The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Super League’s Super 8s: Round 5
St Helens finally claimed the League Leader’s Shield with a 26-point win over Hull FC. The Red V has had one hand on the Shield for months, but on Friday it became official. Now with just three games left, two in the Super 8s and then their home semi-final, the real fun starts. There were flashes in this match of the Saints of earlier this year as they scored some really dazzling tries. But they will have to do it against much better sides than Hull FC over the next month.
Dom Manfredi capped off a fine return to Super League with two four-pointers in Wigan’s victory against Warrington. Manfredi has sadly been out of action for two years with injury and it was great to see him back, fit and firing, doing what he does best, which is score tries. This was the Warriors’ fifth win in the Super 8s, an unbeaten five from five, and has them in fine mettle. They are going to be a handful for Castleford in the semi-finals.
Speaking of the Tigers and they too notched up another victory, this time a 44-12 result against Huddersfield. Cas have now won four on the bounce, and seven from their past nine. Their heartbeat this campaign is undoubtedly Paul McShane, the chunky little hooker who is the complete package. Super League is blessed with several quality number 9s and McShane is right up there with the best. On Thursday he set up four tries and was the top tackler for his team, another tremendous effort. A workhorse and a creator, McShane deserves to be on the shortlist for Man of Steel.
Widnes’ match against Halifax was slow, ugly and tense. The Vikings are virtually relegated, but not yet mathematically, so this was their last throw of the dice. This was a poor quality match and was beamed around the world on Sky Sports. Should these be the sort of games that get televised? It does nothing for selling the sport.
Where to start? The lack of video referee at Toronto vs Toulouse? Jack Bussey’s moments of madness, including a nip of Bastian Ader’s ear? The refereeing of Scott Mikalauskas in Wakefield vs Catalans? The controversial ending of Leeds vs Salford? There’s just too many to pick from. Round 5 was a good one for ugly scenes and incidents, several that were just hard to explain or difficult to watch.
Bussey should have been marched for gnawing on Ader. Later in the game he took the head off a Toulouse player with a dangerous shoulder charge, which went unpenalised. Considering the French club lost a tight match, where Mason Caton-Brown was awarded a try that shouldn’t have been a try, they have every right to be seething right now. It could cost them promotion.
At Wakefield things got testy when the Catalans players lost their heads and resorted to fighting when they were well-behind on the scoreboard. Eventually Mika Simon and Jacob Miller were red-carded, though the red for Miller was harsh as all the stand-off did was run in and push, copping about three left hooks to the head before he even managed a response. The sin-binning of Craig Huby earlier, after several Dragons throwing punches unpunished, was also curious at best. Trinity coach Chris Chester was not too pleased post-match.
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