With all Rugby League now suspended until the 3rd of April, after a change to the government’s advice on mass gatherings, there must be some doubt as to whether the sixth round of the Coral Challenge Cup will go ahead on the weekend of the 4th and 5th of next month.
But the draw had taken place with the remaining eight SuperLeague clubs being thrown into the mix to join the sides which progressed through the fifth round at the weekend.
Both teams came into the match off narrow losses in round 6 - with Saints’ loss to Huddersfield the most surprising. But who would bounce back the strongest?
It was the hosts looked impressive in the first 10 minutes and opened the scoring on 11 minutes. Pressing the Saints line, they moved the ball left to right while less than 10m out. When it reached centre Peter Mata’utia he crashed forward and over the line.
Despite the attentions of three tacklers who turned him onto his back, he reached over his head and grounded the ball. Danny Richardson converted against his former team and the Tigers opened a 6-0 lead.
While the rest of the sporting world ground to a coronavirus induced halt, Rugby League put on a brave (some may say foolhardy) face and decided to push ahead with the weekends’ programme. In a repeat of last season’s play-off, Salford Red Devils took on the Wigan Warriors with two league points on offer.
Jackson Hastings returned to the side where he was named as Man of Steel last season, hoping get a win against the side he helped to take to the Grand Final in 2019. But the Warriors were without their usual kicker as Zak Hardaker was rested after picking up a knock. Flower and Partington were also banned after last weeks win against Hull KR.
The Warriors have a great record at the AJ Bell Stadium and knew that a win would guarantee that they would finish the round at the top of the table, but Ian Watson’s side were desperate for a win to put some breathing space between themselves and the relegation spot.
Last weeks one point winners were thrown together as Hull FC played hosts to the Warrington Wolves in the seventh round of Super League 2020.
Third place was up for grabs, should either side secure a large enough margin of victory, but realistically the side to take the spoils would end the night in fourth spot, tucked in behind the Castleford Tigers.
Both sides have had indifferent starts to the season and tonight was a night when a win could kick start something decent, while a loss would start to see a gap opening up to the top sides.
The magic of the Challenge Cup threw together two Super League sides as the Huddersfield Giants took on the Toronto Wolfpack at the John Smith’s Stadium, despite the Canadian side coming out of the hat first.
Toronto were without Sonny-Bill Williams but coach McDermott did give first games of the season to Darcy Lussick and Chase Stanley as they were welcomed back from injury. The Giants recalled Suaia Matagi but were without Ukuma Ta’ai and Gaskell.
The Giants, with home advantage, and against a side who’d yet to register a win in 2020, were massive favourites with the bookies to make progress into the next round.
Two sides in desperate need of a two point win met in the late round five kick off as the Bradford Bulls took on the Sheffield Eagles at the Tetley’s Stadium in Dewsbury.
With both sides on two points a big enough win would lift either up into seventh place in a congested Championship table but the home side were odds-on with the bookies to pick up the valuable two points as both sides look to kick-start a season which has so far been filled mostly with disappointment.
It was John Kear against Mark Aston as the two old warhorse coaches, and good friends, went head to head yet again.
Two days, and three start times, separated the round five games in the Betfred Championship.
Batley had the daunting trip to Toulouse to take on the undefeated Olympique XIII side, while Leigh and Featherstone had to defend their one hundred percent records against Swinton and Halifax respectively.
Widnes had a home game against Whitehaven, while the London Broncos went to pointless York looking for another two points in their quest to bounce back into Super League. Dewsbury were at Oldham, while the final game of the round was between the Bradford Bulls and the Sheffield Eagles as both sides looked to improve on their only win of the season.
Going two points clear at the top of Super League was the reward for a Wigan Warriors win as they faced a struggling Hull KR at the DW Stadium on a chilly afternoon in Wigan.
A win for the Robins may not change their league position but crucially it would lift them four points clear of the Toronto Wolfpack and closer to safety from the relegation spot.
The two sides last met in August 2019 when the Warriors registered a 36-18 win at the DW building on a 52-10 win that they had recorded a month earlier. It had been a much closer game between the two sides in June when just a single point separated the two sides. Wigan were the strong pre-game favourites to register another win.
Warrington welcomed Castleford to the Halliwell Jones Stadium knowing they needed something different after being nilled at Leeds in last week’s Round Five game.
Steve Price’s team went back to basics, and it paid off in a low scoring, but tense, arm-wrestle of a game. Defences were on top in the opening session, but the hosts were the team applying the early pressure for the first 10 minutes or more.
Leeds marched to the top of Super League when they played host to Toronto Wolfpack – and did it with style, and some swagger.
Richie Myler filled in at fullback like a natural, while bringing a half’s ball playing awareness to role; Rhyse Martin notched up a 100% 11 out of 11 goals, all conversions; Luke Gale scored two tries, and had a hand in a number of others to record 1,500 career points in 300 games.
And Toronto? Well they came, they scored two tries and converted converted them, but overall - and especially in defence – they looked too much like a Championship side playing a Super League team on fire.