So the Magic Weekend has been and gone for another year and I can’t help thinking about whether the format is worthwhile.
There were seven games last weekend all held at the impressive Millenium Stadium in Cardiff but despite the grand setting and competitively priced tickets, I found it quite embarrassing seeing the number of empty seats. I also think that seven games is too many, and certainly four in one sitting is a hefty amount, even for someone that loves the sport as much as I do.
Warrington and Huddersfield kicked us off with a mistake strewn but interesting affair where the Wolves injuries caught up on them and the Giants were superbly led by Danny Brough who ended the contest with sixteen points from two tries and four goals.
Bar the opening ten minutes Harlequins and Catalans was a snooze fest and would have done little to capture the imagination of a passing punter, especially when Six Nations Rugby Union was on at the same time.
The third game brought a glut of penalties from a pedantic James Child but at least between the referees near constant whistle was interupted by tries and points in a 40-20 win for Castleford over Wakefield that sees the Tigers top the embryonic league table.
The last game of the Saturday was an absolute pearler however, as Wigan established a 16-0 advantage only to see St Helens hit back to claim a draw and so nearly a win, had Kyle Eastmond’s drop goal attempt sailed between the posts.
Midday on Sunday saw everyone reconvene but there was a sense of “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” as Wales representatives Crusaders whith Gareth Thomas, Joe Calazaghie and Mickey Rourke in tow wiped the floor with a second half par excellence against a disappointing Salford City Reds who must be wondering if their lengthy list of transfers was a wise move. It finished 42-12 in favour of Crusaders with Clinton Schifcoske carrying on where he left off last season, kicking seven goals. Michael Witt also went over for a 3 try haul as Crusaders overwhelmed Salford.
The second game of Sunday brought Leeds and Bradford together and there was one word that summed it up – controversy. Ben Jones-Bishop scored a hat-trick which included a penalty try two minutes from time to complete a 22 point late comeback from Leeds after Bradford secured a 28-10 lead thanks to Elliott Whitehead’s own hat-trick.
The weekend finished with a pulsating Hull derby. The Black and Whites opened a 14-0 advantage before Rovers led superbly by Michael Dobson and second rows Clint Newton and Ben Galea, hit back to overhaul that advantage and won 34-22 with Kris Welham crossing for two tries.
Despite the encouraging end to the weekend, I still feel that had these games been played on the teams home grounds, the collective attendance would have been at least 70,000.
Food for thought. Has the magic gone? Was it ever there in the first place? I know my opinion. It’s time for a change.