St Helens On Their Way To The Winners Shield - The Good Bad Ugly Of Week 22
The Good - Huddersfield, Wakefield and Catalans all secured their places in the top eight with resounding victories over the weekend. The Giants fought back from 12-0 against Castleford to win easily 32-18. The Dragons put Salford to the sword, romping to a 34-point victory thanks to a four-try haul by Fouad Yaha, and Wakefield absolutely obliterated a horrifically bad Hull FC. Pressure has eased on all three clubs, who no longer have to worry about the threat of relegation and the slog of the Middle Eights. That said, it’s hard to see any of them breaking into the top four though.
Lee Gaskell was exceptional on Friday, scoring and setting up tries and breaking tackles constantly with his running game. He was ably helped by Leroy Cudjoe, who terriorised the Tigers’ left edge along with Jermanin McGilvary, and veteran playmaker Danny Brough. Huddersfield’s season smacks of what could have been, while Catalans still have plenty to play for with a huge Challenge Cup semi-final on its wa.
First played second on Thursday night as St Helens visited Wigan’s DW Stadium. And the result was as expected – Saints coming away with another W. There has become a formality, an expectation with the Red V’s performances this season. Even without Ben Barba, who was missing against the Warriors, there was still too much in the St Helens tank for a brave Wigan to beat. There’s no stopping Saints winning the League Leader’s Shield now.
The Bad - Leeds and Widnes met on Friday in a contest between two exceptionally struggling teams. The Rhinos hadn’t won in nine games but the Vikings’ winless streak stretched back to 15 matches. Something had to give and it was Widnes who folded badly, not scoring a single point in a heavy 34-0 loss. Some of the Vikings’ defensive options were farcical, letting Leeds advance through them with total ease. Coach Francis Cummins didn’t mince his words afterwards: “This was the worst performance while I’ve been in charge and to a man, we’ve embarrassed ourselves tonight. Leeds played well but we allowed them to because we didn’t show enough energy in what we were trying to do.” Dark clouds are certainly brewing over the Halton Stadium.
The Ugly - Wakefield make history, and Hull FC made headlines, at a sunny Belle Vue yesterday. The heat was on Wakey to make sure they missed out on the Middle Eights. But few expected the Black & Whites to crumble like they did, conceding 12 tries in a 72 point-embarrassment. Lee Radford gambled with a few players returning from injury – Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd and Fetuli Talanoa – and it back-fired badly. It was Hull FC’s worst loss in Super League history and means they can kiss the top four goodbye this year.
For Trinity, it was an afternoon where they finally hit their straps. They have been up and down like an Alton Towers rollercoaster this year, but there was no doubt in the result on Sunday. If they play to their potential they will cause a few upsets in the Super 8s.