It’s been a couple of weeks since my last stats column, so I thought I’d better do an update!
The last round of Super League did not create much in the way of surprise results and my main focus comes from the only game in the top flight that I managed to attend last week.
I was over at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. Firstly let me get Leigh Centurions out of my system. They were royally beaten by Warrington Wolves on Friday night and no-one could say it was anything but deserved.
Rarely have the Wolves found such form this year and while they may have to be content with a bottom four finish and a place amongst the Super League Qualifiers, they will take plenty of positives from a resounding 50-10 win over Leigh.
The Centurions actually made a good start to the game, dominating possession in the first five minutes, but crucially couldn’t score. They had a fleeting spell in dying seconds of the first half and a few moments in the second, but largely Leigh were dire at Wire with the Wolves romping forward for over 1,300 metres.
With new boys Daniel Mortimer and Samisoni Langi making their debuts for the Centurions, there wasn’t as much fluidity to the attack as you might have thought for this time of the season.
Post game Neil Jukes described the attack as “clunky” – I could think of other words.
When Leigh beat Warrington earlier in the season, it was on the back of a superb forward effort that saw the pack gain over 800 metres. This was a shadow of that performance with Leigh only making 811 metres collectively.
Mortimer carried the ball 14 times, more than three of the starting pack players combined. Antoni Maria and James Green also offered little from the bench in attack, with just eight carries between them.
Only two forwards escape criticism in the Leigh ranks – Danny Tickle, celebrating the 400th first team game of a long career and Lachlan Burr. For me Burr in particular has been a stand-out in recent weeks and he really worked his socks off with 12 carries and 32 tackles.
Mitch Brown was full-back and again proved to be Leigh’s best threat coming forward. He was the only player in the team to get more than 100 metres. In fact his 130 metres put him on par with several of the Warrington backs, although even he wasn’t squeaky clean and came up with some errors.
Leigh were 24-0 down before offering any respite to the many fans that followed them. It was a cracking piece of play by Ben Reynolds too, earning the stand-off his sixth try of the season.
The only other respite for the Centurions was a 75th minute try to top scorer Matty Dawson.
Now contrast that with Warrington. Stefan Ratchford (pictured) was excellent at full-back and I certainly think this is his best position. It will certainly be interesting to see if Wayne Bennett accommodates both Zak Hardaker and Ratchford in his World Cup squad in October.
He laid on five of Warrington’s nine tries, ran for 129 metres and booted six goals. Tom Lineham was main beneficiary scoring four tries. It was a brilliant effort from him with a real mix of athletic leaps and bulldozer strength among the finishes.
Also keep in mind that Warrington’s top try scorer had reached the line only twelve times previously this season! Both Ratchford and Declan Patton had considerable success going down the Leigh right in the first half and Langi missed three tackles as he was turned inside and out by precision passing.
Ben Westwood and Chris Hill were picked as stand outs by Tony Smith and they were both very good. Despite being sin-binned in the first half, Westwood made 38 tackles and 110 metres from 14 carries while Hill made 126 metres from 15 carries and also did 23 tackles.
I disagreed with Smith at the time and thought new wing/centre Peta Hiku was man-of-the-match. It proved to be a busy day for Hiku with 19 carries, 194 metres and a try assist.
Looking more generally, Warrington missed just 13 tackles and made nine line-breaks.
They also held the ball for 42 more carries – an extra seven sets of possession. Once they had established the middle of the field, they cut loose, especially when in decent field position.
As poor as Leigh were, Warrington were excellent. They need to be. It’s Wigan week and a trip to the DW Stadium beckons (Thursday 13th July, 8.00 pm).