Rugby league winners and losers: Halifax’s dark day, Leeds poor again, Warrington show grit

Ben Olawumi
Liam Finn, Rohan Smith, Sam Burgess

From left to right: Halifax Panthers head coach Liam Finn, Leeds Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith & Warrington Wolves head coach Sam Burgess

Another weekend of action has passed by, with plenty of standout results from across the top three divisions.

Super League returned with Round 8 after taking a break for the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, while Round 5 took place in the Championship. In League 1 meanwhile, four Round 6 fixtures took place.

Here, Love Rugby League breaks down the big winners and losers from the last few days…

Winners: Sheffield Eagles

Mark Aston
Sheffield Eagles head coach Mark Aston speaks to the press at the 2024 Championship & League 1 launch day

The Eagles are flying at the moment, making it five wins from five in the Championship so far this year with a massive 46-0 win against Halifax Panthers yesterday.

Pre-season favourites by some distance, Wakefield Trinity are the only other side to have won all five of their games in the second tier at this stage, putting the Eagles’ achievement into some perspective. Mark Aston’s side have averaged 32 points across those five league games, and have one eye on Wembley too in the 1895 Cup – a tremendous start to the year.

Losers: Hull KR

KR are out first losers this week having been thumped 36-6 by Catalans Dragons in Perpignan. Willie Peters’ side were simply shown how high the levels you need to compete at week in, week out are if you wish to be amongst the big boys come the end of the year.

The Robins looked hapless at times during the first half at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. It’s not often they underperform, but they certainly did at the weekend.

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Winners: Keighley Cougars

Matt Foster
Keighley Cougars head coach Matt Foster speaks to the press at the 2024 Championship & League 1 launch day

Keighley are the only League 1 team included in this week’s winners and losers, making it five wins from five with their 82-6 victory at Newcastle Thunder yesterday.

Having come down from the Championship together last year, those two teams are obviously at different ends of the expectation scale, but the Cougars got the job done in style, as they have done throughout the league campaign so far.

Losers: Halifax Panthers

We’ve already mentioned the scoreline in Halifax‘s defeat to Sheffield, and that pretty much tells you all you need to know about how much of a dark day yesterday proved for the Panthers.

Before even mentioning the tries they conceded, it was the first time in 21 years that any Fax side have been nilled in a regular league game at The Shay. Having also failed to score in the entirety of the second half in defeat at Widnes Vikings last weekend, Liam Finn’s side have now not scored in over two hours of action and in the process, they’ve conceded an eye-watering 82 points!

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Winners: Catalans Dragons

Theo Fages
Theo Fages in action for Catalans Dragons in 2024

Despite sitting pretty at the top of the Super League ladder, it still feels like we’re waiting for Catalans to spark into life in 2024. Their Challenge Cup exit at the hands of Huddersfield Giants proved just that, and felt like a loss which could have had a bigger impact than it turned out to.

For the French side to respond as they did against a good KR team was excellent to see. The Dragons aren’t quite breathing fire just yet, but that was the type of performance we’ve become accustomed to from them over the last few years.

Losers: Leeds Rhinos

The unforgettable Gennaro Gattuso line of ‘sometimes may be good, sometimes may be sh*t’ epitomises what we’ve seen from Leeds so far this season, and in their 30-24 defeat to Huddersfield at Headingley on Friday night, we saw both sides of that coin from the Rhinos.

12-2 up at the break, and 24-12 up with just over 16 minutes remaining, Rohan Smith’s side looked to be cruising to a comfortable win until they allowed the Giants back into the game, with three tries in circa seven minutes. Mind-bogglingly poor from their point of view.

RELATED: Ryan Hall to play final season with Leeds Rhinos with future off-field role explained

Winners: Warrington Wolves

Joe Philbin Matty Ashton Warrington Wolves Alamy
Joe Philbin (left) and Matty Ashton (right) celebrate a Warrington Wolves win in 2024

Our ‘winners and losers’ article usually isn’t this long, but we just couldn’t leave out Warrington. Sam Burgess appears to have transformed the mindset of his group of players, who showed grit and determination aplenty to get over the line against Leigh Leopards on Saturday afternoon, winning 16-14.

It isn’t the first time the Wolves have come out on top in a tight affair this season, and it’s most definitely true that they would not have been coming away from games like Saturday with victories last year. The very best teams find a way to win ugly when they’re not at their best, and Wire have started doing that. They’re not up there with the very best just yet, but the rise has started.