Eye On Rugby League by Tony Williams
On the evidence of Saturday's Powergen Challenge Cup final it looks as though the Saints will keep on marching through to the engage Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford. The Knowsley Road side saw off Huddersfield Giants in comprehensive fashion; and it doesn't look as though their impressive form will dip between now and mid-October.
St Helens are a team with a hunger for success which belies their extremely successful recent past – and that is probably down to last season.
The Saints were knocked out of the cup at the semi-final stage by a Hull FC side that went on to lift the famous old trophy. The players admitted afterwards that they had been complacent (although this could be a little unfair on Hull) and that would have stayed with them.
In similar fashion St Helens made history – but not the good kind – as the first team to finish atop the Super League table and miss out on Old Trafford. After being the best side throughout the season lifting the often-overlooked League Leaders' Shield was scant consolation.
A major factor in Saints' success has been their new coach – Daniel Anderson. There cannot be many men in the world who could improve Ian Millward's team, but he has.
One major improvement has been in defence. While St Helens never had a leaky defence they would often suffer at least one thrashing a year – see the 70-0 loss at Leeds for example. But under Anderson defence has become a priority at Knowsley Road; and the rewards are there for all to see.
A side like St Helens this season are going to take some stopping. They've already won the cup and tomorrow night they could be wrapping up the League Leadership. And who would bet against them completing the treble?
This weekend marks a hundred years since the creation rugby league's defining aspect – the thirteen-a-side game. Just over ten years since the formation of the Northern Union it was decided to dispense with the two ‘flankers' and reduce the size of the scrum in order to create a faster, more open spectacle.
If today's rugby league is anything to go by, that move has paid dividends. Rugby league is a quick, open game; whereas rugby union – which is still fifteen-a-side remains a scrappy affair with too many line-outs and scrummages.
The anniversary reminds us that rugby league is a sport not afraid to try something new in order to better itself. It also reminds us that rugby league is – in our opinion at least – the greatest spectator sport.
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If you're reading this and you haven't yet signed up to Last Tackle's forum, then I think you should do it right away (or at least, once you've finished reading). The forum has just undergone a complete revamp and gives an opportunity for everyone who visits Last Tackle to have their say.
The forum's lay out now contains just one forum for rugby league discussion and one forum for rugby league polls. This has the effect of bringing the community closer together and encouraging members to become involved in debates.
Last Tackle has also announced a sponsorship deal with Code13Consulting.co.uk, a specialist rugby league design company. This deal will forge a partnership between two organisations that are helping the game of rugby league to develop. For more details see an announcement at the top of the home page.
Also, Sky Sports pundit Chris Warren will be writing a fortnightly column on Last Tackle. Having read his first article – ‘If The Cap Fits Wear It'- I can tell you that Chris makes some excellent points in a very well-written piece.
So, all in all, Last Tackle is moving forward with the help of some great people. This site is quickly becoming the best place on the ‘net for keeping your eye on rugby league.
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