Stats Column: Hard graft pays off for Widnes

It was a truncated round of Super League with Huddersfield, Leeds, Leigh and Salford all involved in Challenge Cup action.

However, the remaining games threw out some interesting statistics.

I’d like to start at Widnes where, according to OPTA, the difference between winning and losing was 43 metres.

Widnes made 1231 metres in the game, an increase of 302 from their East Monday game at Leeds while Saints made 1188 in comparison.

I felt the impact of starting prop forwards Jack Buchanan and Gil Dudson certainly helped the Vikings, both were good in my opinion and Denis Betts agreed, saying in the post-game press conference: “They were – the changeover is there and I tried to balance the side.

“But at Leeds, Buchanan played 80 minutes and Gil Dudson (above) played 60 minutes. I don’t think Gil has ever done 60 minutes. They played a lot of minutes over Easter, but both were keen as mustard to stay on the field.”

Buchanan made 104 metres from 16 carries and also did 29 tackles with just one miss. Dudson made 107 metres from 14 carries, notching up 27 tackles with one miss.

Chris Houston was also very good in the Vikings pack and it’s amazing sometimes how people don’t notice him yet he is often at the top end of all the Widnes pack stats. In this game he ran for 112 metres from 15 carries and contributed 32 tackles.

There was also an impressive effort at the back by Rhys Hanbury. His confidence was flying and he topped 150 metres. Patrick Ah Van has his critics but few backs are as deadly close to the line, or as effective at bringing the ball back. He made 16 carries, 147 metres and claimed two tries.

For St Helens Jon Wilkin made 56 tackles. He was everywhere and although you would usually be pointing the finger at someone missing five tackles, with such a huge workload the odd miss can be excused.

Another player that featured high in the tackle count was Luke Thompson. He made 40 tackles and it is little wonder he only made just over 50 metres with ball in hand. Matthew Fleming, playing in the centres for Saints was made to make 34 tackles but he also impressed with the ball, making 108 metres.

Adam Swift made his usual contribution (135 metres from 17 carries) and Alex Walmsley was again a colossus in making 149 metres. Top marks for tenacity though have to go to full-back Ricky Bailey who recently celebrated his 20th birthday.

The young back was in the Saints first team again for the first time in two years and although he made five errors he was also the most industrious, carrying the ball 22 times for 162 metres and deserves credit for battling through the game when Widnes were trying to get at him.

What about the Warrington – Wakefield game? Talk about a thriller. From the Warrington end I’m sure I could hear Vincent Price cackling! (Younger readers look him up, his is the spooky voice on the Michael Jackson track).

From the outsider’s point of view it appeared a snatch and grab win, but the stats do favour Warrington. For example, their 1600 plus metres eclipsed Trinity’s 1351 0 the Wolves also created more breaks (7-4) and more offloads (17-4).

Seven of their seventeen ran for over 100 metres with Chris Hill (179), Tom Lineham (175), Ryan Atkins (175) and Rhys Evans (150) making over 150 metres.

Wakefield had their own heroes with David Fifita setting the lead (129 metres), ably supported by Mason Caton-Brown, Ben Jones-Bishop and Tom Johnstone but the key difference was the ground Warrington’s pack made.

I was over at Wigan on Sunday to see Catalans Dragons roll into town and I have to say I was really impressed with the young three-quarter line for the hosts.

I penned a news item the other day about Tom Davies and this kid had a wow of a game. I talk a lot about ground made by players and how metres make wins. How about this for a set of stats from young Davies?

He scored two tries, made 22 carries and 309 metres, burst seven tackles and contributed three dummy half runs. If he can continue such form maybe he could even end up a bolter selection heading to the World Cup.

Let me also acknowledge Joe Burgess here. We know he’s already a very good winger but I feel he could also develop into an excellent centre. Like Davies he crossed for two tries and although he wasn’t asked to do too much in defence (10 tackles), he did his bit. Ball-in-hand, he looked classy, making 112 metres from 13 carries.

I was also impressed with Liam Forsyth who also chipped in with two tries, a try assist and 23 tackles in a highly competent performance while Liam Marshall continues to develop at a rate of knots, adding another try to his growing season tally and running for 129 metres from 17 carries.

It was a game where George Williams flickered into life in the second half and he had to after Tommy Leuluai left the field. Mickael Simon, Julian Bousquet and Vincent Duport were amongst Catalans best, but in truth Wigan made 11 line breaks which affirmed their superiority despite a spirited effort from Catalans that faded in the last 15 minutes.

Hull became the latest team to buck the trends when they defeated Castleford 26-24 at the on Sunday. The hosts were outscored five tries to four with Marc Sneyd’s five goals proving the difference. The Tigers made 120 metres more, enjoyed 58 more carries, 21 more offloads, but still lost.

Mahe Fonua and Scott Taylor were at the forefront for Hull. Fonua had 19 carries for 146 metres and scored two tries while prop Taylor scored a rare try and made 143 metres from 14 carries.

Mark Minichello was amongst the busiest of forwards with 27 tackles and 15 carries, but his defence was also a bit loose. He missed eight tackles, however despite other players also notching up a number of missed tackles there is certainly a spirit amongst the Hull players.

Zak Hardaker and Junior Moors did everything they could, leading the way with the ball – 22 carries each and Greg Minikin also looked dangerous, but the Tigers are going to have to return to the training field to find the winning touch after two losses in succession and the visit of Wigan looming large on the horizon.

All-in-all, another fascinating weekend I’m sure you will agree!

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