At half time on Sunday, we had feared that all seven Super League matches over the weekend would end with one-sided scorelines.
Fortunately, London and Hull KR, and to an extent Castleford, restored parity in the second half of their games, to at least stop the critics taking an early opportunity to take a dig at what should be an extraordinary year of rugby league.
Friday’s tie of the round at Headingley suffered a blow when the highly-anticipated return of Gareth Ellis was cut short when the England back-rower limped out of the warm-up. Hull defended stoutly for large periods of the game, but the champions were just too good.
It may have not made much difference in the end, but Aaron Heremaia was unfortunate to be denied for a 40-20 when the game was locked at 6-6. His big toe was judged to have broken the white line, and it was a slightly harsh call for mine and perhaps the rule interpretation needs to be altered. Effectively at the moment, only 39-19’s are possible, as you are denied success if even the smallest part of your foot is touching the line which supposedly signifies the 40 metre mark.
One of the new rules enables teams to effectively have a free tackle on an advantage, meaning they can chance their arm knowing that should the play break down, they’ll get possession back at the initial infringement. At Twickenham Stoop on Sunday, London got the ball from a Widnes knock-on, and then hacked the ball forward to chase. A Widnes player caught the ball in his own half, and then play went 40 metres back to the original scrum. It will be interesting to see how this rule affects this season, but I fear that it may add confusion to the rules, especially to newcomers.
The shock of the weekend came at Langtree Park as Huddersfield thrashed St Helens 40-4. Nathan Brown shrugged it off in the post-match discussions, while obviously disappointed in the result, he knows it’s a long season, and that’s a thought that some of the more critical St Helens fans may wish to take on board. The team the Giants have beaten in each of the last two seasons have gone on to finish first in the league table, while Brown knows all about having a fantastic first half of the season before disappearing from the radar come the business end.
The return of the season meant a return to our TV screens of live rugby league, and we’re pleased to continue to support Premier Sports TV and their video referee innovation.
SKY have done a really good job with some of their adverts this season, particularly the Bradley Wiggins and Baz and Tez efforts, although they do need to scrap the player’s casual wear pen-pics they showed pre-game. Looked awful and unprofessional – not the way to go, when photos of the players in club branded gear are readily accessible.
What about the Foxy Bingo coin toss too? And the Heinz Big Soup Extraordinary Player of the Match. Both positive steps towards appeasing much needed sponsors to the sport. Forget criticising the RFL for having no headline sponsor, recruiting several smaller scale partners may have a greater impact in spreading the sport, and lead to more lucrative deals in the future. It works for the Champions League.
We’re running another story about player’s getting to grips with the new Super League ball, now supplied by Rhino. It certainly wasn’t like Kevin Sinfield to put a couple of high kicks out on the full during Friday’s game. It’s good to see players being consulted though, and it’s another good example of 1eagu3’s importance in the modern game.
The nature of the first round of results sets up some interesting games in round two. The big one obviously sees Warrington travel to Wigan for an early yardstick of their prospects, while St Helens, no doubt licking their wounds from Saturday, go to Widnes, buoyed by their first ever round one win in Super League. Saturday’s SKY match, between two teams who lost on opening weekend, sees Wakefield host Hull KR.