Opinion: Centurions are still learning lessons

Leigh Centurions forward Fuifui Moimoi is crowded out at Salford. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Leigh Centurions forward Fuifui Moimoi is crowded out at Salford. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
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New Leigh Reporter columnist Dave Parkinson suggests that the Super 8 format is not without its flaws

“The impossible dream” was made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis, Matt Monro and particularly Andy Williams in 1968. I was reminded of that old song when Paul Rowley chatted candidly to the press in the wake of Leigh’s second defeat in the Qualifiers and described Championship clubs as chasing their own version.

On the face of it top four of one competition and bottom four of another should combine to create a thrilling competition but the second week of RL’s brave new world had me thinking about whether it is the best way to decide a promotion or relegation.

After all, there is a world of difference away from playing against international players such as Harrison Hansen, Rangi Chase and Josh Mantellato and the latest Leeds youngster off the production line running down the wing for Hunslet, (which is no slight on the young player or Hunslet) or a wily old campaigner at Whitehaven. Should it be more of a Super sixes in future with top Championship team replacing bottom Super League team by default before a series of promotion-relegation struggles on a similar vein to how that issue is decided in Dutch football? Am I, like the RFL before me, guilty of wanting to tinker with an inaugural format at a time that everyone should be giving it chance to bed in? What do you think? Let me know on twitter @DParkyrl.

One thing that can’t be ignored thus far is that the competition is skewed towards the Super League clubs who firstly benefit from having been full time longer, and secondly have more money to spend on their squad. Thirdly there is the ridiculous transfer rulings that have seen the likes of Wakefield and Salford add new faces heading into these eights while Championship salary caps are maxed out. It was all getting a bit too much transfer deadline day for me where I was half expecting an in-car interview with Harry Redknapp or a mad dash around the grounds in the style of Peter Odemwingie

Commentators and press of our game are already questioning the concept, although I am so far the first and maybe the earliest to suggest an alternate format. Maybe I should have listened to Sheffield’s Mark Aston who suggested as early as the launch event for the Championship that it would be an amazing achievement to displace a Super League club in the first year.

It was a case of learning more lessons at Salford. Last week’s lesson was Hull KR’s ability to trap Leigh deep in their own half in the final twenty minutes of a game, this week it was something a little different that I’ll come to in a minute.

First, I’m going to be honest, I didn’t expect a win against Hull Kingston Rovers and I didn’t expect one at Salford who with two halfbacks and a point to prove showed Super League concentration levels and avenged that Challenge Cup defeat at LSV in April. Paul Rowley indicated that the kicking game of his team was lacking and it is a telling factor in rugby league - to be fair it always has been.

During the early years of their latest spell in Super League, Widnes Vikings were on a steep learning curve with two things letting them down time and again - kick-chase and concentration. This full concentration is something the Centurions haven’t been able to bridge, yet. And, to be fair, neither have the other Championship sides.

New look Wakefield blew Bradford away in the opening 25 minutes on Saturday, ruthlessly targeting Lee Gaskell in the opening minutes and were 30 points clear at halftime. Lee Smith has flirted with the other code and recently returned to the Wildcats and looks to be settling in on his return to Wakefield while Tim Smith dominated, allowing Jacob Miller to dovetail, but it was in the pack where Wakefield steamrolled their opposition and they will have to be watched this weekend when the Wildcats come to the LSV.

Halifax gave a good showing at Hull KR before a late flurry of points ended their chances. Mantellato was amongst the points again in a 34-12 win for the hosts. Sheffield were again defeated heavily - losing 48-12 at Widnes who led 30-6 at half-time with Stefan Marsh scoring a hat-trick.

Back to Leigh and I will say this, I think they are getting there gradually. Despite trailing 16-0 at half-time there was an arguement that the game could and probably should have been a lot closer with Gregg McNally, Ryan Brierley and Adam Higson all seeing tries ruled out during a dominant period that Leigh enjoyed but somehow still trailed 4-0. Two tries from Salford gave them a flattering looking advantage although a rapid start to the new half saw them make it 22-0.

Leigh gave themselves a chance and had me leaping around the video gantry (and deafening the listeners on www.mixlr.com/leighcenturions) with two tries in two minutes before Chase made a mockery of some attempted tackling and scored a second beauty having earlier kicked through for Junior Sa’u. Further lapses brought Salford tries, although there was some consolation when Gregg McNally supported through the middle to score his second and 28th of the season.

McNally’s performances all year have been top notch and he again impressed with his running game. Unfortunately Leigh just haven’t learned quick enough according to their coach, but I feel sure those concentration levels will soon come good and after Wakefield and a Wembley break, the Centurions do have games against fellow Championship opposition to look forward to.

At risk of sounding like Paul Rowley however, let’s take it one game at a time and see how we go on this week.

Other Qualifiers this time out see Widnes host Hull KR, Salford go to Bradford and Sheffield play Halifax.