RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood has hailed the first round of Engage Super League XV as the most exciting in the competition’s history and is predicting that 2010 will prove to be a memorable year for Rugby League fans.
A total of 78,090 people – an all-time high for the competition – turned out to see the seven Round One fixtures which featured a couple of notable upsets and some starring roles from Engage Super League’s home-produced players.
“The Engage Super League clubs are to be congratulated for the part they all played in a terrific opening round which bodes well for the rest of 2010,” said Wood.
“The fans turned out in significant numbers and they were treated to some wonderful Rugby League action.
“The total attendance was very encouraging and is testimony to a lot of hard work by a lot of people.
“The unpredictability of outcome that was a feature of Engage Super League in 2009 is even more noticeable in 2010 and I am sure that will continue throughout the year.”
On Saturday last season’s beaten Grand Finalists St Helens were beaten 32-12 at home to Hull FC, who ended 2009 in 12th place, while on Friday defending champions Leeds Rhinos crashed to a 24-10 home defeat by Castleford Tigers, who lost 76-12 on their last visit to Headingley Carnegie Stadium last August.
Wood had special praise for all the young players whose exploits over the opening weekend served to underline that the investment in junior development by all the Engage Super League clubs is now paying dividends.
“At every game in Round One we have seen young players coming to the fore which offers compelling proof that the Club Trained Players quota system we have in Engage Super League is starting to deliver,” said Wood.
On Friday night 21-year-old local hero Leroy Cudjoe took the man of the match honours as Huddersfield Giants defeated Bradford Bulls 24-12 while Sam Tomkins caught the eye for Wigan in their victory over Crusaders RL.
The stars of Sunday’s three fixtures included Warrington’s 21-year-old winger Chris Riley, who scored five tries against Harlequins, and Peter Fox, the England wing who scored two tries in Hull KR’s victory over Salford City Reds.
The seven Engage Super League Round One fixtures produced a total of 55 tries at an average of eight per game, a statistic Wood believes strengthens Rugby League’s reputation as the most entertaining sport in the country.
“We have seen some wonderful tries from some wonderful players this weekend and I am sure the standards will improve still further as the conditions improve as we head towards spring and summer rugby,” added Wood.