Big congratulation to Catalans Dragons on the thrilling win over St Helens, which clinched the League Leaders’ Shield.
It was the first of two cracking Saturday showdowns which went to extra time and meant that part of Magic Weekend certainly lived up to its name.
It also underlined how Catalans could go all the way and win the Grand Final, particularly if Saints don’t learn their lesson from this defeat.
It was a superb late comeback from 30-12 down by Steve McNamara’s men, and full credit to them for keeping going and playing for the full duration of the game.
We know the Dragons have an awful lot going for them in terms of the quality and the balance of their squad and the way they are willing to chance their arm.
Saints’ recent success over the last few years speaks for itself, but I’ve spoken about how they have too often turned the tap on and off this year, and I thought they showed some arrogance, which proved costly.
They can’t afford a repeat, particularly in the play-offs.
Hull might not even make the six after their defeat by Leeds, and that would be a huge setback for the Black and Whites and their coach Brett Hodgson, who was supposed to come in and breathe new life into the club.
I expected them to be far more adventurous this season, but their game plan seems to rely on Marc Sneyd too much.
After a decent start, Josh Reynolds has been a disappointment, and now, of course, he is injured, and for me, they lack genuine creativity.
Leeds just can’t be written off, and Kruise Leeming and Harry Newman were both excellent.
They’ve been a bit up and down, however, and they now face a tough trip to Saints, who I can see bouncing back from their defeat by Catalans at Newcastle with a 14-point victory.
Hull’s clash with Wigan is hardly one to tantalise the tastebuds, and you can only hope one of both of them decide to throw caution to the wind and really go for it.
Whatever the tactics employed, I think it will be tight, and I’m tipping Hull to win by a single point.
Over at Hull KR, I’m expecting a more entertaining 80 minutes when Castleford visit. In fact it could be the game of the round, with Rovers to win by seven.
Catalans could cash in at home to Huddersfield while Warrington should see off Salford without too much trouble, and I’m going for a 32-point margin in each case.
That leaves Leigh and Wakefield, and while Willie Poching has done well in caretaker charge of Trinity, I think the Centurions could have the edge and win by eight.
Wigan halted their slump – and saved some face – with that win at Castleford last Monday and subsequent announcement that coach Adrian Lam will leave the end of the season.
But if their recent dreadful run of three straight losses, including two home games without scoring a try, had come earlier in the season, would he still have been in the hot seat?
This way, both the club and the coach can part ways without too much awkwardness, and I can see that a change at this late stage of the campaign could have been problematic.
When all is said and done, Wigan are on course for the play-offs, and from there, anything could happen, including a first Super League title since 2018.
That possibility adds an intriguing angle to the rest of the season, and we might have three coaches, Lam, Steve Price and Daryl Powell, all trying to bow out in style.
Owner Ian Lenagan trotted out some suitable words.
“Adrian joins a select group who have won trophies and represented Wigan successfully as a player and head coach and we will always hold him in high regard,” he said.
“Adrian should be really proud of his three years in charge of Wigan Warriors.”
That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose, but I’m not sure the cherry and white faithful, whose numbers seem to have dwindled along with famous old club’s trophy haul, would agree.
Yes, Wigan won the League Leaders’ Shield last season and featured in a tight Grand Final, but it was St Helens who took the title – again – and that will only have added to the supporters’ frustration.
The fact is that when it comes to the top two pieces of silverware, a club that has had so much previous success and see themselves as something special in the Rugby League world, hasn’t picked up any of the five available during the time Lam, who originally arrived as a bit of a stopgap but stayed on when Shaun Edwards did his U turn, has so far been at the helm.
Basically, they’ve been treading water, and doing it playing a pretty boring style of rugby which must have turned off a lot of existing fans and has done nothing to attract new ones at a time when the sport as a whole so badly needs to grow.
“We will now take some time to review the season and the current staffing structures and make an announcement on his replacement in due course,” added Lenagan.
Will Shaun Wane return in some kind of ‘director of rugby’ role? If that happens, would a coach with the necessary experience to handle a club like Wigan be willing to work in such circumstances?
Or will Wigan go for a fresh approach and once again go overseas, perhaps for Ricky Stuart, a good coach who perhaps would benefit from a change of scenery and who likes to entertain rather than send spectators to sleep.
What the Hearns could teach us
I was lucky enough to be in the crowd at Headingley to see Leeds boxer Josh Warrington’s big rematch with Mauricio Lara on Saturday night.
It was disappointing that the bout was stopped in the second round, when the Mexican ended up with a badly cut eye after a clash of heads, because it had been a terrific start amid a fantastic atmosphere.
Rugby League is a tough sport, but boxing is at another level, and having spoken to Sean O’Hagan, who is both Josh’s dad and trainer and who also kindly invited me to the pre-fight weigh-in, I’m in awe of the all the work that goes in before a fight.
I got a little taste, and I have to emphasise little, of what it’s like a few years back when I took part in a couple of bouts to raise funds for the Steve Prescott Foundation.
I beat Alan Hunte, of St Helens and Great Britain fame, at Bolton, and later lost on points to Oldham Chairman Bill Quinn at Batley.
Both were over three two-minute rounds, and I can honestly say those twelve minutes were among the worst, and most uncomfortable, of my life.
I was battered, bruised and pretty much broken, and I’d gone through a fraction of what both amateur and professional boxers do.
The other thing I took from the whole experience was how Rugby League would benefit from having Eddie Hearn on board, because the way the event was promoted and organised was first class.
You see what the Hearns have done with both boxing and darts, and you are just desperate to them get on board with all their ideas and ability to provide the kind of razzamatatazz that Rugby League so badly requires.
Thanks to Ikram
My thanks go to my mate Ikram Butt for inviting me to take part in an excellent evening to raise funds for the Rob Burrow Foundation.
We had a lovely meal and great question and answer session and auction at Gaf’s Restaurant in Knottingley, and hopefully all who attended enjoyed the event.
I’ve had a great response to my golf day to raise funds for the same cause, which takes place at Normanton Golf Club on Thursday, September 23.
Should any business or group wish to donate a raffle prize or an item to auction, please email email@example.com and I’ll be in touch!
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