This weekend just gone was the third of the renewed Super League season.
The stadiums may be empty but the players are on the pitch and there certainly seems to be no less intensity in the running and tackling.
The rule changes seem to have been the real talking point, mostly for good I will point out, but this last round appeared to show an adjustment which is pulling us back into the main start of the season.
Let’s face it, Rugby League scrums were a waste of time anyway, but at least they took place a lot quicker than scrums in Union.
As a method of pulling all the forwards into a tiny part of the pitch to allow the backs to do what backs do, it made sense. That is, until a coach realised there was no part of the rule which said it needed to be the forwards in the scrum. So they took a couple of big players out and put them at first or second receiver to run at the backs. So another bright coach decided they would pull a few big guys out of the pack and put them in the defensive line to combat this.
So, scrums out and restarts with a tap and go, puts everyone on their toes in attack and defence. Good.
Set restarts! This has been going on in the NRL since their season restart and it is brilliant!
Scrum infringements such as holding down in the tackle can result in an instant reset of the tackle count, with no stoppage in play.
The pace of the game has been noticeably quicker. Defenders need to be sharper getting back and the attackers need to get on shoulders in support. The increase in speed will favour the teams who are less rigid in attack.
However, this weekend’s games it was noticeable that the set-restarts were thin on the ground and there was a lot more holding down in the tackle, which is a disappointment. With the NRL running with two referee’s on the pitch over the last couple of seasons, the speed of the Aussie game was very noticeable, with Super League looking slow and not much quicker than Union but without having to waste five minutes at a time waiting for a scrum to take place. Having the set-restarts is significant in picking up the speed of our play.
Please referee’s keep being brave and giving those set-restarts – if you think the tacklers are trying to slow the play of the ball down, then they are!
In the fast open game Saint Helen’s have a settled team which thrives on broken play and look in prime position for a run at the title again. James Roby’s 500th game is an outstanding accomplishment and there isn’t a team out there which wouldn’t want him.
Wigan looked tired and sloppy last week, with a very relieved one-point win against Wakefield. This week, they were a completely changed side. A lot of younger players coming through who put on a good display against the experience of Leeds. Jackson Hastings is really starting to control the flow of play and the combination of Liam Farrell, Jake Bibby, and Liam Marshall, looking great down the left side.
There was also a great display of camaraderie and respect from the Wigan side, with all of the player’s shirts being specially embroidered with words the players associated with Rob Burrows, in his battle with MND. These shirts will be auctioned and the money given to Burrow’s charity.
Catalan’s looked a different side with Micky Mac and Sam Tompkins back in the squad, with Wakefield having no answer to the speed of Tompkins in the line and his pass choices.
The previous round’s reminder of the game still being in the grip of a pandemic came with the news that eight of the Hull FC squad had tested positive, and they and Salford were stood down for this weekend. The right thing to do. Thoughts and prayers for all the players, coaching and back room staff, and their families.