Wheelchair RL general manager Martin Coyd has hailed the first-ever central inclusion round, held at the University of Birmingham in Edgbaston, “a resounding success.” All six Super League sides travelled to the midlands for the first time with the six-hour extravaganza screened live on the The Sportsman.
“It was a wonderful showcase for the sport,” said Coyd. “It was great to get all the players together in one venue and in front of a new audience who really enjoyed their first taste of seeing this most dynamic of sports live. It was also encouraging to see a lot of rugby league shirts in the crowd too.
“There was recognition of some of the star names who brought the World Cup home last autumn playing against each other for their respective club sides and, again, a number of people who now said they either wanted to try or see the sport again first hand.”
Coyd added: “For a first attempt at a ‘magic round’ it was a resounding success, and we will take the lessons learned to the next one in Newcastle in June. Yet again, I have to pay tribute to all the support staff and volunteers who made it an occasion to remember.”
On the field, there were some standout performers. In the opening fixture, England star Nathan Collins claimed half of Leeds Rhinos’ points in their 64-32 victory over London Roosters, to maintain their unbeaten run at the top. Collins – whose kicking game in general play was superb - posted three of his side’s 11 tries, adding 10 goals, half of them from the touchline. England skipper Tom Halliwell crossed twice as did captain Jodie Boyd-Ward, Ewan Clibbens and Josh Butler, who was impressive off the bench. London, magnificently served by Lewis King, who claimed a hat trick, in partnership with Joe Coyd led 6-0 and were in touch at 24-22 but a brace of touchdowns just before the break set the Rhinos up for victory. Coyd scored 16 points from two tries and four goals, Scott Trigg-Turner, on debut, with the Roosters’ other touchdown. Rhinos coach James Simpson said: “I was very pleased with the team, we were tested by London and stayed strong and patient, taking the chances that came our way. We were disciplined in every part of the game, communicated well and closed out a good win.”
Hull picked up their first win of the campaign with a resounding 76-10 triumph over Warrington. Tristan Norfolk led the way in a superb display with four tries and three goals as the black and white’s built a 36-2 half time lead. Skipper Mike Swainger was also in fine form with a try and seven goals, Steve Sampher posting his hat trick try in the closing stages. Mike’s son, Billy Swainger, crossed twice as did Josh Edwards, Liam Stancliffe and Dave Gill the other scorers for FC. Ireland international Toby Burton-Carter posted all the points for the Wolves.
In the eagerly anticipated final game, Halifax’s French connection ensured that they reversed the opening week’s result, a 59-46 defeat against the same opponents, with a convincing 62-28 victory over Wigan. The link up play between Jeremey Bourson, who scored the first two tries, and England star Seb Bechara – who finished with a try and five goals – proved to be the difference, Wigan pulling it back to 24-18 at the break but spurning too many chances in the second half against ruthless opponents. England winger Rob Hawkins was in excellent form, bagging four touchdowns and two goals, as was his international colleague player/coach Wayne Boardman who scored a fine brace and added two goals. Tom Martin and Keiron Johnston, who claimed the final of 11 tries, also scored for the Panthers. Dec Roberts again led the Warriors’ resistance with a try and four goals, Martin Norris, Adam Rigby, Jack Heggie and USA international Matt Wooloff their other try scorers on a frustrating afternoon.
By Phil Caplan