ANDY SHARPE looks at the key lessons we learned from Rugby League on both sides of the world this weekend.
SAM TOMKINS WILL RETURN TO WIGAN
The best worst kept secret of the last few weeks was let out of the bag as Wigan Warriors announced the return of Sam Tomkins at half time of their Thursday night win over Warrington Wolves. Tomkins has signed a 4 year contract after Wigan agreed to pay a transfer fee of £200,000 to New Zealand Warriors and his signing will spell an end to the career of Matty Bowen and the length of the contract will take him up to 30 years of age which, if he sees it through, will probably rule him out of a big money move to rugby union.
LEEDS DON’T NEED GARETH WIDDOP…..
Leeds Rhinos showed on Friday Night that they don’t need to pay big money to sign Gareth Widdop from St. George Ilawarra Dragons, as has been rumoured recently, and are already well prepared for life without Kevin Sinfield. Club captain Sinfield, who leaves for Yorkshire Carnegie at the end of the year, was on the Rhinos bench for first time in 12 years in the clash of the top two in Super League against St. Helens. Academy products Liam Sutcliffe and Brad Singleton started at stand off and loose forward respectively and were outstanding performers. Sutcliffe was instrumental in everything the Rhinos did whilst fellow Academy product Ash Handley scored a 1st half hat trick in a club record 41-16 win at St. Helens.
…. AND ARE THE BEST TEAM IN SUPER LEAGUE
The record win at St. Helens means the Rhinos opened up a 6 point gap at the top of the league on Friday night and are quite clearly the best team in the league. St. Helens skipper Jon Wilkin lauded the Leeds youngsters, particularly Zak Hardaker and Kallum Watkins, as the future of English Rugby. Add in Sutcliffe, Singleton, Stevie Ward and 1st half hat trick hero Ash Handley and you can see why the Rhinos are top of the table and are playing some of their best rugby for a few years. And don’t forget that they are currently without first choice wingers Ryan Hall and Tom Briscoe. It is hard to see anyone catching them at the top of the league before the season splits into the Super 8’s after 23 rounds.
CHAMPIONSHIP SIDES CAN COMPETE……..IN ONE OFF GAMES
Leigh Centurions played well enough to beat a depleted Salford Red Devils side and proved why they will be a major threat come the Super 8’s later in the year, Bradford Bulls gave Hull Kingston Rovers a real fright whilst Halifax and Sheffield Eagles competed for large periods of their cup ties against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Hull FC. They did the Kingstone Press Championship proud but does anyone else find it uncanny that the top 4 sides in the Championship were the ones to draw the Super League sides competing in round 5?
LEIGH WILL NEED TO STRENGTHEN
The Leigh Sports Village looked and sounded great on Saturday afternoon and will be a fitting home for a Super League side and there is a strong possibility, based on Saturday’s performance, that it will host Super League games on a regular basis in 2016. The Centurions will be full of confidence going into the Super 8’s but should they gain promotion their current team will not compete in Super League on a week to week basis. Their management will know they will need to overhaul their current squad if they are to be strong enough to retain a Super League place in the long term.
CORY PATTERSON SHOULD HAVE BEEN SENT OFF
Salford Red Devils forward Cory Patterson was lucky to see out the first tackle of the match. Patterson charged at Leigh full back Greg McNally as the Centurions spread the ball wide as soon as they received it from the kick off. It wasn’t clear if he caught McNally with his elbow or shoulder, but either way it was an intentional illegal high challenge and referee Phil Bentham should have shown him the red card.
DCE WON’T BE BACKFLIPPING ON HIS TITANS DEAL
Queensland and Australia half back Daly Cherry-Evans has come out and squashed speculation that he will be reneging on the 4 year multi-million dollar contract he recently signed with Gold Coast Titans. Evans is big mates with fellow Queenslander Nate Myles, who plays for the Titans, and played a big part in the Titans landing the massive coup of taking Evans away from Manly. Now it is rumoured that Myles is a target for Manly and, supposedly, this has led to Evans re-thinking the deal. The NRL rule is that players have until round 13 to backflip on any deal signed but Evans said on Australian TV over the weekend “As I said, there’s nothing to report so I just feel extremely uncomfortable with the spotlight I’m in at the moment. “I’ve got no changes to report. That means nothing’s changed.”
CANBERRA SCORED THEIR GREATEST EVER COMEBACK
The Green Machine of Canberra Raiders have won 3 Grand Finals in their 34 year history, although none since 1994, and have had some of the greatest names in the last 30 years on their playing squad. The likes of Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley, Bradley Clyde, Ricky Stuart, Glenn Lazarus, Gary Belcher, John Ferguson and Steve Walters have worn the Lime Green that is synonymous with the Raiders but none of the aforementioned players was ever involved in as big a comeback victory as the 2015 Raiders pulled off on Sunday. The Raiders, now coached by Stuart, trailed the Wests Tigers 22-0 after 25 minutes at Leichardt Oval but trailed by only 10 at half time and scored a further 18 points in the second half to claim their third win of the year. Long serving forward Dane Tilse played his 204th and final first grade game for the Raiders and now heads over to Super League to take up a contract with Hull Kingston Rovers.
DUBAI WILL HOST A RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
The World Cup qualifying tie between South Africa and Lebanon will take place at the Dubai Sports City on Friday October 30th. The clash will determine the 8th qualifier for the 2017 World Cup tournament that will be held in Australia and New Zealand and comes on the back of the announcement that the United Arab Emirates is interested in making a bid to host the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.