Category: Super League Rugby

Super League Rugby News

St Helens’ Ben Barba overshadowed by Wigan’s superb Sean O’Loughlin

• Super 8s: St Helens 16-26 Wigan
• Wigan still have Grand Final chance

Wigan’s defence of their Super League title they won last October has been littered with suggestions Shaun Wane’s side are incapable of retaining the trophy next month in the Grand Final.

And on occasions that scepticism has not been without reason – but as the calendar ticks over into September Wigan are beginning to peak at just the right time once again. And what a night they chose to prove it, as the Ben Barba fanfare in St Helens was silenced by their fiercest rivals.

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Leeds one win away from home semi-final after win over Hull FC

• Super 8s: Leeds Rhinos 38-26 Hull FC
• Hull’s brave effort after Wembley final not enough

Leeds moved to within touching distance of a home semi-final in the Super League play-offs following this victory in a bad-tempered contest.

Hull were lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley five days ago – the scheduling of this fixture so soon after the final attracted much criticism – and they knew two points here were crucial to their hopes of usurping Leeds in second place.

Related: Hull beat Wigan to retain Challenge Cup thanks to Marc Sneyd masterclass

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Hull FC hoping to follow Challenge Cup win with Super League success

• Hull want to avoid repeat of last season’s slump after winning trophy
• Victory parade on Monday is closely followed by a tricky trip to Leeds

Scott Taylor has issued a rallying cry to his Hull FC team‑mates to use their Challenge Cup triumph as a springboard for the remainder of the Super League season.

“The double is massive,” said the prop, a Wembley winner with both of the clubs who contested the final on Saturday. “We know we can beat anyone on our day and that’s the goal now.”

Related: Hull beat Wigan to retain Challenge Cup thanks to Marc Sneyd masterclass

Related: Wigan’s Tony Clubb: ‘I was told I had a dead kidney and it needed to come out’ | Aaron Bower

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Ryan Hall celebrates 300th outing with try as Leeds beat St Helens

• Rhinos surge three points clear of third-placed Hull FC in Super 8s
• Wigan trounce Salford 42-6 while Huddersfield hammer Hull 46-18

The England winger, Ryan Hall, marked his 300th appearance for Leeds with a crucial try to help them get back on course for a home semi-final.

Related: Castleford secure first league title after overpowering Wakefield

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Castleford secure first league title after overpowering Wakefield

• Castleford 45-20 Wakefield

For Castleford, this was a night many of their supporters – and players – may have thought would never materialise. Many have attempted to devalue the importance of the League Leaders’ Shield as Castleford closed in on the prize in recent weeks, but as the gates were locked at this famous old ground just before kick-off, it would have taken a brave man to try to suggest it meant nothing for a town where rugby league is everything.

Related: Castleford’s Daryl Powell: winning league bigger then Grand Final victory

Related: Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

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Castleford’s Daryl Powell: winning league bigger then Grand Final victory

• Castleford on verge of winning League Leaders’ Shield for first time
• Coach believes feat is better than Grand Final or Challenge Cup win

The Castleford coach, Daryl Powell, has insisted the League Leaders’ Shield is the biggest prize available in rugby league as his side close in on winning it for the first time.

Castleford have never finished top of rugby league’s first division in their 91-year history, a record they will lay to rest on Thursday night should they avoid defeat against local rivals Wakefield.

Related: Clash of the Titans: Jarryd Hayne and Neil Henry on collision course from outset | Nick Tedeschi

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St Helens’ Matty Smith: ‘The doctors told me I was lucky not to lose my sight’ | Aaron Bower

The scrum-half’s Super League club are in the play-offs but he is just happy to be playing again after a poke in the eye left him sitting in the changing room with ‘people trying to do all sorts to stem the blood’

As the doctors hurried around Matty Smith and the ambulance was being prepared to take him to Leeds General infirmary, what at first seemed like a minor moment of frustration quickly transformed into a potentially life-changing situation. Rugby players are renowned for being tough and, thankfully, Smith is now able to raise a smile when he is reminded that what was nothing more than a stray poke in the eye from a St Helens team-mate almost cost him much more than a few weeks on the sidelines.

A little over four weeks ago, Smith was hit with a stray hand from Jon Wilkin during a game against Leeds. At first it seemed innocuous enough but the severity of the situation became apparent quickly as blood began to pour from his left eye. “At the time, I wasn’t sure the eyeball was still in the socket,” Smith says with a grin on his face.

Related: Scruton’s late try completes Hull KR fightback against brave Halifax

I lacerated my eyelid; my tear duct and eyeball actually came away from the corner of the socket

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Scruton’s late try completes Hull KR fightback against brave Halifax

• Hull KR 26-22 Halifax
• Championship winners overcome 22-14 deficit in Qualifiers opener

Hull Kingston Rovers survived a scare to edge Halifax in a thrilling Super 8s Qualifiers opener. Ben Heaton put Halifax in command with four tries but Hull KR turned around a 22-14 deficit to make a winning start in their bid for an immediate return to Super League.

The result may not rank as a shock, with the side who were third in the Championship beaten by the team who finished top, but the difference between the two clubs is stark.

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Hull Kingston Rovers bid to bounce straight back up to Super League

• Rovers face Halifax in Qualifiers after finishing top of the Championship
• Tim Sheens: ‘It’s been difficult but I’ve enjoyed every minute’

All eyes will be on the city of Hull this month. For the west half of the city, there is Wembley and Hull FC’s Challenge Cup final against Wigan but, on the east side, there is an even bigger – and potentially more important – fight about to begin.

Almost 12 months have passed since Hull Kingston Rovers were relegated in a Million Pound Game that will surely never be beaten in terms of drama. In that match, Rovers led by eight points with three minutes remaining only to surrender that advantage then succumb to a Salford drop goal in extra time that ended their nine-year stay in Super League in spectacular fashion.

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Wakefield scheme for new 10,000-seater stadium backed by parliament

• Club hope to become anchor tenants at ground in nearby Newmarket
• Planning approval initially granted in 2012 but project has been stalled

Wakefield Trinity have received parliamentary support in their battle for a new stadium in the city as the deadline for them to inform the Rugby Football League of their plans for next season and beyond approaches.

Trinity are hoping to become anchor tenants in a proposed 10,000 all-seater stadium in nearby Newmarket, which was initially given planning approval in 2012 but has since been stalled by a number of delays.

Related: Castleford in Super League driving seat before start of Super 8s

Related: Rejuvenated Wakefield prepared for their finest Super League moment

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Castleford in Super League driving seat before start of Super 8s

• Daryl Powell’s side assured of place in playoffs with 10-point lead
• Salford grab fourth place after Wakefield’s 41-16 loss to St Helens

The final day of the Super League regular season sprung a late shock when Salford sneaked into fourth place despite winning only one of their last seven games. A heavy home defeat by St Helens sent Wakefield out of the top four and opened the door to the Red Devils.

There have been surprising results throughout Super League’s 20th season and, after a roller-coaster 23 rounds, nobody is sure what the Super 8s will deliver in these final seven weeks.

Related: Castleford move closer to title thanks to Jy Hitchcox against Catalans

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Ryan Brierley on playing for Toronto Wolfpack: ‘It’s a crazy way of living’

Ryan Brierley left a Super League club and dropped two divisions to play in Canada but he is loving the ‘surreal, bizarre, thoroughly enjoyable adventure’

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

This time last year Ryan Brierley was adjusting to Super League, having moved to Huddersfield Giants after being a star with second-tier Leigh Centurions. Now he is a leading light at expansion club Toronto Wolfpack, the first transatlantic franchise in British sport. He sat down in his hometown of Preston to consider what went so wrong at the Giants and what is now going so right in Ontario.

How’s your Toronto Wolfpack adventure been, so far?

It’s everything I could have imagined and more. It’s a crazy way of living, especially when you’re in Canada. Going into the city and fans stopping you in the streets, people offering you free donuts… it’s surreal! It’s a bizarre situation, a crazy adventure, but one that we’re thoroughly enjoying. And who is to say being normal is being right? Everything the club said they would do they have delivered. There have been no false promises and it’s only going to get better with time. There’ll be some road bumps along the way but we will iron those out.

Yes, it’s boring over here. We don’t really like coming home now! It’s a dose of reality and I don’t think that’s a bad thing with what’s going on over there. When we come to England it’s a little bit different. We have to put our egos to one side and do the jobs we are supposed to do. When you go to places like south Wales and Newcastle, who don’t have many fans, the challenge is a mental one. You have to create your own atmosphere. That’s probably the most difficult thing but it’s all worth it when you go back to Canada.

Related: Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

We train at Lamport Stadium, where we play, and have a college residency about 15 minutes away. We’re living in pairs but there are two private rooms to each apartment so, although we like doing stuff together, you still need time to yourself, like when your Facetiming your family. It’s great. The gym is five minutes away and we all got given cars so we can go out and explore. A few of the boys have been to Niagara Falls, which is unbelievable. We just roll with it!

It’s a challenge. A few players were missing their kids and family back home. It’s tough for those without a big support network back home. Given time, some of the younger players might get girlfriends over in Toronto and that might become home for some. It’s certainly a place I could live. It feels normal. I wouldn’t rule out living there in the future, certainly when my contract is up or when I finish playing – and I know a few of the boys feel like that. There’s scope for Toronto to become somewhere you stay after rugby and that can only be good for the city.

If I was talking to any player who has the opportunity to come over here I’d encourage them to do it. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’d say “go for it”. Anyone who wants to be involved – players, coaches, support staff – I’d strongly recommend it. It’s a different way of life. Sometimes you’ve got to make that jump to experience something different and something better. It’s the best experience I’ve had in my rugby league career.

“We’ve been to a few schools and tried getting among the people. The big push we want is to get more kids involved in rugby league over there. It’s very new and it’s very fresh. It has to start at school level. You can’t start after that or you’re too raw. This month of home games gives a lot of time to get into schools and deliver the message. They just love any type of sport.”

The 80 minutes on the rugby field at the end of the week is a challenge mentally to keep your standards high and keep motivated. When there’s 7,000 crazy fans in Toronto wanting to give you everything – scarves, hats, they just want to love you and get any piece of you they can – that’s brilliant. It’s when you come back home, getting off the plane and going to play when everyone is fatigued, that’s the challenge. But if the only negative issue is I’m a bit tired after a flight and I’ve got to go and play, we’re on to a winner. That’s not a big deal. It could be worse.

Maybe it’s my fault for thinking things would be different. I’ve always wanted to know what this Super League bubble was, blinded by the bright lights. The easiest way to describe it is this: we travelled from Huddersfield on a Friday night to play at Wigan on Sky TV, we won and I scored three tries. We went home, I got into bed and woke up the next day and nobody cares. It’s totally forgotten about. It’s a weird feeling. You score three tries and you think you’re some sort of superhero, untouchable, but the next day you wake up in the same house, get in the same car. You don’t all of a sudden wake up in Las Vegas or Hollywood. Maybe I thought I’d be mobbed by fans and the media, but it wasn’t like that. It was just day-to-day work and it shocked me a little bit.

Related: Jamie Peacock interview: on England, Hull KR and the wisdom of Rocky III

It didn’t help that we were in a losing team and the environment was never going to be great anyway, but it felt like every day I was going into work, and to me playing rugby league has never been a job: it’s always been something I absolutely love. I just couldn’t feel the love for Huddersfield or Super League. That was probably my fault and I have to look at myself. But I don’t think I could be any more professional. Off the field I do the right things: I look after my body. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do anything bad, don’t eat rubbish. So I give myself every opportunity to develop in Super League. But once I’d ticked that box, I just didn’t feel fulfilled.

100%. We weren’t a successful team, especially last season, but the club did everything right by me. I was speaking to Huddersfield players, trying to get a feel for the club and the town, but I just didn’t feel emotionally connected to the club. I really tried, getting to know the fans and doing promos. Living out of the area didn’t help as you’re not really connected as much. Going to Huddersfield’s stadium felt a little bit cold to me and I can’t hide my feelings. I couldn’t shake that off. What rattled me was I had three coaches in the short time I was there. And I started at full-back then I went to half-back, then I got dropped, then I was on the bench, then back to half-back, then full-back. I probably didn’t do enough to tie a regular starting spot down. That plays with your emotions as well. When you’re playing every week at Leigh and everyone loves you, to not getting a game, it rocks your ego a little bit. It’s not great for the mindset. I’m thinking I should be some sort of hero in Super League and it never really worked out that way.”

I’ve ticked that Super League box. I should have been better when I played but did I get a fair crack? Probably not. I’m thankful for the opportunity though. In Super League we get blinded by this big dream. This is going to sound daft, because I’ve not won the league or the Challenge Cup and people are going to think I’ve got above myself, but it just didn’t fulfil my needs. The decision was made to feel the love again, to feel appreciated and to go back to a comfort zone where I knew I’d be appreciated for my talent and really develop my skills as an attacking half and really control a team. Going into a team and just getting through training and getting through games and then going home to go out with my mates, isn’t what I play rugby for.

Me and Paul have been really good friends for many a year and he’s always joked saying I’m not good enough for Toronto! So I never got the feeling he wanted me there. He’s so professional he would never put me in a situation. He kept it secret from me. I actually got a phone call from Richard Thewlis [Giants CEO] who said they’d accepted an offer from Toronto Wolfpack for me. That shows I’m not needed there and there’s no point them paying a guy to sit on the sidelines. Danny Brough was doing the job I’d been asked to do. Rick Stone was trying to make me more an all-round game-manager, which I don’t deny I need, but my natural ability had been put to one side. He didn’t want me to leave but when an offer has been accepted to sell you, I don’t think you belong there anymore. Rowls said: “I want you to come back and lead this team into Super League.”

That was a big pull. I know the lads there and they’re really big friends of mine. I was watching a Cooper Cronk video – I’m a little bit obsessed with Cooper Cronk – talking about Melbourne Storm. He said the common denominator in successful organisations is they’re good people. And top to bottom at Toronto Wolfpack they’re good people. I really missed the love of going to training and high-fiving everybody and just being myself, being with close friends who love me for who I am. As much as that sounds soft, as men we’re probably afraid to admit we need a bit of love now and then, and that’s what I was missing.

Yeah, it makes a massive difference. I could guarantee I’d be happy with Paul Rowley. As much as I’ve come down two divisions, my happiness level has gone through the roof. I’ve got a really supportive family who are only happy when I’m happy. I’ve always made decisions based on me wanting to be a superstar, a global superhero – I’ve been blinded by that and needed to take a step back and realise what’s most important in my life, and that’s family. I’m a much happier person now which makes me a very, very dangerous player for the Toronto Wolfpack. Hopefully we can both benefit from that.”

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Ben Currie try boosts Warrington’s hopes of top-eight finish in win over Wigan

• Wigan Warriors 10-16 Warrington Wolves
• Forward helps secure victory on return after long period out with knee injury

Ben Currie marked the end of his long injury nightmare with the winning try as Warrington kept alive their faint hopes of a top-eight finish, spoiling Sean O’Loughlin’s landmark 400th Wigan appearance in the process.

Last season’s Grand Finalists knew anything other than victory here would consign them to this summer’s Qualifiers, where they would face the Championship’s best sides in a battle to avoid relegation to the second tier. While this victory may prove only temporary respite – a win for Huddersfield on Friday night would confirm Warrington’s bottom-four place – this was a welcome victory for Tony Smith’s side.

Related: Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

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Luke Gale on Castleford’s title battle: ‘I’ve not been in big games but I back myself’

How did Castleford Tigers mount an unlikely challenge for their first title in 91 years? By having a good coach and working hard, says their scrum-half Luke Gale

By Gavin Willacy for No Helmets Required, part of the Guardian Sport Network

Eight points clear at the top of Super League with nine games to go, unless they are struck down in a manner that would cause Devon Loch to raise an eyebrow, Castleford Tigers are sure to be hosting a semi-final down Wheldon Road one late September night. Then they will be just one more win from a first Grand Final appearance and two from their first championship title in their 91-year history. Few of their squad know what that feels like, but inspirational half-back Luke Gale is chomping at the bit to taste the glory.

“We’ve not been there, we’ve not worn the T-shirt, but I’m looking forward to doing that and leading this team to some silverware,” said the England scrum-half. “We don’t have many players who have been there and done it. I’ve not been in big games myself, but I know I’ll back myself when it comes to the end of the season, and these boys will back themselves, too. When it comes to big games we know what we’ve got to do. We’re footy players: it doesn’t matter if you’ve won 10 Grand Finals or you’ve won zero, we will know what to do when it comes to the end of it.”

Related: Zak Hardaker: ‘I am a better player than when I won Man of Steel’

Related: Luke Gale gets his kicks as relentless Castleford overcome Wakefield

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Danny McGuire on fire for resurgent Leeds in thumping win at Salford

• Salford 24-50 Leeds
• Win propels Rhinos to second spot in Super League

Leeds delivered the most impressive display of their title credentials yet with this emphatic victory against Salford. It was their fifth victory in six games and their only defeat in that period was a narrow one against the leaders, Castleford. After the annus horribilis of 2016, when the Rhinos went from champions to relegation contenders in the space of 12 months, there is little doubting that they are fully capable of going all the way again this season.

The reigning Super League champions, Wigan, have shown with back-to-back wins that their title challenge is not over just yet. St Helens, with two wins from their past three, have begun to threaten the same of late.

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RFL confirms it is discussing central contracts with top Super League players

• St Helens says Jonny Lomax is one of those handed a deal by the RFL
• George Williams, Mike McMeeken and Kallum Watkins believed to be in talks

The Rugby Football League has confirmed it is in discussions with a number of leading Super League players about becoming centrally contracted with the sport’s governing body.

Leading members of the RFL’s hierarchy, including the former Leeds and England captain, Kevin Sinfield, have identified a number of players to become the first in the sport to be awarded central contracts, after St Helens confirmed on Monday that their full-back, Jonny Lomax, would be among those to benefit from the deals created as part of the radical proposals approved this year to try to retain the competition’s best talent.

Related: Warrington give Steve McNamara harsh introduction to life as Catalans coach

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