29 Mar 2021

Round 1 talking points

All the talking points from the opening round of the 2021 Betfred Super League season

A champion start

It was business as usual for champions Saints as they kicked off the new season in style. A Jonny Lomax inspired performance saw Kristian Woolf’s men comfortably see off the Red Devils. New Salford head coach Richard Marshall had the unenviable task of taking on current champions and former side St Helens in his first Super League game in charge of the Red Devils in what was a tough evening for his team. 

Saints strangled Salford in yardage – Dan Sarginson and Elliot Kear the only Red Devils players to make more than 100 metres on Friday. In contrast, 9 of Saints 17 ran for over 100 metres - Alex Walmsley topping the list with a hugely impressive 196 metres from 20 runs. Saints once again looking like the team to be beat in 2021. 

Leythers here to compete

The Centurions returned to Super League with a bang and very nearly overturned last year’s League Leaders’ in round 1. John Duffy’s side were quick out of the blocks and flew into an 18-0 lead thanks to tries from Ben Hellewell, Iain Thornley and the impressive Liam Hood. A depleted Warriors side had their issues compounded after losing Jai Field in the opening exchanges and were left shell shocked after Centurions lightning start. 

The Warriors showed plenty of grit and determination to get back into the contest – Zak Hardaker was instrumental in the full-back position, helping his team salvage the game and leave with two points. But Leigh will be pleased – despite knowing it was a game they could've won – as they showed that they can compete with the best. The big question will be whether they can sustain that level of performance week after week.

Magic Johnstone

The Rhinos took the spoils in a back-and-forth contest against Wakefield, but it was Trinity’s Tom Johnstone who stole the show. The high-flying winger - renowned for his show-stopping finishes in the corner - scored two spectacular length of the field tries and showed onlookers why he is one of Super League’s most exciting players.

Johnstone was quoted before the season stating that he wanted to score more full length tries and almost by magic, got two in the opening round. If his performance on Saturday afternoon is anything to go by, we are in for a treat in 2021. 

Golden point drama

It didn’t take long for us to head to golden point in 2021. The Dragons – who looked to be cruising to a round 1 victory against Hull KR – needed a James Maloney drop goal in extra time to secure the win. The Robins fought back courageously after going 28-4 down with half an hour remaining.

It was a welcome return to Super League for Ryan Hall who scored a hat-trick on his Hull KR debut. He disregarded that personal accolade in his post-match interview, insisting that the tries were in vein without victory. Hall emphasised his contributions at the other end of the field – making metres at the start of attacking sets – as most important. He made an impressive 181 metres against the Dragons and can be pleased with his contributions in all departments. But collectively, it was the Dragons back three that shone - they made 574 metres compared to Hull KR’s 340 - which went some way to explaining Catalans dominance for three quarters of the match. 

Giant slayers

The final day of Super League action begun with an intriguing contest between two of the competitions new head coaches. There was an air of expectation for both sides to perform after contrasting off seasons. Ian Watson brought in plenty of new faces and handed debuts to six new players. Brett Hodgson adopted a squad with minimal changes - half back Josh Reynolds the only new face in the black and whites line-up.

And Reynolds immediately impressed with a man of the match performance in a Hull FC spine that looks dangerous - Jake Connor and Marc Sneyd benefitting from Reynolds nuance and sheer effort in attack - along with Danny Houghton who looked right at home back in the starting 13. What will be most pleasing for Brett Hodgson is his sides unrelenting effort and work rate in both attack and defence - something which at times had faltered during 2020. It's still early days, but there's plenty for Hull FC fans to be excited about.

Classy Cas

On the eve of the 2021 season, Daryl Powell announced it would be his final year at Castleford. As the longest-serving coach in Super League, Powell has taken the Tigers from a mediocre outfit to a competitive force.

After a disappointing end to the Tigers year last season, they started 2021 in style. Reigning Man of Steel Paul McShane showed exactly why he was dubbed the best player in the competition last year with a typically classy performance – starting the game at hooker before filling in at half-back following Gareth O’Brien’s injury in the first half. 

Add to that a fully fit Jake Trueman along with new signing Niall Evalds and the Tigers could be a real force this year. Of course, injuries will play a part – as they did last season. But, if Powell can keep his troops fit in 2021, don't be surprised to see Cas battling for honours at seasons end.