The Catalans Dragons headed for Newcastle and the opening fixture of the Dacia Magic Weekend still reeling from last week’s horror cup exit at the hands of Hull FC. The Huddersfield Giants, on the other hand, took a week off to recuperate and plan how to topple their opponents.
The Dragons, Super League’s ninth placed side, needed a win to get back into the top eight while a Giant’s victory wouldn’t change their league position but would put them just one point behind todays opponents and two points off eighth spot.
It was a threadbare Giants side without talisman Danny Brough who was again serving a suspension, against a Dragons side with six changes from last week but welcoming back several of their first team choices. The bookies had the Dragons as slight favorites, but talk to any Giants fan and they were somewhat less optimistic.
The final game of the opening day of the Dacia Magic Weekend saw a repeat of last seasons Grand Final as champions Wigan Warriors took on runners-up Warrington Wolves.
Wigan had Sean O’Loughlin and George Williams back in their starting line-ups giving some much needed ball-playing skills against a resurgent Warrington Wolves. Both sides progressed through last weeks Challenge Cup ties but in the last round of Super League it was a good win for the Wolves over Saints while Wigan went down to the Salford Red Devils.
The Wolves were slight favourites with the bookies but there was very little to choose between the sides. On paper it looked like the most competitve match of the weekend and a dress rehearsal for the upcoming Challenge Cup quarter final.
Game Two of the Dacia Magic Weekend saw an intriguing match up between high-flying Hull FC who were eying up a chance to leapfrog Castleford into top spot while Saints were out to impress new coach Justin Holbrook who was in the stadium but not running the side.
Hull made a number of changes, but Saints just one, from the sides who had very mixed fortunes in last weekends Challenge Cup. Hull were devastating in their 62-0 win over the Catalans Dragons and were clear favourites for a win today over a Saints side who were thrashed 53-10 by Castleford Tigers.
The atmosphere was building as more supporters left the bars and took to the stands.
This weekend rugby league landed at St James’s Park in Newcastle for the Dacia Magic Weekend festival with all twelve sides playing out round fourteen in front of the SKY cameras, a good stadium crowd, and the countries sports media.
First up was the Saturday lunchtime encounter between bottom of the table Widnes Vikings and sixth placed Wakefield Trinity. It was the Yorkshire side who were the firm favourites to continue the Vikings misery.
The big news was the Widnes debut of the troubled Rangi Chase, signed mid-week on loan from the Castleford Tigers for the remainder of the season, could he be the catalyst for a Vikings change of fortune?
After yesterday's cup capitulation by St. Helens at the hands of the Castleford Tigers, the BBC will have been hoping that this afternoon's sixth round game, between the Warrington Wolves and the Widnes Vikings, would be a much closer affair.
With Widnes anchored to the foot of the Super League table, and the Wolves knocking on the door of the top eight, the home side were the clear favourites to make Cup progress. When the two sides met a month ago it was the Wolves who recorded a 19-10 win, but Dennis Betts will have been coaching his side all week for the one-off cup game.
What we got was a humdinger of a battle between two sides keen to play open rugby.
The draw for the quarter finals of the 2017 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup took place at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium in Warrington and included the remaining eight sides who made it through their sixth round ties this weekend, including the only remaining Championship side Featherstone Rovers.
The draw was broadcast live on BBC2 and across other BBC media, with the teams being drawn out by rugby league favourites Iestyn Harris and Micky Higham.
In a repeat of last seasons 'Million Pound Game' thriller, Super League’s high-flying Salford Red Devils had a Challenge Cup sixth round date with Championship leaders Hull KR. The Robins were out for revenge after last seasons heartbreak but it would be an uphill struggle against a Devils side who have found top form in 2017.
The difference in divisions meant that the Red Devils were massive favourites with the bookies but try telling that to KR and their travelling mass of supporters from east Yorkshire. While the main priority for the Robins is a quick return to the top flight, tonight was all about the Cup and getting one over on Marwan Koukash’s side.
The Ladbroke’s Challenge Cup quarter finals were just eighty minutes of rugby league away for either Feathersone Rovers or Halifax RLFC. Halifax saw off Whitehaven in round five when they went on the road and won by 36-12 which Featherstone were at home and put Oldham Roughyeds to the sword by 30-4.
Just two points separate the sides in the Championship with Featherstone in second place and Halifax biting at their heels two points back in fifth. The bookies had made the home side the favourites with Halifax getting a ten point start on the coupon but this was the cup and form and league position was out of the window.
The two sides met in the opening fixture of the Championship season when Fev’ visited ‘Fax and won by 32-26. But this was a cup battle of nerve between Jon Sharp’s Rovers and Richard Marshall’s Halifax.
Round Thirteen of the Kingstone Press Championship was made up of six simultaneous kick-offs on Sunday afternoon.
Hull KR travelled to the Batley Bulldogs as they looked to continue their quest for an immediate return to Super League. Toulouse were at the tenth placed giant killing Swinton Lions, and the Bradford Bulls were at Sheffield Eagles on the continued quest for zero points.
Elsewhere, Oldham were in London, Halifax at Dewsbury Rams and Rochdale Hornets hosted Featherstone Rovers.