Super League recap: Phil Veivers shown the door after Salford lose to London Broncos
Last Updated: 06/03/13 12:28pm
Chev Walker tries to get the Bradford Bulls on the front foot against the Huddersfield Giants
The end of the competition's last remaining perfect record, a pair of nail-biting finishes and a first coaching casualty of the season. Yep, it was just another run-of-the-mill round of fixtures in Super League.
If Bradford's win at Huddersfield was something of a surprise, few could have expected Warrington to come a cropper on their trip to Hull KR. Wakefield, too, came mightily close to an upset on their travels in France.
With five rounds gone it is still hard to predict with any certainty. We do know this, though - every team has now tasted defeat, no lead, no matter how big, seems to be enough and injuries could be crucial in the final reckoning.
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Salford City Reds 4-38 London Broncos
The battle of Super League's bottom two turned out to be a one-sided affair as the City Reds were swept aside. London arrived in the north having conceded 138 points in their four defeats so far, yet finally turned in the kind of performance that justifies their hopes of challenging for a top-eight finish this year. Kieran Dixon showed off his blistering speed with a brace of tries, Chris Bailey also touched down twice and there was a score for the recalled Luke Dorn. Finally, following a lethargic opening month, the Broncos look to be up and running this year.
Salford, meanwhile, are a club with much work to do. Their defending, particularly against London's kicking game, was shambolic. For owner Dr Marwan Koukash it proved too much to take; on Sunday the Reds announced that coach Phil Veivers had been sacked. Alan Hunte has been put in temporary charge with Sean Long to assist him. The money that Mr Koukash is looking to invest makes it an attractive position, but the new man at the helm will have to understand a short-term fix is unlikely to be found in time to save the 2013 season.
St Helens 12-20 Leeds Rhinos
The Rhinos showed they had no hangover from their World Club Challenge exploits with a comfortable victory over a Saints side suffering badly with injuries. Ryan Hall again displayed his finishing skills with a brace while prop Kylie Leuluai - perhaps not so well known for his ability to cross the try-line - also scored. Leeds at one stage led 20-4 but the final scoreline was made to look a little more respectable for the hosts by a late double from Francis Meli.
Debutant Mark Percival assisted in both Meli's tries and the teenage centre was a rare bright spot on an otherwise gloomy evening for St Helens, who are still yet to win at home under the stewardship of Nathan Brown. Their cause is not being helped by a lengthy casualty list, meaning a constant shuffling of the deck; when asked about his switch in the half-backs by Sky Sports after the final hooter, Jon Wilkin suggested he might well be the heaviest scrum-half to have ever played in Super League. It gets no easier for Brown's boys either - they travel to face the Halliwell Jones Stadium to face Warrington next.
Ryan Hall: grabbed two tries to help Leeds get the better of St Helens
Catalan Dragons 29-22 Wakefield Wildcats
Now the dust has settled, Wakefield coach Richard Agar may be able to look back on Saturday's loss in Perpignan and pick out plenty of positives, not least in his new role as France boss. However, the fact his Wildcats have now lost two tight games to play-off rivals in successive weeks must be tough to take. Following the 18-16 reverse to Huddersfield in round four, Wakey came up just short in their bid to slay the Dragons. They looked to be on course to do so when they led 16-0, Peter Fox, Richard Mathers and Dean Collis all going over for tries. But ex-Wildcat Damien Blanch helped the hosts recover from a poor first half, allowing them to get back to winning ways for the first time since round two. Still, coach Laurent Frayssinous was not completely happy afterwards, admitting his frustration at how his Dragons had played in the opening 40 minutes.
Wakefield's efforts were not helped by injuries to Andy Raleigh and Frankie Mariano as they missed out on what would have been a morale-boosting result at the end of a tough week - their leading sponsor entered into a creditors' voluntary liquidation, meaning a worrying cash shortfall for the club.
Widnes Vikings 36-16 Hull FC
Widnes must be wishing they could play Hull every week after recording their first home triumph since August of last year - and the last team they had defeated at the Stobart Stadium Halton? The Airlie Birds, of course. Paddy Flynn and Cameron Phelps, playing against one of his former clubs, both touched down twice for the Vikings, who turned the game on its head during a seven-minute spell around half time that saw them score three tries. Gareth Hock rounded out the scoring on a night that summed him up perfectly - there were barnstorming runs with ball in hand, offloads to create tries for team-mates but also a plethora of penalties given away, most of them for high tackles. Brother-in-law Kevin Brown also made an impression on debut with an assist of his own, though Widnes will be hoping the ankle injury that forced him off isn't too serious.
Hull had led 12-4 at one stage but were well below the standards expected by their coach, Peter Gentle, in the second half. Their cause was not helped by the absences of big-name signings Gareth Ellis and Daniel Holdsworth, but a clearly unhappy Gentle afterwards suggested changes would be made.
Huddersfield Giants 18-43 Bradford Bulls
Having admitted his side were lucky to beat Wakefield last time out, Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson probably saw this result coming. Not many others did though, as the Bulls upset the formbook and ran riot at the John Smith's Stadium on Sunday. The unmistakable Jarrod Sammut, surely now sporting the best beard in sport, was the hero for Bradford with a hat-trick, including one downright cheeky effort that saw him pinch the ball from Scott Grix's grasp in a one-on-one tackle. The Australian half-back also knocked over a drop goal as Francis Cummins' troops turned in their best performance of the season so far.
The no-nonsense Anderson did not hold back afterwards in his assessment of the home side's display, declaring it "embarrassing" and pointing to "childish" errors that proved costly. The absence of Danny Brough did not help them, though even with the setback Huddersfield remain on top of the table ahead of a trip to another Yorkshire rival, Leeds, on Friday night.
Hull KR 26-12 Warrington Wolves
Warrington missed the chance to take over at the summit as they went down to a shock result at Hull KR, meaning every side in Super League has now suffered at least one defeat this year. There had been little to think Rovers could cause an upset going into the fixture - they had surrendered a 34-14 lead to lose at Salford the previous Sunday, while the Wolves had only dropped points in a draw with Wigan so far in the campaign.
Yet Tony Smith's side failed to fire at MS3 Craven Park, allowing the plucky Robins to come out on top. The hosts were helped by fine performances on debut from Alex Brown and Australian stand-off Travis Burns, the latter marking his first game back after a lengthy ban with some key contributions. Perhaps, though, the most important new face for Craig Sandercock's side this year could be Cory Paterson, with the forward looking to have already formed a dangerous combination with skipper Michael Dobson.
Castleford Tigers 22-28 Wigan Warriors
For 65 minutes Wigan seemed to be cruising to victory at the Wish Communications Stadium (or whatever you want to call Castleford's home these days). Yet a repeat of the 22-22 draw between the two sides in the summer of 2011 looked a certainty when the Tigers came roaring back, the sizeable yet speedy Tigers winger Justin Carney crossing for two tries. Jamie Ellis added another, a sensational one at that as Castleford showed their potential with ball in hand with a flowing move, and then kicked the conversion that dragged the hosts back on level terms.
But, just as it seemed Ian Millward's side would draw at home for the second successive week, Chris Tuson popped up with a match-winning try right before the final hooter. It was cruel on Cas, particularly after the on-field issues surrounding the resignations of chief executive Steve Ferres, commercial manager Nick Fozzard, as well as Sarah Fozzard, the club's marketing manager. Still, there are reasons to be cheerful, on the pitch at least.