Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
After adjourning last week so teams could attend to Challenge Cup duties, Superleague resumes this weekend with some interesting Round 8 clashes.
The Friday night televised game comes from KC Stadium where Hull host Leeds Rhinos. It has been a dramatic week at Hull being after knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Bradford and losing the chance to defend their trophy, and losing their coach John Kear, who left by mutual consent after learning that his contract would not be renewed for season 2007. It's anyone's guess as to how these events will effect club morale, but Hull are expecting to welcome back hooker Richard Swain from injury. Leeds have been stronger than Hull so far this season, and especially under these circumstances are more than capable of scoring the away win.
In what seems one of the most evenly contested matches this round, the in form Salford Reds host Huddersfield at The Willows. Both teams are coming off strong wins against lower division teams last weekend, and will want to continue their winning form in the league. Huddersfield are capable of matching it with the best sides on their day, but Salford have been this season's surprise package, showing a consistency that has been a long time in the making, and will be favourites at home to edge out the Giants.
Also on Friday night, Harlequins make the trip north to face league leaders St Helens at Knowsley Road. St Helens registered a comfortable 56-6 win against lower division Doncaster last week in the Challenge Cup, whilst Harlequins also had an easy victory against French side Toulouse. However the London side will face a much stiffer challenge here, and only the brave would tip them to score an upset win against the undefeated Saints.
And to wrap up the night's action Wakefield and Wigan meet for the second week in a row, in a return helping of last weekend's Challenge Cup tie at Belle Vue won by Wigan 32-22. That game was in the balance until the later stages, and so Wakefield will be hoping the insights they gained might help them return to the winners circle. But Wigan will be keen to make the most of the momentum from what for this season has been a rare win for the cherry and whites.
Saturday night's televised game comes from Odsal Stadium, where Bradford host Warrington. Hopefully the ground will have recovered from last weekend, where the persistent rain and hail had led to parts of the pitch being in quite poor and boggy conditions. Bradford are coming off a 23-12 win there over Hull, which will have done their Superleague conditioning no harm at all, whilst Warrington went through their paces with a 52-0 win over lower division London Skolars. However the Wolves will have to lift their intensity here if they are to compete with the Bulls over the full 80 minutes.
Finally, also on Saturday night Les Catalans play host to Castleford at the Stade Albert Domec in Carcassonne. Catalans recorded a 60-0 win against amateur Challenge Cup opposition, whilst Castleford lost at Widnes, embarrassingly to the team that they had passed in promotion to this season's Superleague. When everything else is equal, it all comes down to the travel, and despite confusion about the home ground arrangements (with this game originally having been planned to be staged in Spain), Les Catalans should be better adjusted and favourites to get the win here.