Written by PHIL WILKINSON, May 30, 2016
HERE are five things we learned from round 16 of the 2016 Super League season:
1. IT’S wrong to say Hull FC have never challenged the Super League big sides – they reached a Grand Final a decade ago and were in the Challenge Cup Final in 2013. But there’s something about their current side which suggests they may well be the real deal, that when the trophies are being handed out FC may be in with a chance of claiming one. Their monster pack, featuring Sika Manu, Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello and Frank Pritchard, have helped them pull two points clear at the top of the ladder after more than half the season played. The top-four is starting to take shape, and it’s refreshing to see FC, and Catalans, in the mix.
2. LEEDS – treble-winners, defending premiers – should start preparing for a fight for their top-flight future. Their 52-18 loss at Warrington, coupled with results elsewhere, left them cut-adrift at the bottom of the Super League ladder, eight points away from a place in the top-eight. The season splits after round 23 into the Super-8s phase, when the bottom four clubs battle it out with the Championship’s top sides for places in next year’s Super League. And even if Leeds win all of their remaining seven games between now and the end of July there is no guarantee they will avoid the Qualifiers, or the ‘Middle 8s’ as they are better known. “We need to keep fighting and keep swinging away,” said coach Brian McDermott, who has banked so much good-will over the years that his position has not been threatened.
The highlight of the game came in the 51st minute when Ashton Sims to exception to a late hit by Brad Singleton which led to a scuffle that saw both men sent to the bin after player’s from both sides became involved.
3. CHRIS Sandow won back-to-back Player of the Month awards before succumbing to a hamstring injury. He showed flashes of his dazzling best on his return in the mauling of Leeds, which keeps Warrington hot on the heels of leaders Hull FC. He has provided a Warrington team pushing for top-spot with “the X-factor”, according to coach Tony Smith. “We were always going to miss Chrissy.”
4. OFFICIALS came in for some bashing at the weekend with Castleford’s Daryl Powell leading the way. Jake Webster was sinbinned for dissent after the half-time siren had sounded – after protesting against a decision – but Ben Thaler copped both barrels afterwards.
“There was some unacceptable stuff. I’ll get fined for this but respect works both ways and players need respect in the way you speak to them,” said Powell. “The way he was talking to players is unacceptable.” St Helens coach Keiron Cunningham was more reserved in his assessment of referee Gareth Hewer, who awarded a 13-2 penalty count in Hull FC’s favour. “The penalties were 10-2 in the first half. If anyone says they were eight penalties cleaner than us, I’ll call them a liar,” he said.
5. FORMER Tigers forward Jack Buchanan helped Widnes stop the rot with a 24-20 win against Huddersfield – their first victory in nine matches. He came off the bench midway through the first half as they powered to a win which opened up a four-point gap between the Vikings, in the crucial eighth spot, and the chasing pack. But the battle to avoid finishing in the bottom-four took an intriguing twist last week when Salford won the right to have their appeal for a six-point deduction heard by an independent body. Widnes will be watching on with interest.
Super League round 16 results:
Hull FC 32 (G.Ellis, M.Fonua, C.Tuimavave, S.Taylor, D.Washbrook tries; M.Sneyd 6 goals) beat St Helens 24 (A.Swift, J.Lomax, A.Vea, J.Ashworth tries; J.Owens 4 goals).
Catalans 34 (T.Gigot 2, J.Broughton, T.Carney, L.Albert, L.Anderson tries; P.Richards 5 goals) beat Hull KR 16 (K.Larroyer, J.Wardill, K.Sio tries; K.Sio, A.Kelly goals).
Salford 38 (R.Lannon 2, N.Evalds, M.Flanagan, R.Lui, J.Griffin, J.Sa’u tries; G.O’Brien 4, M.Dobson goals) beat Wakefield 8 (A.Tupou, B.Jones-Bishop tries).
Warrington 52 (D.Clark 2, G.Ormsby 2, T.Lineham, B.Dwyer, R.Atkins, S.Ratchford, K.Gidley tries; K.Gidley 8 goals) beat Leeds 18 (B.Ferres 2, J.Keinhorst tries; L.Sutcliffe 3 goals).
Wigan 33 (J.Charnley 2, S.Tomkins, D.Manfredi, S.Powell tries; M.Smith 6 goals, fieldgoal) beat Castleford 26 (D.Solomona 2, P.McShane, J.Webster tries; L.Gale 5 goals).
Widnes 24 (C.Thompson 2, J.Mellor 2, S.Marsh tries; R.Hanbury 2 goals) beat Huddersfield 20 (N.Mason, D.Brough, J.Wardle, J.McGillvary tries; D.Brough 2 goals)
Standings after round 16: Hull FC 24, Warrington 22, Catalans 22, Wigan 22, St Helens 18, Wakefield 16, Castleford 15, Widnes 14, Salford 10, Hull KR 9, Huddersfield 8, Leeds 6.
(Salford deducted six points for salary cap breach).