Love it or hate it, the Easter weekend can have a pivotal impact on the season. We look at who had a good one, and who didn’t.
Two wins, over Widnes and Huddersfield, has elevated Tony Smith’s men up to ninth in the Super League table, and their top eight hopes now don’t look as bleak as they did just a week ago. The general consensus is that 10 wins are needed to get in the eight, and with three straight wins, the Wolves are now seven away from that target and are starting to build some momentum.
They were in a similar position to Warrington this year, but that’s long been banished from memory for the Rhinos who are now only off the top of the league by the virtue of points difference. Two handsome wins over Hull and Widnes at the weekend see them level on points with Castleford. Keeping faith with Brian McDermott is starting to pay dividends as the top four race continues to take shape.
Super League champions Wigan are still the team to beat for mine, despite their recent wobbles that saw them lose a couple. They returned to form over Easter, holding off bitter rivals St Helens, and then following that up with a win at Wakefield. Wigan will have a chance to go second with the games in hand this weekend, and there may well be a gap starting to open between fifth and the rest depending on how results go.
Halifax have put themselves firmly in contention for a top four berth in the Championship, thanks to two hard-fought wins over Easter. First, they saw off Bradford 22-12 at Odsal on Friday, before a narrow 16-14 win over Oldham. Those wins open up a four point cushion between Halifax in fifth and Batley in six, and means Richard Marshall’s men are right on the tails of London Broncos in fourth.
Big wins for Andrew Henderson’s men over Batley and Toulouse have them back in the top four of the Championship. It marks continued, steady progress for the capital club, who will be looking to make the middle 8s and cause a few surprises.
They might have only registered one win from two over the weekend, but Toulouse’s 14-6 win over an admittedly weakened Hull KR side is a sure sign that they mean business. The French team have won eight of their 11 games so far this season, and will be an interesting story come the middle 8s.
Struggling Widnes are now cut adrift at the bottom of the Super League table, having first lost to nearest rivals Warrington at home and then going down to Leeds, despite a spirited second half performance. With just one win all season – and a miserable seven from their last 34 in Super League – the Vikings will be desperate to build some momentum going in to a tricky looking middle 8s.
Rick Stone walked out of his press conference following the 29-22 defeat to Catalans on Wednesday, and then watched his side make it eight without a win as Danny Brough’s failed conversion attempt at the death cost his side a point. The Giants are in a little bit of freefall, and look set to be heading for the middle 8s for the second successive season.
The weekend start with controversy over the signing of Dane Chisholm, which Sheffield denied had been done legitimately, and then didn’t get any better for the Bulls as they were beaten at home by Halifax and then found themselves 38-0 down to Featherstone on Monday. Couple that with a win over the weekend for nearest rivals Dewsbury, and also Swinton, Bradford find themselves six points adrift of safety.
Photo courtesy of Richard Long