Hull KR edge past Leigh in thriller at the Village

Hull KR had the luck of the devil in a close fought win over Leigh Centurions today, with the referee AND video referee missing what looked like a knock on* in the build up to their match winning try by Captain Shaun Lunt.

In an edgy encounter, it was the home side who struck first, Daniel Mortimer finding his way through a dogged Rovers defence, Josh Drinkwater adding the extras, before Rovers hit back on the half hour mark, Lunt scoring the first of his pair, converted by Jamie Ellis.

The home side went into the break with a two point lead, thanks to a penalty for holding down, which Drinkwater dispatched.

If the first half had been about flowing and attacking rugby, with defences winning the key battles, then the second half was to follow a similar pattern.

It was to be nearly 10 minutes in to the second half before either side would trouble the scoreboard again, Drinkwater slipping over a penalty after Rovers Lee Jewitt decided to mess about at the play of the ball.

As we approached the hour mark, Rovers drew level, after Ryan Shaw had his effort set upstairs to video referee James Child. Ellis accurate adding the extras and the visitors were in front, 10-12.

Ellis added a penalty to extend the Robins lead, before the home side struck back with a try from Atilia Vea, and a Drinkwater conversion that went in off the upright, saw Leigh hit the front again.

With just five minutes left on the clock came the moment that, as Leigh head coach Neil Jukes put it, could cost someone their job, as Rovers appeared to knock on at the play of the ball, only for Lunt to squeeze over for his second of the game.

Again, it was sent to the video referee, who somehow missed the knock on by Nick Scruton and went with the on field decision of try and Rovers winning score, 16-20 when the final whistle went.

Leigh coach Neil Jukes:

Hull KR coach Tim Sheens:

 

Leigh (8) 16
Tries: Mortimer, Vea Goals: Drinkwater 4
Hull KR (6) 20
Tries: Lunt 2, Shaw Goals: Ellis 4

Leigh: McNally; Dawson, Fleming, Langi, Higson; Mortimer, Drinkwater; Hansen, Higham, Maria, Vea, Paterson, Burr.

Replacements: Hood, Richards, Tickle, Stewart.

Hull KR: Moss; Carney, Blair, Hefernan, Shaw; Marsh, Ellis; Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh.

Replacements: Lunt, Greenwood, Atkin, Masoe.

Referee: Jack Smith

*The video referee is not allowed to look at the play of the ball when a decision is referred to him. Thank you Rod Studd for letting me know. 

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Salford stutter in the rain as Castleford shine in 4-23 win

 

Nice for the ducks

For the opening 40 minutes, Castleford were playing up to their “Classy Cas” tag, albeit aided by some odd refereeing decisions from the man in the middle, Chris Kendall.

He managed to send two tries upstairs to the video referee, both of which his on field decision was overturned, he gave a knock on against the home side when there hadn’t been one, and generally looked out of his depth on a wet night on the banks of the ship canal.

Honestly, I don’t like to have a go at the man with the toughest job in the sport, but Chris Kendall was so far out of his depth tonight in the first half, it was a wonder he wasn’t replaced during the break.

As it was, two first half tries from Zak Hardaker, both converted by Luke Gale were the difference by half time, but a half where Salford had a one try wiped out for a forward pass (it wasn’t) and one for obstruction (it was) it was to be one of those evenings at the AJ Bell where the referee took centre stage, certainly in the first half, rather than the players the fans actually pay to see.

Hardaker, if not already a shoe in for the England full back spot, certainly put head coach Wayne Bennett on alert with his performance in the rain tonight.

Salford home debutant Manu Vatuvei scored a try that was sent up to the video referee as a try, and was rewarded for his effort when it was given. That was early in the second half and about the only bright spot for the home side, who saw Tyrone McCarthy pull up during the warm up to be replaced by Craig Kopczak.

Then, on the hour mark, McShane went over, another Gale conversion and Cas were home, and if not dry, at least hosed.

They weren’t finished though.

With just over 15 left, they went over again, This time Hardaker turned provider with a looping pass out wide for Jy Hitchcox to score, when he could have easily gone over for what would have been a deserved hatrick of scores.

As it was, Cas were too good for anyone tonight, and a late drop goal by Luke Gale to extend the lead just put into perspective just how good this Yorkshire club have been this season.

Can they win the Grand Final?

Possibly, but it will depend on their opponents.

They deserve the league leaders shield, Salford however, need to take a look at themselves in the mirror before next week.

They just ween’t at the races tonight.

Perhaps Michael Dobson and Lama Tasi are bigger players for the team on the pitch than I previously thought, but there was a lack of leadership on the field that would worry me if I were a Salford fan.

Ian Watson did say post match that Junior Sa’u and Michael Dobson could have started tonight, but with some tough games coming up, starting with a trip to Wigan next week, He’ll want to make certain any players coming back are fully fit.

Perhaps the target of making the top 8 being achieved, a few players took their eye off the ball, and were mentally ready for the off season. Knowing Ian Watson, I cant imagine him letting up on the players one bit, but whatever the problem, at this rate, Salford will be well out of the race to Old Trafford by the time they next appear at home in early September.

 

 

TEAMS

Salford: Niall Evalds, Greg Johnson, Jake Bibby, Josh Jones, Manu Vatuvei, Rob Lui, Todd Carney, Adam Walne, Logan Tomkins, Weller Hauraki, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Ryan Lannon, Craig Kopczak, George Griffin, Kriss Brining, Olsi Krasniqi, Daniel Murray.

Castleford: Zak Hardaker, Joel Monaghan, Jake Webster, Greg Minikin, Jy Hitchcox, Ben Roberts, Luke Gale, Grant Millington, Paul McShane, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Oliver Holmes, Michael McMeeking, Nathan Massey, Adam Milner, Gadwin Springer, Matt Cook, Alex Foster.

 

Two game weekend should test the old mental capabilities.

This weekend, Andrewrileysportsjournalist hits up two very different games of rugby league. Here, he previews both games.

Well, it’s been a while since I felt well enough to not only attend back to back games, but to preview them AND match report both will be a stiff test of how my mental health is coping. Let’s start with the previews though. The simple bit.

First up on Friday night is Salford Devils and Castleford Tigers in the “Super 8’s” at the AJ Bell stadium.

Super League Super 5's
Super League Super 8’s

The last time the Tigers visited the home of the Devils, it was a tight, cagey affair, with Salford coming from behind to win the game 13-12, with Gareth O’Brien kicking the all important one pointer to seal a win that would be the first of five in a row for the Devils.

That run set Salford up for their best finish in a regular season since 1980.

Ian Watson has named a very strong side for Friday night.

Kris Brining is back after a spell on the sidelines, and Ryan Lannon also returns for a game that could have a very big say in the Devils charge for a Grand Final spot.

Michael Dobson is still not 100% after the knock he picked up in the Challenge cup game against Wigan, and Josh Wood and Kris Welham also miss out.

Salford fans will be pleased to see Tyrone McCarthy and Manu Vatuvei both take the field at home for the first time.

Jake Bibby, Kriss Brining, Todd Carney, Niall Evalds, George Griffin, Weller Hauraki, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Graig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Tyrone McCarthy, Daniel Murray, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Logan Tomkins, Adam Walne, Manu Vatuvei.

Tigers coach Daryl Powell has also named his 19 man squad

Matt Cook, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, Tom Holmes,   Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington,  Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer,       Jake Webster.

Prediction? The Tigers are licking their wounds after losing to St. Helens at home last week, and will want to wrap up the league leaders shield sooner rather than later. My bet is Castleford by 8 to 12 points, but Salford will be looking to halt a slump.

Super 8's The Qualifiers
Super 8’s The Qualifiers

Slightly further down the league, Leigh Centurions take on Hull Kingston Rovers in the “Qualifiers”, with one team looking to retain top flight status whilst the other looks to return to where it, and it’s fans, feel it belongs.

Both sides got off to winning ways in round one, Leigh away at Featherstone Rovers in front of the Sky cameras, and Hull at home to Halifax, who surprised some by beating the Robins in the final round of the regular season.

Head coaches Tim Sheens and Neil Jukes will be looking for more of the same commitment from their respective charges in front of the Sky Cameras at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon.

Both coaches announced their squads for the afternoon kick off on Sky Sports.

Leigh Centurions (from) 1 Mitch Brown, 29 Lachlan Burr, 5 Matty Dawson, 7 Josh Drinkwater, 31 Matty Fleming, 13 Harrison Hansen, 9 Micky Higham (Captain), 21 Liam Hood, 23 Sam Hopkins, 34 Samisoni Langi, 18 Gregg McNally, 16 Antoni Maria, 33 Daniel Mortimer, 11 Cory Paterson, 20 Ben Reynolds, 35 Greg Richards, 12 Glenn Stewart, 15 Danny Tickle, 17 Atelea Vea.

Hull Kingston Rovers (from) 3 Thomas Minns, 5 Ryan Shaw, 7 Jamie Ellis, 8 Nick Scruton, 9 Shaun Lunt, 10 Chris Clarkson, 11 Maurice Blair, 12 James Greenwood, 13 Danny Addy, 19 George Lawler, 20 Matty Marsh, 21 Robbie Mulhern, 22 Andrew Heffernan, 32 Kieren Moss, 33 Ben Kavanagh, 36 Justin Carney, 37 Lee Jewitt, 38 Chris Atkin, 39 Mose Masoe.

When the two clubs met in the Qualifiers last season, Leigh took a giant step towards automatic promotion, coming from behind to beat the then Super League side on their own patch, 18-25.

Tries from Hopkins, Dixon, Dawson and Drinkwater sealing the win, with Ridyard not only kicking four from four, but also adding a drop goal for good measure.

This season however, the teams met in the earlier rounds of the Challenge Cup, Rovers this time running out 10-23 winners at Leigh sports village.

Can lightning strike twice?

The best way to find out is to actually be there, and the ticket office at Leigh will be open until 8pm tonight (Thursday) and you can also buy online.

If you cant be there, then the game is live on Sky sports Main Event.

Super 8’s and Qualifiers fixtures released

It’s that time of the season again, the Super 8’s and Qualifiers are here to brighten up the end of the season chase for silverware.

The Super 8s fixtures for 2017 have now been released.

The Kingstone Press Championship Shield fixtures have been delayed due to operational issues. Round 1 fixtures will now be announced on Thursday July 27 and the remaining fixtures by Monday July 31 at the latest, with rumours swirling on social media it is because the RFL had already set out the schedule to include Toulouse in the Qualifiers, and the shock defeat of Hull KR by Halifax throwing a spanner in the works.

In the Betfred Super League Super 8s, Castleford Tigers currently sit ten points clear at the top of the table and need just three victories to secure the League Leaders’ shield, something of an oddity, given that we are now playing a different competition in all but name.

Should the League leaders shield be awarded after 23 rounds?

I think so…

Three teams that played in the 2016 Qualifiers, Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils all make the top eight and with only six points difference between eighth place and third place, it’s all to play for as the countdown to the Betfred Super League Grand Final on Saturday, October 7 at Old Trafford begins.

In The Qualifiers Super 8s, last year’s Grand Finalists Warrington Wolves will battle to retain their Super League status alongside Catalans Dragons, Widnes Vikings and Leigh Centurions, as Hull Kingston Rovers, London Broncos, Halifax RLFC and Featherstone Rovers will be hoping to gain promotion.

Super League Super 5's
Super League Super 8’s

Betfred Super League Super 8s – Round by Round

Round Date Home Away KO Time (Local Time)
1 Thursday, August 3 Castleford Tigers St Helens 8.00pm Sky Sports
1 Friday, August 4 Huddersfield Giants Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
1 Friday, August 4 Hull FC Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
1 Friday, August 4 Leeds Rhinos Wigan Warriors 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Thursday, August 10 Wakefield Trinity Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Friday, August 11 Salford Red Devils Castleford Tigers 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Friday, August 11 St Helens Hull FC 8.00pm
2 Friday, August 11 Wigan Warriors Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
3 Thursday, August 17 Castleford Tigers Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm Sky Sports
3 Friday, August 18 Hull FC Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
3 Friday, August 18 Leeds Rhinos St Helens 8.00pm Sky Sports
3 Friday, August 18 Wigan Warriors Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
4 Thursday, August 31 Leeds Rhinos Hull FC 8.00pm Sky Sports
4 Friday, September 1 Huddersfield Giants Castleford Tigers 8.00pm
4 Friday, September 1 Salford Red Devils Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
4 Friday, September 1 St Helens Wigan Warriors 8.00pm Sky Sports
5 Friday, September 8 Castleford Tigers Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm
5 Friday, September 8 Hull FC Wigan Warriors 8.00pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Salford Red Devils Huddersfield Giants 1.30pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Wakefield Trinity St Helens 7.00pm
6 Thursday, September 14 Hull FC Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 Leeds Rhinos Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 St Helens Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Wigan Warriors Castleford Tigers 3.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 Castleford Tigers Hull FC 8.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 Huddersfield Giants Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Salford Red Devils St Helens 3.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Wakefield Trinity Wigan Warriors 7.00pm

Below the Super 8’s, we have The Qualifiers, and the race to stake a place at the sports top table for 2018 and avoid the drop to the Championship will make for some of the hottest competition on any screen this year.

There are some big names down here, with Warrington Wolves, Catalans Dragons, Widnes Vikings all hoping to avoid the dreaded “Million Pound Game” whilst Hull Kingston Rovers and London Broncos want to cement their place back in Super League.

Super 8's The Qualifiers
Super 8’s The Qualifiers

The Qualifiers Super 8s – Round by Round

Round Date Home Away KO Time (Local Time)
1 Friday, August 4 Widnes Vikings Warrington Wolves 8.00pm
1 Saturday, August 5 Catalans Dragons London Broncos 6.15pm Sky Sports
1 Saturday, August 5 Featherstone Rovers Leigh Centurions 3.15pm Sky Sports
1 Sunday, August 6 Hull KR Halifax RLFC 3.00pm
2 Saturday, August 12 Leigh Centurions Hull KR 3.15pm Sky Sports
2 Saturday, August 12 Warrington Wolves Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
2 Sunday, August 13 Halifax RLFC Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
2 Sunday, August 13 London Broncos Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm
3 Saturday, August 19 Catalans Dragons Leigh Centurions 6.15pm Sky Sports
3 Saturday, August 19 Warrington Wolves Halifax RLFC 3.15pm Sky Sports
3 Sunday, August 20 Hull KR London Broncos 3.00pm
3 Sunday, August 20 Widnes Vikings Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm
4 Saturday, September 2 London Broncos Warrington Wolves 8.00pm Sky Sports
4 Sunday, September 3 Featherstone Rovers Hull KR 3.00pm
4 Sunday, September 3 Halifax RLFC Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
4 Sunday, September 3 Leigh Centurions Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Catalans Dragons Featherstone Rovers 6.15pm Sky Sports
5 Saturday, September 9 Warrington Wolves Leigh Centurions 3.00pm
5 Sunday, September 10 Hull KR Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
5 Sunday, September 10 London Broncos Halifax RLFC 3.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 Leigh Centurions Halifax RLFC 8.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Featherstone Rovers Warrington Wolves 3.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Hull KR Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Widnes Vikings London Broncos 3.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 London Broncos Leigh Centurions 8.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Catalans Dragons Widnes Vikings 6.15pm Sky Sports
7 Saturday, September 23 Warrington Wolves Hull KR 3.00pm
7 Sunday, September 24 Halifax RLFC Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm

 

* Games to be shown live on Sky Sports for rounds 5,6 and 7 are still to be selected.

 

More Devils pen new deals as name change row rumbles on

Mark Flanagan, Greg Johnson and Logan Tomkins have become the latest members of the 2017 Salford Devils squad to commit to new deals, as the club continues to go from strength to strength on the field.

Off the field however, chaos still clouds the rumored name change, with owner Marwan Koukash still refusing to rule out a change to Manchester.

With attendances still in the lower 3000 range, even when discounted entry is offered, it’s not hard to see why the Owner  who has pumped millions into the club since he took over is worried.

With the club taking on last seasons Challenge cup winners Hull FC tomorrow, Marwan told one fan on twitter that the club had sold LESS than 60 tickets for the game.

The shame is that the team on the field are playing the most attractive brand of rugby this side of the Pennines.

Ian Watson has assembled one of the most exciting squads that ANY Salford fan will have seen in the modern era, and he couldn’t have done that without Marwan Koukash backing him.

Yet a couple of weeks ago, post match, waiting for a taxi, there was one fan who had clearly had a few too many, stood outside of the ground, screaming for the owner to come and physically fight him over the possible name change!

I understand his passion, but offering the owner out to a fight? How childish…

Salford have never in my memory attracted 8K to games on a regular basis. Even my club, Hull KR, fluctuate between 6 and 8K in the Championship, but they are in a town where they are not competing with two top flight football teams and all the other things that cities like Manchester and Salford have to offer families.

OK, the football season is over, but (should we ever get it) once the weather is nice, you are an hour away from the seaside, the lakes and sundry other attractions.

Sadly, rugby league in the UK will never compete with football, and even to some respect, cricket. the fan base is traditionally based along a narrow corridor, something that is gradually changing with the introduction of Toulouse, Catalan and Toronto, as well as the growth of the sport in London and Coventry.

Salford needs Marwan, but Marwan doesn’t need Salford.

Remember that, next time you want to stand outside of the ground and fight him.

If he walks, the club will disappear, if not overnight, then within 5 years.

And nobody wants to see that…

 

 

 

Salford Devils thrash Catalan Dragons to remain second.

Salford v Catalan, Super League round 15
 
Salford picked up where they left off at Magic Weekend tonight.
In a game that meant so much to the people of Salford, as well as Manchester after Monday’s atrocities at the Manchester Arena.
VIDEO;
Displaying a banner pre game that declared “Two cities United as one”, it was the home team, looking to overturn a 36-6 defeat last month in the South of France who took an early lead, thanks to Catalan player Remi Casty being sin binned for a high tackle in the 4th minute, only for the player he tackled, Gareth O’Brien to score less than 20 seconds later.
The home side would dominate the first half, scoring seemingly at will with first Josh Jones scoring, and then, in the 22nd minute, during a round of applause for the 22 who lost their lives, Salfords 22, Kris Welham scored to make it 18-0, despite them having debutant James Hasson sent to the sin bin themselves, with Michael Dobson missing one of his chances to add the conversion.
It was 28-0 by the break, as Ryan Lannon went over to extend the lead.
All in all, it was a clinical performance from Salford, who went on to rack up 50 points in front of just under 5000 fans, all of whom had been given their tickets free, in exchange for a donation to the Manchester bombing victims fund, a huge gesture from owner Dr Marwan Koukash.
After the break, it didnt take Salford long to extend their lead, when Kriss Brinning dived over from close range with less than 120 seconds of the half gone.
It wasn’t to be until the 49th minute that the visitors would trouble the scoreboard.
Vincent Duport with the try, Luke Walsh adding the extras to make the scoreline 34-6.
Then, the moment that appeared to break the hearts of the visitors, as Rob Lui intercepted a loose pat back in the 54th minute and raced 80m to score.
Dobson accurate with the boot again from the sideline.
After that, it was again all Salford as first Olsi Krasniqi scored, then, Ben Murdoch-Masila, on for the injured Josh Jones, raced 60m to set up a platform that allowed Mark Flanagan to score, Dobson missing his second of the night, and the scoreline was 50-6.
The visitors did get a consolation try in the final minute, thanks to Fouad Yaha, Walsh again kicking the points to leave the final score 50-12.
 
Salford Devils head coach Ian Watson:
Catalan coaches, Michael Mognahan and Jerome Guisset:
 
Salford; Gareth O’Brien, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Niall Evalds, Rob Lui, Michael Dobson, Lama Tasi, Logan Tomkins, James Hasson (debut), Ben Murdoch-Masila, Weller Hauraki, Olsi Krasniqi, Kriss Brining, Craig Kopczak, Ryan Lannon, Mark Flanagan
Catalan; Tony Gigot, Iain Thornley, Kristian Inu, William Brayden, Fouad Yaha, Luke Walsh, Richie Myler, Sam Moa, Alrix Da-Costa, Mickael Simon, Julien Busquet, Remi Casty, Jordan Dezaria, Vincent DuPort, Ugo Perez, Lucas Albert, Paul Segiur

Take me out to the ball game…

 

Tropicana Field

It’s no secret that I love baseball.

A game that first attracted my attention when I owned a pub, and Channel 5 ran live games two or three nights a week, the perfect antidote after standing and serving people all night when there was very little live sport on.

I took my family to St Pete beach in 2006, and went to watch a couple of Tampa Bay Ray (or Devil Rays as they were then) during our holiday.

I’m off to Miami in June, and will be heading to watch the Marlins, and depending on the date, might even get to see them play the Rays!

Sport is something our American cousins do well…

When we went last time, the first 12,000 kids under 14 were given a free baseball mitt. Having been in touch with the organisation before we went, we were met by one of their PR staff, who promptly gave our youngest a couple of sets of Rays shades and a tee shirt!

Add in the fact that you dont need to leave your seat to purchase food and beverages, and the whole fan experience is second to non.

We’ve made great strides in fan engagement in the last few years, but it could still be better.

Why dont we see clubs (in any sport) offering more for kids? Face painting? Pah! Parents dont want their £40 replica shirts stained.

If smaller sports want to see more younger fans through the turnstiles, offer them something meaningful.

Give primary schools free passes for each kid, just once a season, and charge parents £10. Give them a free mini ball, or signed squad photo as they come in, nothing expensive, just something to engage them and get them wanting more.

no need to give every school tickets for the same game, spread it out over the season. That way you’re not overwhelmed if everybody arrives at once.

This is how you organically grow your fan base, especially in a city where you are competing with other sports.

Sale Sharks already offer fans a food & drink to your seat app, so why not the Devils? It would certainly be a USP in Super League.