Five things we learned this weekend: Powell could be Coach of the Year

Neil Barraclough

One – Are Huddersfield destined for the League Leaders’ Shield?

Wigan’s shock defeat and Huddersfield’s win over Catalan put the Giants within a point of the Warriors. With seven games to go, there’s a strong case for arguing that Paul Anderson could take the League Leaders’ Shield in his first season as a head coach.

In their remaining games, Wigan will meet six teams from the top eight – including Huddersfield.

In contrast, the Giants play only two elite teams, along with much more winnable fixtures against Castleford, Salford, London, Wakefield and Bradford.

Wigan’s last seven fixtures: Bradford (H), St Helens (A), Hull KR (H), Huddersfield (H), Catalan (A), Hull FC (H), Leeds (H).

Huddersfield’s last seven fixtures: Hull FC (A), Castleford (H), Salford (H), Wigan (A), London (A), Wakefield (H), Bradford (A).

Friday 9 August is when the top two clash at the DW Stadium – put it in your diary now.


Two – Daryl Powell could be a contender for Coach of the Year

Castleford’s outstanding win at Wigan shows how much impact a coach can have.

Powell is dealing with the same mob of players that looked disinterested and sloppy under Ian Millward, but has now got them so tight they can restrict the Warriors to just four points at the DW Stadium. Some turnaround.

Millward left in April with a record of one win from 11 games this season. Since then, Powell’s six league fixtures have returned three wins and a draw.

Talk of the Tigers making the play-offs still looks more dreamland than reality, but Powell’s appointment is proving a masterstroke.

“You have to believe in achieving something special and I think we do believe that at the moment,” he said.


Three – The Northern Rail Cup Final should be a belter

Leigh’s impressive victory against Batley and Sheffield’s dismantling of Doncaster sets up a mouth-watering clash at The Shay.

There’ll be no shortage of motivation for the Centurions, who were denied a place in last year’s Championship Grand Final when Mark Aston’s men triumphed at the Leigh Sports Village – but Sheffield will surely start as favourites.


Four – The season is already too long – don’t make it longer

A dour game at Bradford, where Warrington fired for long enough to secure the points before cruising through the latter stages, was complemented by news of 88 points being scored at the Stobart Stadium.

Tony Smith’s verdict on the Odsal stuff? “The match lacked intensity, but sometimes you can’t be at your best all the time… it wasn’t the most fluent rugby league.”

Intensity doesn’t sound as though it was coming out of Widnes either, which – along with a myriad of other reasons – prompts more questions about the wisdom behind suggested moves to guarantee every team playing at least 30 league fixtures from 2015.

For years the common consensus appears to have been that a reduction in games was the only way to go. What’s changed?


Five – There’s life in Gloucestershire yet

Congratulations to the All Golds, who finally claimed their first Kingstone Press Championship One victory with a 20-18 triumph at Oxford.

Tyla Hepi, son of coach Brad and one of Gloucestershire’s shining lights this season, was one of the visitors’ try-scorers.

Bet the bus home is fun tonight…


Got any thoughts on the weekend’s action? We’d love to hear your comments in the box below.

You can follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough