Three Yorkshire clubs will have especially fond memories of the first Magic Round in the Betfred Wheelchair Super League after Leeds Rhinos, Hull FC and Halifax Panthers claimed the competition points in impressive surroundings at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston.
Magic and Central Inclusion Rounds are new features of Wheelchair, Physical Disability and Learning Disability Rugby League in 2023, building on the success of last autumn’s World Cup.
The majority of England’s World Cup heroes were involved in launching the initiative with three consecutive fixtures from the BWSL, all shown live on The Sportsman’s dedicated Rugby League YouTube channel.
Nathan Collins and Tom Halliwell, his Leeds and England captain, both impressed as the Rhinos maintained their 100% start to the season with a 64-32 win against London Roosters.
Collins scored exactly half of the Rhinos points with three tries and 10 goals from 11 attempts, with Halliwell one of four players to touch down twice – alongside Jodie Boyd-Ward, Ewan Clibbens and Josh Butler.
But the Roosters gave them a shock by taking an early lead and continued to compete strongly, with two tries for each of their England stars Lewis King and Joe Coyd – and Coyd also landing four goals.
The second game turned into an exhibition for Hull FC, whose supporters will surely have relished the opportunity to celebrate an emphatic 76-10 win given the recent results of the club’s Betfred Super League team.
Tristan Norfolk scored four tries, and there was a hat-trick for Steve Samphner, the former Staff Sergeant who will shortly be taking a break from his role as Hull’s Community Foundation Pathways Officer to represent Team GB in the Invictus Games.
Mike Swainger scored 18 points from a try and seven goals, and his son Billy touched down twice, with Norfolk also kicking three goals to end with 28 points as Hull secured their first win of the season in a manner that suggested there will be plenty more.
Warrington’s lack of experience was exposed but their effort was appreciated by the crowd, especially when the Ireland international Toby Burton-Carter scored their only try.
That left the stage for a second meeting of the season between the 2022 Grand Final winners Halifax Panthers and the Wigan Warriors team who stunned them at Robin Park last month.
It was a case of Halifax revenge rather than a Wigan repeat, as the champions seized control of a bruising encounter with a burst of scoring early in the second half to set up a 62-28 win.
England’s Rob Hawkins scored four of their tries in a fine overall performance which earned the Player of the Match award from James Simpson, now the Leeds Rhinos head coach who joined The Sportsman’s coverage.
The Panthers’ French connection was also influential as Jeremy Bourson scored two tries and Seb Bechara, the England international who is based in Perpignan with Bourson, claimed 14 points from a try and five goals.
Wigan’s best period came before half-time as they cut their early deficit to 24-18 and they ended with four different try-scorers – Martin Norris, Dec Roberts, Jack Heggie and the USA international Matt Wooloff.
Magic Round Results
- London Roosters 32-64 Leeds Rhinos
- Warrington Wolves 10-76 Hull FC
- Halifax Panthers 62-28 Wigan Warriors