FTWLTW: Experience counts, Menzies farewell and Briers’ punch

Neil Barraclough

One – Experience counts…

A few weeks ago Jon Wilkin revealed he thought ‘something special’ could happen at St Helens this year.

They’ve now won seven of their last eight and saved their best 40 minutes of the season for the first half against Hull KR.

Elsewhere, Wigan coped without Sean O’Loughlin and effectively won at Huddersfield with 16-and-a-half men after Andy Powell managed fewer than 15 minutes in total.

And Michael Monaghan turned on the style against Leeds to book Warrington’s place in the last four.

Can Huddersfield hold it together and still get to Old Trafford?

They should beat Hull on Thursday, but potential semi-final opponents Wigan and Warrington have both got more big-match experience. Will that prove crucial come the final reckoning?


Two – … and so does preparation

Question marks now over the sense – or otherwise – of Paul Anderson’s decision to field his kids against Bradford the week before the play-offs.

The RFL issued a statement insisting they were content Anderson had put out his strongest possible team in that battering by the Bulls.

But after Thursday’s defeat against Wigan, the Giants boss admitted there might now be doubts about his approach.

Anderson said: “You could see they were a bit more battle-hardened than we were. We couldn’t win a tackle and they were rolling through us at times.

“It showed that we needed a game. We rested all the boys and time will tell whether that’s the right decision or not.”

He added: “It was the worst performance we’ve had for a long time.”


Three – Ian Smith has no heart

No try? NO TRY?! Did Ian Smith not realise he was denying Steve Menzies – rugby league’s Peter Pan – a moment to savour two minutes from time on his final ever appearance?

Mr Smith, you have no heart. Even Menzies says so: “It would have been nice to finish with a try. They could have given me one – I’ve been around long enough! – but that’s the way it goes. We just didn’t convert our chances.”

Menzies consoled himself by painting himself blue and the town red as part of the Dragons’ Mad Monday celebrations. On Saturday.

Picture evidence is here: http://t.co/2TsiFCO21r


Four – Leeds v Saints? Don’t mention the Grand Finals

Meeting Leeds in the play-offs hasn’t been the greatest experience for Paul Wellens, Jon Wilkin and James Roby.

On Friday they get the chance to hit back after four Old Trafford defeats since 2007, but Nathan Brown insists revenge is not part of the motivation.

“I don’t think people will be thinking about revenge,” he says. “The guys will just want to do well.

“This club has generally done well in bigger games, as have Leeds. We’ve just got to go there focused and give ourselves a good shot.”


Five – Lee Briers – red, yellow or nothing?

Split opinion in the press box at St Helens as hacks watched Warrington v Leeds on a whirring laptop – most couldn’t decide whether Briers’ punch on Carl Ablett warranted a yellow card or a straight red.

In the end he got neither, escaping with just a ticking off from James Child.

Among the Twitter reaction was Gareth Hock insisting he would have received his marching orders for the same offence and Stephen Wild encouraging referees to “grow some balls”.

What’s happened to Briers though? It’s hard to recall a similar incident from him. Is he just getting grumpy in his old age?


Thoughts on the weekend? We’d love to hear them in the comments box.

Follow Neil Barraclough on Twitter @neilbarraclough