One thing you can’t knock the 2018 season for was its ability to raise our eyebrows.
Whether it be Leeds’ woeful title defence, Shaun Wane’s unexpected resignation or Leigh’s disastrous return to the Championship, there was always a shock around the corner.
So to celebrate the underdogs of the year, we’ve put together a list of the top ten shock results of 2018.
10. Toulouse 34-23 Hull KR – September 22nd
September 22nd will go down as one of the finest days in the second tier’s history and most certainly its greatest moment in the Super 8s era.
Three Championship sides took on three Super League counterparts on the same day in three different countries, and the lower league trip swept the board.
Toronto’s win over Widnes was no real surprise, but London’s victory over Salford most certainly was, even if they were without their lynchpin halfback, Jackson Hastings.
But undoubtedly, the biggest surprise was to see Toulouse defeat Tim Sheens’ Robins.
What was most astonishing was that KR had scorched into a comfortable 19-0 lead inside the opening 25 minutes.
But Olympique stormed back, scoring 34 unanswered points as Rhys Curran, Chris Centrone (2), Stan Robin, Gavin Marguerite and Bastien Ader all raced in.
The result ultimately made no significant difference to either side in the Qualifiers, but it was a huge shock all the same.
9. Leeds Rhinos 16-17 Toronto Wolfpack – September 29th
The rapid rise of Toronto Wolfpack has been well-documented during their rise through the lower leagues.
But who could have ever, ever believed a club that didn’t even exist two years earlier would turn up to the home of the defending Super League champions and turn them over on their own patch?
Perhaps it’s a result to best summarise Leeds’ torrid campaign, but they were left humbled by their lower-league counterparts as Gareth O’Brien, who else, nailed a drop goal from distance for the win.
Leeds would still secure safety, but this was a result that proved it only papered over the cracks.
For Toronto, it was their breakout moment, although they would have a moment to forget not too long after…
8. Halifax 6-27 Oldham – March 20th
It was a great year for League 1.
Not only did Bradford and York fight it out in a memorable title race, but across the board, clubs in the third tier proved that not only is the gap closing between Super League and the Championship, but also the Championship and League 1.
Whitehaven superbly dispatched of Dewsbury and Rochdale in the Challenge Cup while York City Knights gave the eventual winners, Catalans, an almighty fright.
But there was no bigger shock than the one in Round 4 as Oldham eased to victory over Championship high-flyers Halifax.
The game was played midweek due to bad weather and with a trip to Toulouse coming at the weekend, Fax decided to rest some players.
But they were soon left regretting that as the Roughyeds built a 14-0 lead just after half-time. And they never looked like relinquishing it, as tries from Danny Langtree, Ben West (2) and Paul Crook saw them ease to victory.
It was Halifax’s second home defeat of the season, and they remained unbeaten at home for the rest of the regular season thereafter.
7. Bradford Bulls 18-24 Workington Town – August 19th
The honest truth is that the story had already been written before the game had started.
When Workington arrived in West Yorkshire for this match, they arrived looking to trip the Bulls up on their promotion stampede. Bradford were top of the league via points difference and needed to win.
But Leon Pryce, a legend of Odsal after his glittering playing days, had other ideas.
Pryce had already masterminded one victory over his boyhood club earlier in the year, but nobody truly expected he could find a way to repeat that on the Bulls’ turf.
But that he did. Sean Penkywicz’s late try left Bradford shellshocked as they suffered at the expense of the Cumbrians yet again. It was a result that saw Pryce become an Odsal villain, although we imagine all will eventually be forgiven.
The result cost Bradford the League 1 title, with York overtaking them and staying unbeaten for the rest of the season to secure the title.
Bradford would not be denied promotion, as they finally gained revenge over the Cumbrians by defeating them 27-8 in the League 1 play-off final.
6. Warrington Wolves 80-10 Hull FC – August 30th
OK, the outcome of this match wasn’t so much a surprise.
It was just how emphatic it proved to be.
Hull FC travelled to Warrington with a depleted squad and a load of youngsters still finding their feet.
Few thought the Black and Whites could really win the game. But nobody expected them to be obliterated like this.
A 14-try rout saw Lee Radford’s side concede a club record 80 points. Bryson Goodwin was the main benefactor as he scored five tries in one of the heaviest scorelines in Super League history.
Hull were perhaps unlucky, after all, it seemed the Wolves had learned their lesson from a few months earlier…
5. Warrington Wolves 30-34 Castleford Tigers – June 8th
Roll the clocks back a few months before Warrington’s annihilation of Hull, they had been left humiliated by an equally patched up Castleford.
Greg Eden, Jake Webster, Ben Roberts, Luke Gale, Paul McShane, Junior Moors and Liam Watts, all dead-set first-teamers, were unavailable.
Daryl Powell was forced to hand debuts to teenager Calum Turner and Mitch Clark, while such were the depths of their injury crisis they recruited Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e, who had spent his entire career in the Championship.
It was a nightmare scenario for any coach that was only made worse by the fact Cas had to travel to face a Warrington team that had won 12 of its last 13 matches.
But against all the odds, Castleford stunned the Wolves. Tied at 20-20 at the break, the Tigers went ahead through the debutant QLT, before he set up Oliver Holmes for the decisive try.
4. Widnes Vikings 20-21 London Broncos – August 9th
The 2018 Qualifiers campaign was the most anticipated of all.
Perhaps for the first time, there was a genuine belief across the game that the Championship sides could consistently mix it up with their Super League counterparts.
If there were any doubters, they were gone after the first game of the comp. London headed to Widnes knowing the Vikings had the weight of the world on their shoulders.
After losing their last 16 Super League matches, Widnes were undoubtedly vulnerable, but surely, surely, they would win at home to a lower-league side?
Nope. The Broncos, trailing 6-0 at half-time, struck first after the break through Mark Ioane. Although a Chris Dean try and penalty goal gave the Vikings a 14-4 lead, London exploited Widnes’ nerves and fragilities with three tries in eight minutes to go 20-14 ahead.
Krisnan Inu’ levelled the game with five minutes to go and hand Widnes a platform to escape with the points.
However, there are few players you would rather have in your side when you need a match-winning moment than Jarrod Sammut.
With barely 60 seconds left, the maverick halfback kicked a superb field-goal to win the match for London and throw the Qualifiers wide open.
It was the beginning of the end of Widnes’ time in Super League.
3. St Helens 16-35 Catalans – August 5th
Oh how St Helens fans must regret their joyful cheers when they drew Les Dracs in the semi-final draw.
Live on the BBC, Saints fans roared with delight when they avoided Leeds and Warrington. Instead, they were given a match against Catalans, with the prize being a trip to Wembley and a place in the final.
In fairness to Saints fans, at the time, it seemed like a free pass. Steve McNamara’s side was still near the bottom of the table after an awful start to the season.
However, in the weeks leading up to the game, Catalans improved. They started winning games and climbed away from the bottom four.
Even still, they were given no chance against Saints, who, at the time, appeared to be marching towards the treble.
But in the most shocking 40 minutes of the season, Catalans established a 27-0 lead. Tries from Lewis Tierney, Ben Garcia (2) and the excellent Tony Gigot wrapped up a completely dominant first-half performance.
Saints tried to stir a fightback and threatened to do so as Mark Percival scored twice and LMS bagged another. But Sam Moa killed any hopes and sent Catalans to Wembley. We don’t need to remind you what happened there.
Some argue Saints never recovered. Their form dipped thereafter and, although they still won the League Leaders’ Shield, they failed to make the Grand Final.
Meanwhile, Catalans created history, becoming the first non-English team to win the Challenge Cup in its 121-year history.
2. Barrow Raiders 24-20 Leigh Centurions – February 18th
Put the words cold, wet, muddy, February and Barrow in the same sentence and you’ll send shivers down nearly every player’s spine.
If you’re wondering why just ask the Leigh Centurions players who succumbed to the mighty Raiders in round 3 of the Championship campaign.
Leigh, whose owner, Derek Beaumont, had boasted about their NRL and Super League superstars just a few weeks earlier, were thoroughly expected to ease past Paul Crarey’s side.
However, Barrow had already held Toronto to a draw a week earlier, and they were hungry for another giant-killing.
It didn’t look like they’d have any joy. Leigh went 20-12 up at half-time and looked comfortable.
But with a partisan crowd roaring them on, Barrow’s part-timers humbled Leigh’s star-studded side as Shane Toal completed his hat-trick to leave Leigh in crisis.
The Centurions never recovered. It was the start of a losing run that saw them miss out on a place in the top four, which brought with it awful consequences. The Centurions almost went out of business. Thankfully, they have survived, but none of their 17 players from this match remains at the club as it stands and they’ve been forced to go part-time.
Had disaster struck, this day would have been regarded as the killer blow.
1. Toronto Wolfpack 2-4 London Broncos – October 7th
It was supposed to be the dawning of a new era for Super League.
For the first time ever, a Trans-Atlantic team was heading to the sport’s major European competition. They were to be welcomed with open arms and be a part of Super League’s new era.
Unfortunately for them, nobody had handed London a script.
The Broncos were given absolutely no chance of winning the Million Pound Game. They had been to Canada twice in 2018 and left with their tails between their legs.
Toronto, meanwhile, had only lost twice on home soil in their history, and one of those games was against Featherstone when they rested numerous key players.
However, London played the game out to near perfection. They got nerves jangling early as Jarrod Sammut kicked an early penalty goal, and from there the game entered a gritty, ugly arm-wrestle.
Toronto, with expectation hanging over them, looked cagey and nervous. They most certainly couldn’t find a way through London’s stern defence.
Gareth O’Brien would draw them level in the second-half but Sammut soon kicked London back ahead.
The Wolfpack tried everything to find their bite, and eventually, it appeared they had found their path to Super League. Blake Wallace scythed through the defence and darted for the line.
However, he was stopped, miraculously, by London’s homegrown fullback, Alex Walker. It was a tackle that ultimately won them the game.
It will be forever remembered as the Million Pound Tackle, and the game will go down as one of the most memorable.