Magic Weekend: Five things we learned from Day One

Josh McAllister
Jason Qareqare Castleford News Images Magic Weekend

Photo: Craig Cresswell/News Images

From silky Salford to Castleford’s sigh of relief, here are five things we learned from the opening day of the 2023 Magic Weekend at St James’ Park in Newcastle.

Saturday saw wins for Salford, Catalans and Castleford, with the Dragons overtaking Warrington to sit at the top of the Super League table.

Daryl Powell’s Wolves take on Hull on the closing fixture of the weekend, while Leigh face Wakefield and St Helens play Huddersfield.

Silky Salford

It was a clinical display from the Red Devils, who beat Hull KR 26-16 in the opening game of the weekend.

It was an entertaining game between two good teams, with the Red Devils showing their clinical nature.

Paul Rowley’s side play some tremendous rugby and they are a joy to watch at times. Ryan Brierley is – arguably – in the form of his career playing alongside Man of Steel Brodie Croft and England international Marc Sneyd.

The recent returns of Samoan representatives Tim Lafai and Ken Sio are a big boost for the Red Devils. They’ve been solid in their last two outings since returning from the sideline.

Wigan’s poor form

Matt Peet’s Wigan have now claimed just one win in their last four Super League fixtures.

The Warriors were on the wrong end of a Catalans hammering, having quickly found themselves 24-8 down at the break. 

Since the start of May, Wigan have lost to Hull, Leeds and now Catalans in Super League, while they did claim a 18-14 victory over the Rhinos at Headingley Stadium to cement their spot in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup. 

Jai Field returned to the field in a welcomed sight for Wigan fans since suffering a hamstring injury against Leigh, with St Helens up next at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Friday. 

Sigh of relief for Castleford

Pardon the pun, but it was a Magic win for Castleford. They showed grit, effort and desire to pick up a much-needed win, only their third one of the season.

Gareth Widdop came up with some clutch plays and held his nerve at the end to slot a conversion from out wide to seal a 26-24 win over Leeds.

It was a strong performance from Castleford forward Alex Mellor against his former club, scoring two tries as well as putting himself about with his defence.

Castleford’s win sees them move six points above Wakefield, who sit bottom of the Super League table having yet to win a game in 2023. Trinity play Leigh in Newcastle on Sunday.

Whitley departure all but confirmed

Catalans boss Steve McNamara admits that it is unlikely that Matt Whitley will be in France for the 2024 Super League season.

The back-rower has been linked with a return to England, rejecting the option for an extra year with the Dragons.

Whitley scored twice in Catalans’ dominant 46-22 victory over Wigan at St James’ Park which saw calls for the England Knights representative to be called up into Shaun Wane’s senior squad by former England captain and club team-mate Sam Tomkins.

Tom Johnstone scored a hat-trick which takes his tally to the season so far to 17, while Tomkins, Arthur Mourgue and Arthur Romano also crossed for four-pointers.

Magic Weekend Day One attendance

Saturday’s attendance of 36,943 was the fourth biggest recorded for a single day of Magic Weekend. 

The opening game between Salford and Hull KR saw more than 17,000 inside St James’ Park in a new record, officials told media. 

It’s a slight increase from last year’s 36,821 on the Saturday which saw Wakefield, Toulouse, St Helens, Wigan, Leeds and Castleford in action.

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