Rugby Recap

Toronto Wolfpack

The Wolfpack finally had a home game this weekend! Sort of. They were still in London and playing at a neutral ground, but at least the crowd was on their side. The Wolfpack gave their UK fans quite a show as they defeated Halifax RLFC 42-10. After the game coach Paul Rowley called it the best 80min of the season and I must say I completely agree with him.

A big reason for the high praise was the Wolfpack’s defensive performance. Halifax really got nothing going during that game. The Wolfpack were forcing 5th tackle plays before Halifax could even get to half regularly, and I can’t think of any instance where Halifax ever looked dangerous. Of the two tries Halifax scored one was a blatant Wolfpack mistake (Sidlow’s pass to Brierley was intercepted after Brierley bobbled it) and the other was a stellar 5TH tackle play (Johnston’s chip kick) you just have to tip your hat to. Outside of those two plays the Wolfpack thoroughly dominated for all 80 minutes.

It started right away, with Darcy Lussick crashing over the line for his first try in a Wolfpack jersey just 3 minutes into the game. Thanks to tries from Liam Kay and Bob Beswick, the Wolfpack were up 18-0 just 15 minutes into the game. When it was all said and done the Wolfpack would run in 4 more tries including a great team effort that was finished off by Kay in the 79th minute to put the exclamation point on the true wire to wire victory.

Cory Patterson made his first appearance since round 1 after recovering from his injury. Patterson was a force on defence the whole game and added a nice element to the offence. Patterson also picked up a try in his return giving him 2 tries in his 2 games this year.

One extra bright spot from the game was the kicking from Ryan Brierley. I ripped on Brierley a few games ago for his poor kicking performance. He had some extra time with a kicking coach this week and it seems to have gone well. Brierley was 7/7 on the day. Although, I want to be one of those fans that is super excited about it, I think this might have been a product of the Wolfpack’s domination. On all 7 of their tries, the Wolfpack was able to ground the ball under or near the sticks. Even on Kay’s 79th minute try he had the time to run from the touchline to within 10m of the sticks. This set up 7 relatively easy kicks for Brierley. Good kickers should make those in their sleep. Brierley did. However, if he wants to be a true game breaker in this league he needs to be able to slot the ones from the touch line as well.

It was another big week for the Wolfpack off the field as well. Reni Maitua’s contract has run out. Maitua will be retiring and moved to the Wolfpack’s front office as the Player Welfare Manager. Maitua is a very well connected player, having played in Super League and the NRL. It is well known that he was a big factor in the Wolfpack being able to sign Darcy Lussick even with Super League team’s vying for his services. Having a man like that in the front office is a big advantage to the Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack also signed Scottish international Matty Russell. Russell comes over from the Warrington Wolves where he has only made 3 appearances for the club this year. Russell can play fullback and winger. Unfortunately, those are the same positions that Josh Charnley plays. Russell was struggling for playing time before Charnley’s arrival and after his arrival it became impossible to get playing time. Salford was thought to be the front-runner to win Russell’s services, but the Wolfpack swooped in at the last minute.

Finally the Wolfpack will be making their true home debut this weekend when they take on Swinton Lions at Fletcher’s Field in Markham. I’m sure the team is looking forward to their debut in front of their Canadian fans.

Super League

May 1st marks the beginning of the free agency period in rugby league. Beginning now, all teams are permitted to talk to any player who has a contract expiring at the end of this season. The rumour mill is already flowing as discussions for where some of the big names might end up. You can check out a list of the expiring contracts at Zero Tackle.

Can anyone stop Josh Charnley and the Warrington Wolves? Since Charnley’s signing he has simply been the best winger in Super League and Warrington have not lost yet. Charnley put in another dominant performance in Warrington’s 38-4 victory over Huddersfield. Charnley picked up a hat trick on the day. Added to his Challenge Cup performance against Bradford Bulls and Charnley now has 7 tries in his last 2 games.

All of this sets up a colossal match with the defending Champions Leeds Rhinos this weekend. The Rhinos have had an up and down year. They often find themselves in very tight one or two point games such as this week’s 20-18 victory over Hull Kingston Rovers. Unfortunately, they seem to lose those games as often as they win. Currently, they sit 5th overall in the standings, and despite being near the top of the table, they have not been able to string together more than 2 wins in a row. Ash Handley’s 8 tries has him in the top 5 leading scorers in the league and Kallum Watkins has been one of the best players overall in the league this year. Leeds will be looking to make a statement by defeating Warrington this weekend.

St. Helens continues to set the pace in Super League. Ben Barba continued to show why he is the best player in Super League at the moment as his hat trick led the Saints to a massive 60-10 victory over the Salford Red Devils. Mark Percival also got in on the action. Percival now has 13 tries on the year sitting just 2 back of Barba for the league lead. The Saints dominance is shown across multiple statistical categories. Barba and Percival once again find themselves 1 and 2 in line breaks. Danny Richardson leads the league in goals and Barba is first in try assists.

The Catalans Dragons survived a scare last week as the York City Knights nearly took them out of the Challenge Cup. But, you know what they say; a win is a win. Catalans seems to have turned that win into some momentum. Tony Gigot’s 79th minute drop goal propelled the Dragons to a 25-24 victory over Hull FC. Hull actually had a 14-8 lead at the half, so it was a huge come from behind effort. One of the try scorers was Josh Drinkwater. Drinkwater is a new signing brought in to replace Lue Walsh who had to retire due to injury. Drinkwater was playing in Australia’s New South Wales Cup for the first half of the season. The Catalans Dragons are now undefeated with Drinkwater in the line-up. Sometimes this is all you need to turn a team around. Grind out some tough wins, meet some new faces, and all of a sudden things start going your way. It will be tough to keep it rolling though. They play St. Helens next.

Championship

The Leigh Centurions continued their monumental rise up the Championship standings this week. They defeated Barrow Raiders 46-18 to earn their 6th Championship win in a row. The Centurions streak is impressive for a number of reason. One, they started their season 1-5. Two they continue to absolutely slaughter teams. These games are not even close. Drew Hutchinson’s hat trick along with tries from Craig Hall and Ryan Bailey powered the Centurions to their 5th win with a margin of victory of at least 25 points during that 6 game span. If we include the two Challenge Cup games as well, Leigh is currently on an 8 game winning streak. During that streak their average margin of victory is 33 points! The only bad thing that has happened to Leigh lately is that the teams above them keep winning. Toronto, Toulouse, Featherstone, and London all picked up wins this weekend. Leigh still sits 2 points back of London for the final top 4 spot, but if they keep playing like this they won’t be on the outside for much longer.

League 1

WOW!

That is pretty much all I said upon reading the score of the game between York City Knights and West Wales Raiders. A week after pushing a Super League team to the brink of elimination from the Challenge Cup the York City Knights put in a performance for the ages. The Knights set a professional rugby league record with a massive 144-0 victory! The game is both largest margin of victory and the most points score in a rugby league game. Leading the way Kieran Moss with 7 tries and Connor Robinson had 34 total points. A truly incredible performance from everyone in a Knights jersey.

In probably unrelated news, the West Wales Raiders have fired their coach.

NRL

Que the comeback? The lowly Parramatta Eels have managed to string together two wins in a row! The Eels picked up a 24-22 victory over the Wests Tigers. Mitchell Moses was once again a big factor in the match. In total kicking Moses was 4/5 off the tee. When a game is won by only two points kicking makes all the difference. Especially when your opponent (Esan Marsters) is a perfect 5/5. Ultimately, the Eels have won 2 out of 3 since Clinton Gutherson’s return at fullback. Perhaps he has provided the club the spark they were missing the whole time.

The North Queensland Cowboys were hoping to keep their winning ways going this weekend. The storied franchise has struggled mightily this year picking up only their 2nd win of the year last week against the Gold Coast Titans. Unfortunately, the Canberra Raiders had different ideas as they picked up their 3rd win in 4 games after starting the season 0-4. Despite all the Kangaroos and Origin talent, the Cowboys just haven’t been able to find any sustained success this year. This is basically an all-star team that sits 15th in the standings (only above the Eels). They will be in tough to turn their year around next week as they take on the 2nd place Penrith Panthers.

The big score line of the week was Melbourne Storm annihilating New Zealand Warriors 50-10. It was a big game for Canadian Ryley Jacks. Jacks picked up 2 of Melbourne’s 8 tries in the game. Jacks was appearing in his 4th game of the year. He has been splitting time between Melbourne and Sunshine Coast Falcons of Intrust Super Cup this year. Jacks has said that he want to play a simple and smart brand of rugby when up with Melbourne in order to extend his stay. He has been doing a great job so far. Jacks has 3 tries and an assist in his 4 games.

Play of the Week

Rugby league has been played since 1895! In those 123 years no one has ever won a game by 144 points. No one has ever even scored 144 points. So to mark the historic occasion, the Layman’s Sports play of the week is all 25 of York City Knights tries! Enjoy!

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