Five things we learned this weekend: Play-offs, World Cup woe and Leeds’ kids are all right

Neil Barraclough

One – The play-offs are coming…

Two thrillers on Friday, where Wigan overturned a 14-point deficit to beat Bradford with a late comeback and Lee Briers broke Leeds hearts 53 seconds from time in a pulsating clash at Warrington, set the tone for what’s to come in the next few weeks.

Throw in Wakefield’s one-point win at Hull on Monday and there’s been a noticeable increase in intensity now we’re into the final seven games of the regular season.

And before the play-offs kick off, there’s the small matter of Wembley – it looks like being a brilliant couple of months.


Two – It’s getting tough for England – and the World Cup is still three months away

Jack Reed and James Roby have become the latest long-term injury casualties after a bruising weekend for Steve McNamara.

Reed suffered a shoulder injury during Brisbane’s 32-0 defeat against Melbourne, while James Roby hobbled off at Castleford midway through the first half.

“He’s not looking flush,” said Saints boss Nathan Brown, who suggested the England hooker might be facing another 10 weeks on the sidelines with a similar knock to the one he suffered in mid-March.

All this on top of Gareth Widdop and Danny McGuire already battling to be fit in time for the showpiece.

Are we going to have anyone left?


Three – Someone, somewhere, sells a lot of tape in St Helens

One St Helens fan takes their dedication to particular extremes.

They have a van that’s often spotted at Saints games, most frequently taking the mickey out of local rivals Wigan.

It changes on a pretty regular basis, and a visit to Castleford today provided the perfect opportunity to congratulate the Tigers on last week’s win at the DW Stadium.

Here’s a picture… 


Four – The kids are all right

One of the fears for Leeds, that has grown more acute over the last couple of seasons, has been the aging of Headingley’s ‘golden generation’.

Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow, Danny McGuire, Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Ryan Bailey, the five men to play in each of Leeds’ six Grand Final wins, are all of a certain age. Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai are firmly in the ‘veteran’ stage.

Replacing them all in the space of a couple of years has always looked daunting, but suddenly Leeds appear to have another crop of talented kids.

Liam Sutcliffe looks incredibly assured for 18, Alex Foster kept getting up after being bashed on Friday, Thomas Minns has already scored on his Super League debut and there’s talk of plenty of others on the fringes.

After Friday’s defeat, Brian McDermott said: “It’s good that they’re involved in games like this, win or lose. That they’re getting game time is the silver lining of the injury crisis we’ve had.”


Five – Sheffield are set for a brilliant week

It’s been a long time since the Eagles have had an opportunity to reach a Challenge Cup semi-final, but that’s the tantalising prospect facing Mark Aston’s men when they host London Broncos on Friday.

This week’s 34-10 home win over Swinton kept Sheffield at the top of the Championship, while London came up with another loss, this time in the south of France.

There’s already talk of encouraging ticket sales, and the Eagles will really fancy their chances.

All roads lead to the Steel City on Friday. I can’t wait.


What did you learn this weekend? Drop a comment in the box below.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough