenge Cup, you would be hard pressed to find anyone in Catalans who was pleased with that performance.
Whitehaven RLFC was able to hold it down for League 1. Dan Abram’s 22 point (1 try, 9 goals) performance led the way as Whitehaven defeated the Rochdale Hornets of Championship 38-0 to move on to round 6 of the Challenge Cup.
The Round 6 draw of the Challenge Cup was held early on Wednesday morning. Toronto Wolfpack will be taking on the Warrington Wolves. This could be a big statement game from the Wolfpack. The Wolfpack have been very clear from the beginning that they want to be in Super League by year 3. Knocking off one of Super League’s best teams would be one way of proving that they already belong there. The rest of round 6 shapes up like so…
Again, with the Challenge Cup there was not a whole lot of Super League action this weekend. St. Helens was able to get back on track with a 66-4 stopping of Huddersfield and Wigan defeated Castleford 28-12. The game of the week was certainly the game between Salford Red Devils and Wakefield Trinity. Salford put in easily their best performance of the season. Jake Bibby’s 2 tries and a 3-pronged kicking effort from Rob Lui, Jack Littlejohn, and Tyrone McCarthy led the way as Salford picked up the 38-4 victory.
There was some big news off the field this week. Hull Kingston Rovers center Thomas Minns faces up to a two year ban for a doping violation. Following a March 15th drug test, Minns has tested positive for non-performance enhancing banned substance. The aftermath of the incident has been sole focused on the personal welfare of Minns. Minns’ mother had recently passed away and, as Hull KR mentioned in their press release, life outside of rugby has been difficult for him ever since. March 15th was just 4 days after the United Kingdom’s Mother’s Day, a day that would be understandably difficult Minns or anyone else in a similar situation. Hull KR did not suspend Minns, instead he will be taking a leave of absence. During that leave Hull KR and the RFL will be focusing on Minns well-being and making sure he gets the help he needs during this difficult time.
The New Zealand Warriors bounced back nicely this week as they ended St. George Illawarra Dragons own unbeaten streak. Tin a tightly contested match that featured plenty of chances for both clubs, the Warriors were able to squeak out the 20-12 victory thanks to a late insurance try from Isaiah Papali’i in the 76th minute.
The Parramatta Eels finally got one! The Eels picked up their first win of the season with a massive 44-10 win over Manly Sea Eagles. Mitchell Moses was spectacular I this one. He went 8/10 in total kicking and added 3 try assists to lead his team to victory. The turning point of the game came in the 23rd minute. With the Eels up 2-0, Manly appeared to score a try. However, the TMO reviewed the play and determined that there was obstruction on the play and overturned the try. Just 2 minutes later Manu Ma’u crossed the line for the Eels and Moses converted to go up 8-0. Then the onslaught began. The Eels would hold a 20-0 lead at the half and the lead grew to 30-0 early in the second half. Defensively, Manly seemed to have no answers for the NRL’s last place team. Unfortunately the day was not perfect for the Eels. Winger Jarred Hayne re-aggravated his hip injury as he picked up the assist on Ma’u’s opening try. Hayne was making only his 4th appearance of the due to initially suffering the injury in round 3 against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks. The initial diagnosis, however, looks better than his previous injury. Hayne hopes to be back in the line-up for round 9.
As for Manly, when you get slaughtered by the worst team in the league and it isn’t the worst thing to happen to your club this week, you had a really bad week. Manly is already facing sanctions for salary cap violations and they were dealt another off-field blow this week. During Manly’s trip to the Gold Coast in round 5, many of the players decided to head to a strip club and were out well past curfew. Daly Cherry-Evans and Jackson Hastings were involved in a minor incident at practice earlier in the day. The incident seemed to slowly escalate as the team was at the strip club before it finally became physical upon their return to the hotel. As a result Cherry-Evans (who is the team captain by the way) has been fined A$10,000 for his role in the altercation. Hastings has been sent to Manly’s reserve team, the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles of the NSW Intrust Super Premiership. The incident has seen plenty of media coverage criticizing the Sea Eagles leadership group. As mentioned, Cherry-Evans is the team captain, and it is never a good look to have your captain being involved in fights with your teams young developing players. Beyond that though, some are criticizing coach Trent Barrett’s handling of the situation. Is the best way to solve this really to get rid of Hastings? Barrett has said that Hastings will not be recalled this year. Therefore it appears that instead of having Hastings and Cherry-Evans work things out, the Sea Eagles would just rather not deal with them. Additionally, Barrett told famed rugby league commentator Phil Gould that the fine was actually Cherry-Evans’ idea. Gold told News.com.au that Cherry-Evans was surprised no punishment was handed out and chose to take responsibility as team captain. This would further the criticism of Manly’s leadership that the player’s ended up partially self-policing the incident with little intervention from management. Manly’s season seems to be getting progressively worse on and off the field. They need to put this incident behind them, but it may be difficult to do if they keep losing.
Play of the Week
Hospital pass [hos-pi-tl pahs] /noun/ 1. When your teammate is forced to reach above them and expose their ribcage in order to catch your horrible pass. 2. A pass that will immediately raise speculation as to why you hate your teammate. Used in a sentence: Robbie Rochow destroyed Jamie Buhrer after he had to catch a hospital pass.
The investigation for want Buhrer did to Aiden Guerra is still on going.