Manchester's Etihad Stadium played host to this year's Super League Magic Weekend, which saw 14 sides go head-to-head in seven clashes over the weekend. Saturday saw four matches, with the highlight being a clash between defending Super League Champions Wigan Warriors and 2012 Grand Final winners Leeds Rhinos.
|Wakefield Wilcats||12-50||Castleford Tigers||12.30pm BST|
|Huddersfield Giants||54-16||Bradford Bulls||14.45pm BST|
|Warrington Wolves||41-24||St Helens||17.00pm BST|
Sunday saw the conclusion of the Super League's Magic Weekend with three more matches, and while none would end up being a particularly close affair, the fantastic weather and strong action still made the afternoon a rousing success amongst the fans.
Castleford Tigers 50-12 Wakefield Wildcats
Tigers will move up to third in the Super League standings following an absolute trashing of rivals Wildcats, emphatically ending a two-game losing streak.
Wakefield got the first good chance of the match inside of five minutes with Paul McShane coming dangerously close to scoring, but that would be the only time Wildcats would truly threaten their opponents as they were overrun for most of the afternoon.
Daryl Clark took advantage of bad communication in Wakefield's back line to open the scoring before Justin Carney scored a beautiful try, evading a number of defenders before barging his way into the corner.
Perfect weather conditions meant Tigers could pass the ball almost at will, and their opponents simply couldn't come up with any stops. Jordan Tansey and Michael Shenton both added easy tries before half-time, putting their team up 22-0.
Shenton scored early in the second half to really put this match to bed, taking advantage of a great pass from Mark Sneyd, who put in a dominant performance with numerous assists and two tries of his own in the second half.
Coaching Castleford to their first win in three tries, Daryl Powell expected this match to be much closer, per the BBC:
The scoreline was a blow-out, particularly with the try at the end.
I expected it to be close after looking at Wakefield's last two games. The conditions were made for us and once we get on the front foot we played some superb rugby.
Wakefield got 12 points but defensively, it was a great effort. It continues the consistency of what we have been delivering which was pleasing.
Mark Sneyd is playing really well and he has some quality as a player. We will talk to Salford and see where that goes but he is doing a great job for us.
As we near the half-way mark of the Super League season, Castleford really needed to break out of their funk in order to keep their position in the top six. A big win over a struggling Wakefield squad was exactly what the club needed, giving the players a much needed boost heading into the next match.
Their rivals are amongst the bottom-feeders in the Superleague, chasing Widnes Vikings by eight points in the chase for the play-offs. Following yet another blowout loss, it seems very unlikely Wildcats will be playing any role of significance later in the year.
Huddersfield Giants 54-16 Bradford Bulls
Sunday's second match was as much of a blowout as the first, with Giants absolutely thrashing Bulls. The Yorkshire Evening Post's Peter Smith thought it unfortunate the last day of the Magic Weekend would play out like this:
Shame there's been a couple of mis-matches today. Cas v Giants and Wildcats v Bulls would have been better contests. #magicweekend— Peter Smith (@PeteSmithYEP) May 18, 2014
Giants came into this match having won four in a row and took a 10-6 lead midway through the first half, before an explosion of tries shocked their opponents.
Nine different players scored for Huddersfield, including half-back Danny Brough, who also added nine conversions. Bradford shockingly took the lead through Danny Addy, but the celebrations were short lived.
A late try from Jodie Broughton made it 24-10 before half-time, before Giants absolutely exploded in the second half. Luke Robinson and Brough were simply too much to handle for Bulls, and in trying to slow the two halves down, the rest of the Huddersfield players took advantage of the space Bulls were now leaving.
Giants are now firmly positioned in the top six and look to be round into form at just the right time as they push for the play-offs. Bradford have won just three matches all year, and like Wakefield, their season appears to be all but over.
Warrington Wolves 41-24 St Helens
Wolves recorded a very important win over second-ranked St Helens, upsetting the favourites 41-24 as they closed the gap with Vikings to just two points.
Sunday's third and final match wasn't an exciting fixture either, with two tries within the first 10 minutes giving Warrington a solid lead to defend. St Helens had to wait for their first points until just before half-time, at which point they were already trailing 18-0.
Rhys Evans and Gene Ormsby stole the show early for last year's Grand Finalists, who never really looked worried as the Saints failed to capitalise on a handful of good chances at the end of the first half.
The second half started with another flurry from Warrington, scoring two tries and two goals withing the first 10 minutes after the re-start, and by the time St Helens started to build some momentum they were down 36-6.
The Saints would mount a furious comeback, closing the gap to 36-24 at one point, but Wolves never really looked like they were in trouble, and a late try from Joel Monaghan effectively ended the match.
St Helens will keep their spot in the top two for now but can't be too excited with the trashing they received from a suddenly surging Warrington squad, who will look to build on the momentum of this match as they make their push for the top six.
Here's all the action from a barnstorming first day of action in Manchester.
London Broncos 22 - 24 Catalan Dragons
Catalan Dragons opened the weekend's action with a narrow victory over bottom side London Broncos. The side from the capital have lost all 13 of their ties this season, but could have snatched a draw here had Josh Drinkwater converted his own try at the death.
As it was, the Dragons recorded their third straight victory at the Etihad over Broncos. Thomas Bosc was instrumental to the French side's cause, converting the four tries in a performance that ultimately steered the Catalans home.
The game had started brightly for Joe Grima's men who opened the scoring through a Mason Caton-Brown try. The Perpignan side responded through Vincent Duport courtesy of a lofted Bosc kick. Elliott Whitehead grabbed his first of the game for the Catalans soon after, pouncing on the loose ball.
Ian Ramsdale is pessimistic about Broncos' survival hopes, as he tweeted.
FT London 22-24 Catalans; shows Broncos can & should win some games, but surely only a win today would have prolonged any slim survival hope— Ian Ramsdale (@ianramsdale) May 17, 2014
Jeff Lima sent them further ahead with another try, but Broncos rallied and Caton-Brown notched a second score before James Greenwood followed him over the touchline.
But their response lacked momentum and Whitehead responded for the French with his second try ten minutes before the end. There was still time for Drinkwater to cross the line, but the scrum-half missed the chance to send Broncos level when he sent his conversion wide.
Dragons head coach Laurent Frayssinous was magnanimous in victory following the match, and told the BBC:
We were lucky. Lucky enough to win the game. I don't think we deserved more than them even though we created good opportunities.
We came back to win, I cannot be happy but at least we move forward in the table.
We were smashed by Warrington last week and today we didn't play great but we got the point.
Grima has yet to pick up a point with the Broncos this season, and believes a number of factors contributed to the Etihad defeat, as per BBC Sport:
I can't question the integrity and courageousness in defence, we're giving up so much weight advantage to the opposition and the conditions suited Catalan.
In saying that, we were our own worst enemy. We had a chance to consolidate our field position in that last eight minutes and then they scored.
The penalty count and the errors are a worry because we're a high penalised team and where we are in the table we're not doing ourselves any favours.
Widnes Vikings 30 - 24 Salford Red Devils
Widnes Vikings claimed their first Magic Weekend victory with a closely fought victory over the Salford Red Devils.
Paddy Flynn notched two tries for Widnes, with Jack Owens, Chris Dean, Lloyd White and Rhys Hanbury also adding their names to the scoresheet.
Salford scored though Junior Sa'u, Rangi Chase, Matty Ashurst, Danny Williams and Francis Meli and indeed had led at various points throughout this compelling encounter.
It was only Flynn's second try that secured victory for the Vikings, and even that left a nail-baiting final few minutes for coach Denis Betts who saw his side survive Salford's final set of six tackles.
Betts was delighted following the victory, as he told BBC Sport:
There's no question about the character of this team, but to see it coming out in that situation was fantastic.
We lost Danny Craven in the first 30 seconds and then we lost Jon Clarke 15 minutes into the game. We lost all our attacking shape virtually. We were all over the shop attacking-wise.
What you saw today was a really good team effort. I'm really proud of them.
Hull KR 38 - 24 Hull FC
It's been a busy weekend for Hull's sports teams, but after Hull City's 3-2 defeat in the FA Cup final, there was at least a guarantee of a Yorkshire victory in this city derby.
And it was Hull KR who emerged victorious on Saturday. Hull FC were swimming against the tide in the second half after Jason Crookes was dismissed for a high tackle.
Ade Gardner and Liam Salter scored two tries for Hull KR with Kevin Larroyer and Josh Hodgson also touching own.
Hull FC responded with tries of their own through Dean Hadley, Jamie Shaul, Danny Houghton and Iafeta Paleaaesina but in truth they were well beaten by their city rivals.
Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock spoke to BBC Sport following the game:
For us it was about the performance today and making sure we did the little things well, and we did that for periods.
We weren't at our best but it's two points and they're like gold in this competition.
I was concerned when they scored some soft tries but I thought if we got decent ball there was a chance to score points.
Liam Salter is in dizzy land at the moment but we don't play until Sunday so he's got time to recover, but he's a tough East Hull lad and he was standing at the end.
Wigan Warriors 18 - 14 Leeds Rhinos
Wigan concluded the Saturday of Magic Weekend with a narrow victory over Leeds, ending a run of seven successive victories for the Rhinos.
Blake Green and Anthony Gelling made sure that the Warriors were 12-4 up at half-time, with Ryan Hall replying for Leeds.
Fresh from his performance for the Catalan Dragons earlier in the day, Leon Pryce tweeted this:
In bed watching chipmunks with my little girl.Rock and roll eh.😜 great game to watch Wigan-Leeds,always is!!Great day of rugby league.— Leon Pryce (@leonpryce6) May 17, 2014
In what was a stormy encounter, three players were shown yellow cards in the first half. Onee of those, Michael McIlorum crossed to ensure a Wigan victory. Despite a Rhinos response through Carl Ablett and Hall it was not enough to deny Wigan a deserved victory.
Nevertheless Leeds remain at the head of the table, one point ahead of St Helens, who can go top if they beat Warrington at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.