Six observations from the Easter weekend in Super League.
Video Referee’s Over Involved?
If we look back at yet another pulsating good Friday clash between East and West Hull, we will remember the red card shown to FC Winger Bureta Faraimo within the opening ten minutes.
What is even more bemusing is the fact that Chris Kendall originally waved play-on after the incident, before giving the USA international his marching orders, following what seems like a persuasive consultation with video ref Phil Bentham.
Now, I’m all for using video assistance to rightly or wrongly award a try. However, when it is getting to a stage where referees can use super, super, super slow-motion to criminalise the likes of Faraimo for what seemed at first like an innocuous challenge, something needs to change.
If that game was not broadcast live on Sky, Hull FC would’ve still had a full compliment of players on the pitch.
Luckily for them, they still showed enough character, resilience and determination to claim the points.
The Saints Steam Train Keeps Ploughing On
It is quite common for a Super League side to show early season promise- take Widnes, who won six out of their opening seven League games of the 2016 season.
However, not many would’ve shown the kind of all-roundedness needed to win titles on such a consistent basis like St Helens have this campaign.
Their Leeds Rhinos fixture aside, Justin Holbrook’s men have shown all the makings of champions-elect.
With Ben Barba, arguably one of the best players in the world, adding his attacking verve to proceedings time and time again, it is little wonder that the Saints are four points clear at the top.
The Easter period was always going to be tough, yet the way they managed to dismantle a Widnes side at a rain-soaked Select Security Stadium, just days after an energy-sapping derby win over Wigan Warriors, was nothing short of astonishing.
The Red V have something very special across the park this year. It is hard to see how they are going to be stopped.
Classy Cas Foiled by The Weather
When Easter Monday rolled around, very few would have been expecting a Super League game to be played in a mud bath like the one we saw at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
With the pitch so waterlogged, players from the Castleford Tigers and the Warrington Wolves were forced to warm up on pitches outside of the stadium to preserve the playing surface.
Many an observer would assume that this game only went ahead in order to appease the gruelling schedule- after all, Daryl Powell has already seen two of his sides’ games postponed in 2018.
The horrendous conditions were never going to allow for the free-flowing attacking rugby which the Tigers love to produce.
It was indeed the Wolves who coped better with the weather and rightly deserved to take home the two points.
Meanwhile, the men in Amber and Black will be hoping for an upturn in the weather if they are going to return to their scintillating, eye-catching brand of egg-chasing!
The Price is Right for Warrington
After a tough start to the season, there seemed to be murmurs of discontent amongst the Halliwell Jones faithful, albeit from the minority.
Most fans knew that this year was going to be a work in progress; with new coaches, new players and a new brand of rugby, Warrington were never going to set the world alight straight away.
These things take time and it now seems like things are finally clicking into gear.
Ben Murdoch-Masila is back to his best, Tyrone Roberts and Kevin Brown are starting to find their feet as a partnership, and Sitaleki Akauola is already becoming a cult hero in the eyes of Wolves loyalists.
The Wire have two very winnable games coming up by their own reckoning against Salford and Hull Kingston Rovers. Victories against both and the Wolves might dare to dream once more.
Could it be their year?
Steve McNamara Saved- For Now
The battle for points in the South of France was always going to be a huge clash for both teams; could Chris Thorman claimed the first win of his Giants tenure or could Steve McNamara get his side back to winning ways?
It proved to be the latter.
It wasn’t flashy or too impressive from the Dragons, but it got the job done, thanks to tries from Benjamin Jullien and braces for Jodie Broughton and David Mead.
The Ex-England boss knows that there is much work to do- the half-back issue is something that needs to be addressed in Perpignan if the Dragons are going to add more creativity to their backline.
McNamara knew he was on thin ice before the game got underway- now he may have earned himself a minor reprieve from the Catalans boardroom.
Bernard Guasch and co will have been less-than-impressed by what they have witnessed at the Stade Gilbert Brutus, a stadium once seen as a fortress, during the season so far.
The Dragons boss now needs to ensure that this kind of result isn’t a one-off if his side are going to fulfil their off-season expectations.
Vikings Project Might Take Time
Many Widnes fans left their Easter Monday clash against top of the table St Helens feeling slightly disheartened, having been totally outplayed for large swathes of the game.
We must remember that the Saints are four points clear at the top for a reason, but the manner in which they dominated Denis Betts’ side on their own turf will have been quite disappointing.
Nevertheless, the framework is there for Widnes to achieve success going forward; it might just take a bit of patience.
Nine of their 17 players yesterday were products of the Vikings academy- not many sides can boast that kind of thing in a top-flight game nowadays.
As with many young sides, there are bound to be errors, naïve moments and lapses in judgement over the course of a season.
However, if, and when, Widnes’ young crop of talent become more accustomed and suited to playing top-flight rugby week after week, the Select Security Stadium could see far more good days ahead.
It might just take some time.