Five things we learned this Magic Weekend

One – Ultimate Warriors

Two weeks ago, about 20 minutes before kick-off at Headingley when Leeds beat Wigan and John Bateman and Jamie Peacock kick-started their blossoming bromance, Jon Wilkin described Shaun Wane as the most “emotionally intelligent” coach in Super League.

The performance of Wigan’s youngsters on Saturday night did much to suggest he was bang on.

Leeds had their fair share of players missing too, but few were backing against the Rhinos.

Step forward a Wigan team full of energy, determination and spirit – not to mention an almost sadistic enjoyment of defence – and 80 minutes later Leeds were the latest victims of Wane’s “emotional intelligence”.

Brian McDermott said: “They were more intense than us. They put us off our game. We weren’t allowed to attack as we wanted to.”


Two – Big Ben

Saturday’s showdown proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Ben Thaler is now comfortably Super League’s best referee. It’s not even close anymore.

Thaler combines common sense with a natural ability to talk to players and a genuine enjoyment of his job. The result? Respect all round, even when Wigan and Leeds are tearing lumps out of each other.

It’s all opinions, of course, but we thought the judgment to sin bin Michael McIlorum, John Bateman and Ryan Bailey was spot on.

A game that could have turned petulant and nasty instead settled down into an enjoyably aggressive encounter – exactly what rugby league should be.


Three – Pace to burn

Two games earlier there wasn’t the aggression between Salford and Widnes, but the Vikings offered plenty of class.

Top of the list was Rhys Hanbury’s long-range finish that proved a side-step isn’t always necessary (take note Junior Sa’u).

Hanbury looked set to step to his left as Greg Eden and Martin Gleeson closed in, but instead accelerated straight between the Salford pair.

Hanbury’s try was also the first time we’ve seen a double missed ankle-tap by the same player in the same tackle. Eden hit fresh air with his first swipe, and then again 50 metres later.


Four – Making his Marc

Hanbury’s effort was a cracker, but Marc Sneyd takes the gong for top try after touching the ball three times in a 70-metre move.

He started and finished a superb effort soon after half time, showing the confidence Daryl Powell has built at Castleford.

Expectations that at some point in the year the Tigers would fade away are quickly disappearing. They look genuine top four contenders.


Five – Chasing honours

As for Sneyd – with every passing week, Salford’s decision to allow him out on a season-long loan looks even worse.

His anticipated return to the Red Devils next year – see Marwan Koukash’s tweets after Daryl Powell revealed Cas want to keep him – should see him link with Rangi Chase.

But could Chase, who lost his England place for the World Cup semi final last year, now be in danger of being edged out altogether?

Kevin Brown completely out-played him on Saturday and is arguably Super League’s form stand-off.

And with current incumbent Gareth Widdop surely set to keep his place, could Chase find himself falling down the pecking order?

Thoughts on the weekend’s action? Post them in the comments box below.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough

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