Schoey’s View: The season’s first four-pointer coming up

Garry Schofield has some advice for Salford Red Devils coach Richard Marshall

Salford take on Leigh on Friday – and even at this early stage of the season, it’s a real four-pointer.

Having started the season so well against Wigan, albeit in defeat, Leigh have struggled badly since then.

They were taken apart by Castleford and they really need to the tonic that two points would bring.

As for Salford, these are tough times after such success and excitement in recent years, and in that heavy defeat by Catalans on Saturday, they resembled a 17-piece jigsaw puzzle that can never be completed because the pieces don’t actually fit together.

Richard Marshall has some work to do to reshape things and smooth out some pretty rough edges, and if I were him, I’d be playing Dec Patton, not Kevin Brown, alongside Tui Lolohea in the halves.

Kevin has had a decent career, but all good things come to an end, and I reckon he should be taking a back seat, because he’s no longer contributing enough.

Kevin is 36 now, and I think Dec is the future for Salford, but his development as a halfback is being hindered by not playing there often enough.

Salford have scored only 16 points in three Super League games this year, which is a clear sign that creativity is lacking.

Just like his opposite number at Leigh, John Duffy, Richard will be looking at the next match as must-win, and if Salford were to lose again, they’d be right in the mire.

While it will be tight, I think they’ll have a bit too much for Leigh, and win by eight.

As for Catalans, I was really impressed by their latest victory.

It’s four out of four for Steve McNamara’s side, and I think they’ll make it five from five by beating Warrington by 14 in France on Saturday.

The pandemic has made things particularly tricky for Catalans, given the logistical problems of being based in a different country, but Steve has forged a strong team spirit, and his side seem to be enjoying themselves.

Two things really jump out – the great attitude of the players, both in terms of their individual roles and contributing to the overall team effort, and their discipline, which in the past has been a problem.

Giants’ selection puzzles

I suspect that Huddersfield fans are fed up hearing from new coach Ian Watson about building processes.

Three games into the season, the Giants still haven’t got a point on the board, and while it is early days and I don’t think they will find themselves in a relegation scrap, no one at the John Smith’s Stadium will be happy at the way the new era has begun.

I was as surprised by the team selection against Hull KR on Friday as I was by the slack way Huddersfield started the match.

Lee Gaskell, Adam O’Brien and Matty English among the replacements? Not for me!

I know it’s an 80-minute game, but I think you should start with your strongest side, because just as Ian likes to talk about building processes, you also have to build foundations in a match.

The halfback combination is obviously crucial to any team, and with Aidan Sezer playing his first match of the season after injury, it was particularly important to have an established Super League player like Gaskell next to him.

They played alongside each other pretty effectively last season, and I’m not certain Jack Cogger, brought over from Canterbury Bulldogs, is nearly as effective.

Likewise, I have O’Brien ahead of James Cunningham, while Matty English must have been buoyed by his inclusion in the England training session during the week, so why not let him rip into Rovers from the kick-off?

Instead the Giants were caught napping as Rovers registered the quickest try in Super League history – and it can’t have been far off the fastest ever – just seven seconds in.

It was a bit of a freak the way the ball bounced, but you want your players to be far more alert, and show real enthusiasm, commitment and desire right from the word go, and it set the tone for one of the worst 40 minutes of rugby I’ve seen from a Huddersfield side in a long time.

Ian must have been fuming at that 18-4 half-time score, and while the Giants did get better after the break, when a controversial call went against his side, Rovers deserved their first win and I’m delighted for Tony Smith.

The 25-24 scoreline might have been tight, but it’s the two points in the table that count, and having lost out by a point on a couple of occasions already this year against Catalans and in the Challenge Cup against Castleford, this win will have provided a big boost going forward and taken a little bit of pressure off a coach whose philosophy I really like.

It was also good to see assistant coach Danny McGuire so active alongside Tony, who with all his experience, will be a great bloke to learn from.

As for Huddersfield, it’s important they get that fist win on the board as soon as possible, but with St Helens coming next, it might be a waiting game. I think the defending champions will win by 20 on Thursday.

And while Ian said the Giants should be a top-four club when he was appointed in November, there’s clearly a fair bit of work to do on that front.

He will have the backing of the club officials, but everyone will be happier once signs of progress are more apparent.

Reserving judgement on Kyle

So what do we make of Kyle Eastmond after he finally returned to a Rugby League pitch?

I have to say I feel for the former St Helens man after a tough debut for injury-hit Leeds against Wigan, for whom Zak Hardaker and Jackson Hastings stood out.

Marking Kyle out of ten, I could only give him four, but at least after looking lost in the first half, he showed a few glimpses of his old self in the second, with a couple of nice passes which hinted at both vision and awareness.

I think we should take three things into account when judging him at this stage.

1 He found himself in the most important position on the pitch against a very good and clever side who were well able to exploit his rustiness and the fact that Leeds had a number of influential players missing.

2 He got very little help from those around him.

3 In Rhyse Martin, his halfback partner was a second rower who didn’t seem to have much of a clue about what a stand-off does (and that’s not meant as a dig, because he had a go).

I think we need to wait until Leeds start to get some players back before making any sweeping conclusions about Kyle and what he might contribute going forward.

It will be interesting to see how he goes against Hull KR on Friday, and with the Robins having home advantage, I think they’ll win by seven to extend Leeds’ miserable run.

As for the other two games, I fancy Castleford to inflict a first defeat of the season on Wigan on Thursday – Daryl Powell’s side by eight.

And I think Hull will have far too much for Wakefield on Friday and win by 24.

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