Three In A Row For Wakey?
This year, like every year, Wakefield Trinity were among the sides expected to miss out on the Super 8s and instead fight it out with the best that the Championship has to offer in a bid to preserve their top flight status. But this year, like every year it seems with the exception of their 2015 aberration, Wakefield Trinity have quietly set about the task of proving everybody wrong.
This week they travel to Leeds looking for a third consecutive league win after deserved if narrow success at St Helens and at home to Salford Red Devils. A win would take them above the Headingley side in the table after 5 rounds and serve notice that Chris Chester’s side are a realistic contender for a second consecutive appearance among the end of season elite.
It’s anyone’s guess which Rhinos side will turn up. Their 46-10 trouncing of Catalans Dragons last time out was as unexpected as it was impressive given their 66-10 annihilation at the hands of high-flying Castleford Tigers a week previously. But those two vastly differing results sum up their season so far, with narrow victories over Salford and Leigh accompanied by a close loss at Saints and that absolute hammering at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
The methodology hasn’t changed for Brian McDermott’s side who lead the league again in offloads (74) and sit third in clean breaks (25) and second in tackle busts (134). This is a team which likes to keep the ball alive and which has not been swayed from that philosophy by last year’s annus horribilis. It’s defensively where they are struggling, with the unwanted distinction of leading the league in missed tackles through five games (133) yet curiously making more successful tackles than any other side. All of which suggests that they turn over a lot of possession because of their expansive style of play, yet six Super League sides have made more handling errors than the Rhinos. Figure that one out…..
Are Saints The New Leeds Rhinos?
There’s panic on the streets of Eccleston at present as Saints find ever more new and interesting ways to lose Super League games. Keiron Cunningham’s side have not enjoyed a league win since the opening night of the season when they edged the Rhinos 6-4 in match considered at the time to be an epic tussle between two league contenders, but since looked upon as a piffling slanging match between two fallen giants trying desperately to climb back on their respective perches.
Since that Rhinos win all of Leigh, Wakefield and most recently Hull FC have seen off the challenge of the Saints. The less said about the losses at Leigh and at home to Trinity the better, but the Totally Wicked Saints had ample opportunities to beat an FC side nowhere near its best. Ultimately errors and some pretty poor discipline cost the Saints, who start this weekend languishing in the bowels of the table with only Widnes and Warrington beneath them. At the time of writing another defeat in Perpignan against Catalans Dragons could see them end the weekend propping up the rest should the Wolves finally get a first win of the season at Leigh and should Widnes surprise the black and whites on Friday night (March 17).
One of Super League’s laziest assumptions is that you don’t beat the Dragons on their own patch, and after they started the season with victories over both Hull FC and Warrington few in St Helens would have fancied their uninspiring side to come away from France with anything. Yet since those wins the Dragons’ form has stalled. A 14-14 home draw with Widnes is the kind of result which, if happened to Saints, would have some fans demanding the instant removal of Cunningham, while a 46-10 pasting at Leeds is a fairly apologetic but not altogether surprising result given the Dragons’ persistent travel sickness. They are as poor away as they are strong at home it seems, but if there is a good time to play them this might just be it. With Warrington next to visit the stadium formerly known as Langtree Park Saints’ desperation might just be enough to give them a sniff.