Weekend Verdict: This is how rugby league should be

It was one of the most highly-anticipated Championship matches for years, and it certainly delivered.

Leigh overturned a 20-6 half time deficit to beat Bradford 36-24 in front of 7449 fans in a remarkable game at Leigh Sports Village, which saw six yellow cards.

The atmosphere in the ground was electric both prior and during the match, and it had already got tasty before barnstorming prop Fuifui Moimoi entered the fray – the Tongan international having a devastating impact, including laying the platform for a crucial second half try for the Centurions.

While talk about the super 8s system being a success are premature, it just goes to show that removing the glass ceiling from the Championship by re-introducing the possibility of promotion could do wonders for the game.

If that match doesn’t make some first-timers return for more in the coming weeks, nothing will. The buzz, the crowd, the atmosphere, the entertainment on the field – it was everything a Sunday afternoon at the rugby should be.

And a word too for the sizeable travelling contingent from Bradford, who contributed significantly to the occasion. Sparse travelling crowds from some teams don’t help build the event around matches in the Championship far too often – that shouldn’t be the case in the majority of games this year.

The two teams who had the best start in Super League last season – Castleford and Widnes – made the top eight.

I’m not saying Wakefield will do the same, but having been written off by everyone, they’ve had a dream start.

Back-to-back wins against two of their rivals for a top eight spot, and they play Widnes in round three, so there’s every chance it could be continued.

James Webster seemed assured and trusting in his players when I spoke to him at the Super League launch, and they’ll be delighted to have four points on the board.

Another team with four points from two games is Leeds, who looked ordinary for 60 minutes against Widnes on Friday night despite never being troubled, before opening up to play some absolutely brilliant rugby in running in four tries in the last quarter of an hour.

Too much emphasis is placed on percentages and completion rates in Super League at times, and the Rhinos might be better served chancing their arm a bit more and playing more attractive rugby – and I’m sure they’ve a few fans who’ll agree.

As first home games of the season go, it couldn’t have gone much worse for Salford on Thursday night.

Losing two of their superstar players in Kevin Locke and Michael Dobson to injury, and being absolutely walloped by champions St Helens, who barely had to break sweat in the process.

It led to that now infamous “I have had enough” tweet from Dr Koukash, who has no doubt done a lot of thinking over this weekend.

That said, it’s not a time for knee-jerk reactions. Realistically, the games against Warrington and St Helens won’t determine whether the Red Devils finish in the top eight – it’ll be the games against the likes of Hull, Widnes and Wakefield that will.

The Red Devils should perhaps be judged in a few weeks. I said in a few tweets on Thursday that the teams that have progressed in Super League over the past 10 years have either had exceptional coaches (Tony Smith, Daryl Powell) or had stability (Huddersfield, Hull KR under Morgan, Widnes); and that’s something Koukash must consider as part of his grand plan to conquer all.

The way rugby league is now, you need all 17 men to stand up and be counted. If you added three or four superstars to each Super League team, it would still be the same few lining up for the major honours at the end of the year.

After two fantastic weekends for rugby league, next week promises to be a third – with a sell out World Club Challenge between St Helens and Souths next Sunday night, and two other NRL teams visiting the north west to take on Wigan and Warrington.

 

Love Rugby League.

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