The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Super League’s Super 8s: Round Four
St Helens cast away any struggles and doubts over their staying power with a come-from-behind win over Catalans in France. Without Ben Barba and James Roby, Saints had to fight back twice from 10 and eight-point deficits to eventually snatch the victory late. St Helens showed true grit and they are far from a spent force.
London made one huge step towards the Million Pound Game with a convincing 34-8 demolition of Toulouse on home soil. That result puts them in fifth spot, Toulouse in sixth, with three rounds remaining in the Middle Eights. The Broncos will go to Hull KR on Saturday night full of confidence and with flying fullback Alex Walker in fine touch.
Wigan made it five wins on the bounce with their impressive 25-10 workout with Wakefield. Trinity did not give in, and tested their opponents, but the Warriors scrapped their way to another victory. Wigan are starting to look ominous as the finals approach. With Shaun Wane, Sam Tomkins, Ryan Sutton and John Bateman all leaving the club at the end of the season, what a way to send them off would glory at Old Trafford be?
Referees cop plenty of stick but Robert Hicks deserves plaudits for the way he handed Salford against Toronto at the AJ Bell Stadium. Hicks controlled proceedings perfectly, let the game flow and was not afraid to punish dangerous play when he needed to. Hicks gave out two red cards and two yellow cards, and all four were perfectly warranted. Kudos to him for doing what needed to be done. Hicks is setting the standard for referees this season.
Widnes are all but doomed after another loss, this time to Leeds at home. The Vikings need to beat Halifax, Toronto away and Hull KR to even have any hope of making the Million Pound Game. They haven’t a chance in hell of winning four in a row to escape relegation. And the club’s recent video messages to its fans, from CEO James Rule, is a case of too little too late. Widnes’ fate was determined quite a while ago and the rot has deeply set in. Many long-time supporters feel ostracized from the club and its management, and these videos, while trying to be somewhat of an olive branch, are not having the desired effect and should have come months ago. The Vikings need to start planning for life in the Championship.
Salford’s tussle with Toronto on Saturday was tense, dramatic and filled with talking points. The Red Devils fully deserved their victory but two of their players - Luke Burgess and Jackson Hastings – lost the plot during the game. Both deserved to be sent off with reckless challenges attacking the head of Wolfpack players. Players need to be protected at all costs. Hastings' shot on O’Brien with just 13 seconds left in the match was completely needless, as was the follow-through kneeing, and is the first blemish on his Super League career. It wouldn’t be harsh for him to have played his last Super 8s game of 2018 and be banned for the next three fixtures.
Equally bad was some of the play by Halifax against Hull KR yesterday. Twice Fax players dished out cheap shots on Robins’ players who had their backs turned and were passing the ball, and were barely punished. Craig Hall took a swinging arm to the chops, that nearly took his head off, but the offender didn’t receive a card of any colour. Madness. If Salford’s play deserved two red cards, so did the ugly high shot from Halifax. The officiating in this match was poor and needs reviewing.