Super League Team of the Week: Matchday 5

Another enthralling weekend of Super League action saw Castleford and Wigan fail to win for the first times this season. However, Wigan’s draw keeps them top of the Super League table.

Hull FC and Leeds continued to chase the pacesetters while Warrington and Widnes remain winless.

But, who made my Team of the Week?

Full-Back: Morgan Escare (Wigan Warriors)

Morgan Escare arrived at the DW Stadium in the off-season with a lot of pressure on his shoulders being tasked with the role of filling in for an injured Sam Tomkins however he has adapted to life at Wigan extremely well.

The French full-back crossed in the first half to level the score for the Warriors before kicking two goals including a crucial late penalty goal which earned Wigan a point and meant Shaun Wane’s side are now alone at the top of the Super League table – one point clear of Castleford, Hull and Leeds.

Escare vs Huddersfield
Morgan Escare kicks a late goal for Wigan. (Photo: Stephen White – CameraSport/Getty Images)

 

Winger: Jack Owens (St Helens)

Since signing from Widnes at the beginning of the 2016 season Jack Owens is yet to set the world alight at St Helens but this weekend his try earned them an important two points in the south of France.

While Theo Fages’ sublime offload made the try Owens was in support to earn Saints’ second victory of the season and inflict Catalans’ first home defeat in 2017.

Centre: Kallum Watkins (Leeds Rhinos)

Leeds made it back-to-back Super League wins with a controlled performance over an in-form Wakefield Trinity side with centre Kallum Watkins scoring twice for the Rhinos.

The Englishman climbed highest from a cross-field kick to open the scoring at Headingley before taking advantage of some neat play from Matt Parcell for his second of the game. England fans will be hoping he can return to the kind of form he displayed in 2015 particularly with the Rugby League World Cup at the end of the season.

Centre: Ben Crooks (Leigh Centurions)

Ben Crooks has been a victim of Castleford’s ever-growing success and has slowly been ousted from the Tigers side however he has shown the quality he possesses since signing a loan-deal with Leigh.

Crooks was solid in defence throughout Leigh’s first victory against Warrington in over twenty years and scored the Centurions second try of the game which really got them moving. The centre took advantage of the free-play rule before collecting his own kick and sliding over.

Winger: Mahe Fonua (Hull FC)

After a slow start against the Vikings it turned out to be a relatively comfortable victory for Hull FC at the KC Stadium and winger Mahe Fonua was on the scoresheet for Lee Radford’s side.

Fonua began the evening as provider taking Marc Sneyd’s cross-field kick well before offloading to Albert Kelly. The roles were reversed later when a neat pass from half-back Kelly found Fonua on the flank and the wideman finished well giving FC an eight-point lead going into the break.

Scrum-half: Albert Kelly (Hull FC)

Albert Kelly’s move across Hull from KR to FC turned some heads in the off-season but he is already proving to be a great addition for the 2016 Challenge Cup winners and was central to their victory over Super League strugglers Widnes this past Friday.

Kelly crossed for two tries in a game which Lee Radford’s side dominated. The half-back’s first came on the back of some good work from Fonua before Kelly again crossed in the second half powering his way over from close-range. Kelly was the most dangerous man on the field for FC scoring twice and earning an assist.

Kelly vs Widnes
Albert Kelly celebrates vs Widnes. (Photo: Hull Daily Mail)

 

Stand-Off: Gareth O’Brien (Salford Red Devils)

Salford Red Devils half-back is continuing to turn heads in the world of Rugby League ever since his drop-goal in the Million Pound Game and O’Brien again stepped up this weekend with a one-pointer to consign Castleford to their first defeat of the season.

O’Brien kept his cool late on kicking a penalty goal, after missing an earlier conversion, to draw the sides level before slotting over a drop-goal with just over two minutes left on the clock.

Prop: Gareth Hock (Leigh Centurions)

A remarkable 22-8 victory for Super League newbies Leigh over Warrington was fuelled by prop-forward Gareth Hock who rolled back the years with a terrific performance at the Leigh Sports Village.

The former Wigan and Salford forward was solid in defence and took the ball up well but it was actually his try-scoring which propelled Leigh to victory this weekend. Hock powered over to open the scoring inside the first ten minutes before crossing again in the second-half to help Leigh reach their highest ever Super League points tally.

Hooker: Matt Parcell (Leeds Rhinos)

The departure of James Segeyaro at the backend of the 2016 season left a void in the Leeds Rhinos camp however the arrival of Matt Parcell from NRL side Manly has proved to be a fantastic signing for Brian McDermott’s side.

Parcell was pivotal to everything the Rhinos did going forward in their comfortable win over Wakefield with McDermott saying post-match “My man of the match would be Matt Parcell – I thought he was outstanding.”

Prop: Adam Cuthbertson (Leeds Rhinos)

Leeds prop Adam Cuthbertson is renowned for his offloading prowess but this weekend he added try-scoring to his attacking game as he helped his side to victory against Leeds.

Cuthbertson forced his way under the sticks in the second half against the Wildcats all but sealing victory for the Rhinos.

Second-Row: Ben Murdoch-Masila (Salford Red Devils)

Last weekend Salford were left ruing missed chances in their narrow defeat at Wakefield and nobody would have felt as responsible as Ben Murdoch-Masila who failed to ground the ball correctly in the final minute costing his side the victory.

However, he made up for it this weekend as he twice crossed helping Salford become the first side to beat Castleford this season. Murdoch-Masila was too much for the Tigers to handle on their own line with the big man proving too strong for full-back Zak Hardaker.

Murdoch Masila
Ben Murdoch-Masila in action for Salford. (Photo: Sky Sports)

 

Second-Row: Anthony Mullally (Leeds Rhinos)

Anthony Mullally has been a fringe player at Headingley over the past few season spending time on dual-registration with Championship side Featherstone Rovers however an injury crisis at Headingley has given the 25-year-old an opportunity and he has taken it with both hands.

Mullally was on the scoresheet this past weekend for the Rhinos powering his way over on the back of a clever inside ball from hooker Parcell. Mullally will be hoping he can cement a permanent place in McDermott’s side.

Loose-Forward: Joel Tomkins (Wigan Warriors)

Joel Tomkins seems to get overlooked a lot recently with the exploits of brother Sam and Wigan’s strength in the forwards but this weekend he looked back at his best for the Warriors.

Tomkins as ever was strong in defence and a real threat going forward for Wigan and helped to inspire a Warriors pack ravaged by injuries.

Hull KR 18-25 Leigh Centurions – Match Report

 

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Andrew Dixon celebrates his try. (BBC Sport)

The super-eights concept has raised the question whether a Championship side could realistically earn promotion via the qualifiers however Leigh have certainly eased the criticism and propelled their promotion push with an 18-25 victory over Hull KR.

Leigh’s victory mean they become the first Championship side to beat a Super League side away in a middle-eights fixture. The Centurions have now won all four of their middle-eights fixtures and have now defeated two Super League sides following their victory over Salford three weeks ago.

It was against Hull KR in last year’s middle-eights when Leigh let slip a 24-4 lead at half-time slip away and suffered a narrow 26-36 defeat at home which started their end of season dip in form.

Three tries in sequence in the early stages of the second-half allowed Leigh to take the lead. Andrew Dixon, Matty Dawson and Josh Drinkwater all scored. Sam Hopkins had crossed to pull the Centurions to within six points before half-time. A late Martyn Ridyard drop-goal confirmed victory.

KR did lead by twelve points after two early tries from Ken Sio and Josh Mantellato. Matty Marsh scored with fifteen minutes remaining but it wasn’t enough to force a comeback for the home side. Sio eventually left the field with an eye injury. Albert Kelly missed the game for the Super League side following a suspension from the club for arriving home from Australia late.

Leigh now sit in 2nd place in the qualifiers behind, the only other team with a 100% record, Leeds. As for KR they remain in 4th place which means they would have to compete in the ‘Million Pound Game’ currently against London Broncos.

Four Centurions defenders dumped Thomas Minns into touch with the very first tackle of the game and it looked as though it would sent the tempo for the visitors. However, Leigh conceded three consecutive penalties in the following defensive set and Hull KR gained control of the game.

Cory Paterson shoved Ben Cockayne to the floor which awarded KR their third penalty which gave them the opportunity to kick at goal which Mantellato took and converted.

A huge kick from Maurice Blair soon forced a goal-line dropout as Dawson couldn’t escape the chasing KR defenders. From the resulting set some quick hands out wide from the home side eventually found Sio on the bounce, the winger scooped up the ball and finished well after falling to his knees.

Drinkwater conceded a 4th Leigh penalty in ten minutes and KR crossed for a second when a looping pass was taken well by Mantellato. Mantellato missed the conversion but did sink a penalty goal following an obstruction six minutes later.

Despite all KR’s pressure they couldn’t score again before the interval. Leigh did force their way over when Sam Hopkins powered his way over Ben Cockayne and Mitchell Allgood. Ridyard’s conversion meant the Championship side only trailed by six points at half-time.

Leigh’s lightning start for the first tackle was repeated in the second-half but the Centurions managed to prolong their momentum by scoring three tries in five minutes. Dixon was the first to score as he collect Ridyard’s offload and raced to the line.

A high Josh Drinkwater bomb caused issues for Cockayne who dropped the ball in testing conditions Dawson reacted quickest and planted the ball down to give Leigh the lead. Drinkwater scored one himself just moments later when Paterson split the KR defence and then found the Australian half-back who finished under the posts.

But the game wasn’t over Cockayne stepped through the Centurions line and had half-back Matty Marsh in support who couldn’t be caught. Mantellato’s conversion pulled KR within four points of the visitors.

However Ridyard’s drop-goal four minutes from time sealed the victory for Leigh and means they head into the game against Huddersfield still unbeaten. Hull KR travel to London.

Hull KR: Cockayne, Sio, Minns, Thornley, Mantellato; Marsh, Blair; Tilse, Lunt, Allgood, Greenwood, Clarkson, Walker.

Interchanges: Mulhern, Larroyer, Donaldson, Lawler.

Leigh: McNally, Higson, Worthington, Brown, Dawson; Ridyard, Drinkwater; Hock, Higham, Weston, Maitua, Tickle, Paterson.

Interchanges: Hood, Hansen, Dixon, Hopkins.

Referee: R. Hicks. Touch Judges: A. Martin & C. Kendall. Video Referee: J. Child.

Leigh sign Fuifui Moimoi

untitledLeigh Centurions have confirmed the purchase of NRL star Fuifui Moimoi after days of rumours.

The 2014 Championship winners had tweeted earlier in the week that they had a big announcement to make on Saturday night at 10pm.

They stuck to their guns and announced that the former Parramatta Eels, New Zealand and Tonga prop-forward would sign for the upcoming season.

Fuifui Moimoi has played for Parramatta in the NRL for ten years from 2004 up until 2014. He appeared 201 times for the NRL outfit scoring 22 tries.

He debuted for Tonga in 2006 and went on to play for his native island on 8 occasions including the 2013 World Cup campaign. Incidentally, one of Tonga’s World cup games was at the Leigh Sports Village when they defeated Cook Islands 22-16, in which Moimoi featured.

Between his two stints for Tonga Fui played for New Zealand on 12 occasions competing in the 2011 four nations for the Kiwis.

Moimoi is known for his hard-hitting ability in defence and is often seen as the man Sam Burgess used to make his way on to the scene when he put a huge hit on Fuifui in a test between New Zealand and Great Britain back in 2007.

Moimoi has signed on a one-year contract with the option to extend for another season if he wishes.

The thinking behind this contract seems to be that he will play this season and if Leigh progress through the super eights and gain a Super League position he will go on to play a second season with the Centurions and his first Super League season in his career.

Now 35 age isn’t on Moimoi’s side however he has proven in recent years with Parra that he still has the fitness and strength to perform at a consistent level.

Leigh’s aim for the season will definitely be to try to earn a place in the 2016 Super League and they’ll be hoping that the addition of a NRL great will help get them there.