Talking RL: The super start... and the pitch fall-out

Since Wigan beat Australian champions Cronulla by 22-6, every Super League game has been settled by a margin of eight points or less.

Thursday, 2nd March 2017, 9:39 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:12 am
Wigan's game at Widnes was a thriller

I wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘enjoy it while it lasts’, but there are a few sides who may struggle to maintain their form once injuries begin to bite into their thin squads.

Still, we all want competitive matches which go to the wire, or as close to it as you can get, and we should be encouraged by the start to the season.

Last weekend, there was something to take from most games.

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Exciting finishes, good tries – Wakefield’s Ben Jones-Bishop scored a belter against Huddersfield – and surprise wins.

And this week, while Rangi Chase will miss out through suspension from his club – and who predicted that would happen? – we welcome another talented overseas halfback back to the competition, with Salford’s Todd Carney in the line to face Warrington.

I was quite impressed with Carney when he played at Catalans, but he just didn’t seem to play enough, and hopefully he can add more flair to a competition which, by and large, has made a strong start.

And tomorrow’s derby between Wigan and Leigh promises to be a great tussle.

Fuifui Moimoi in the Siddal dressing-room after their Challenge Cup tie

Leigh have certainly enjoyed their wins against their borough rivals in pre-season friendlies in recent years, and there is no doubt they will be revved up for this one. I can’t wait to see Gareth Hock back at the DW. It’s great to have another derby on the calendar.

It was 2005 the last time Wigan hosted Leigh in a Super League game.

That March day, the Warriors ran away with a 62-6 triumph with current rugby director Kris Radlinski bagging a hat-trick.

The year soon turned sour for Wigan – 75-0, anyone? – but back in March, few could have foreseen the troubles which would soon follow. Indeed, a week after beating Leigh, they toppled St Helens on Good Friday, with a starting backrow in both games comprised of Harrison Hansen, Danny Tickle and Sean O’Loughlin – who should all be on duty again in tomorrow’s derby!

Fuifui Moimoi in the Siddal dressing-room after their Challenge Cup tie

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the farcical stadium switch. I’m not going to repeat myself.

But just to take on a couple of points which have been made, by some fans and on discussion shows.

The RFL is investigating Wigan for breaking operation rules – by initially postponing the game, when they didn’t have the powers to do so.

There’s no precedent for what punishment should be dished out, so it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Some are suggesting Wigan should be docked points – perhaps the two they won in the reversed game at Widnes.

I don’t think that would be fair.

Because the players didn’t let Wigan down. Coach Shaun Wane didn’t let Wigan down.

Why should they be punished?

And if – at the end of the season – the Warriors miss out on top-spot, or a home play-off spot, or even a place in the top-four, it would be Wane and the players who would no doubt face the brunt of the criticism, wouldn’t it?

Which isn’t to say I think Wigan should escape punishment if they’re found guilty by the RFL’s investigation.

I’m saying punish those who were responsible for the mess.

The way I see it, if a Wigan player tackles someone high, and is fined, he has to pay it.

If Wane speaks out of turn about a referee, and is fined, he has to pay it.

But it doesn’t seem fair if the coach and players have to pay for something they weren’t responsible for.

Sport is all about winning and losing but, occasionally, everyone comes out of it happy.

As was the case on Saturday when expansion club Toronto Wolfpack played their first ever competitive game... in a Challenge Cup tie at leading amateur side Siddal.

The Halifax outfit put up a great performance and emerged with great credit. Toronto finished with the narrow win to progress to the next round, the BBC drew in more than 40,000 viewers on their website, and everyone who went along reported it was a memorable day. Not even Fuifui Moimoi being red-carded for a high-shot could spoil the mood – he went into Siddal dressing room afterwards to say there were no hard feelings, and posed for a picture with the amateur players. Great to see.