31 Jul 2023
Leeds Rhinos and London Roosters secure home play-off ties with wins at Medway Magic
Medway Park, Gillingham, was the venue on Sunday for the Betfred Wheelchair Super League’s latest ‘Magic’ round – and with just two rounds of the regular season remaining, Leeds Rhinos and London Roosters guaranteed themselves home ties in the play-offs.
In the game of the day, the Medway Park-based Roosters took on reigning champions Halifax Panthers, and the two sides delivered precisely the kind of spectacle we have come to expect from Wheelchair Rugby League.
World Cup and Golden Boot winner Seb Bechara, whose flight from France was delayed, missed the entire first half and the Roosters took full advantage. Tries from Bechara’s England colleagues Lewis King (2) and Joe Coyd (2), together with two Coyd conversions, saw the Roosters race into a 20-0 lead within half an hour. King would complete his hat-trick on the stoke of half-time – but not before the Panthers had fought back through Rob Hawkins’ bewildering ‘in and out’ movement, a Nathan Holmes effort on the back of a fine Wayne Boardman and a Jeremy Bourson try, goaled by Boardman.
The sides turned around at 26-16 and, although chances were at a premium during the early exchanges of the second half, London eventually extended their lead through Jason Owen. After committed Roosters defence forced more errors from their opponents, King spectacularly went over in the corner for his fourth try on 65 minutes. A conversion and penalty from Coyd extended the Roosters lead to 40-16, and although Boardman crossed twice – and converted once – to narrow the gap, it proved only a consolation for the Panthers.
Leeds Rhinos returned to winning ways with a mesmerising 120-14 over Hull FC. While the Rhinos welcomed back England skipper Tom Halliwell, Hull were without England international Martin Norris and Billy Swainger. And the Rhinos, with a Betfred Wheelchair Challenge Cup Final date with Catalans Dragons looming large, raced into an unassailable 58-10 half-time lead through skipper Jodie Boyd-Ward, Nathan Mulhall, Nathan Collins, Josh Butler and Halliwell who all crossed twice during a frenetic first half. Tristan Norfolk scored twice for Hull, but soon after the break the Rhinos were back to their imperious best.
Butler scored his third with a spectacular solo effort, then the Rhinos posted four tries in just seven minutes through Paul Horrobin, Butler, Ewen Clibbens – brilliantly set up by Butler – and Boyd-Ward with her third. As Hull tired, Mulhall, Collins and Halliwell completed their trebles, Clibbens claimed his second, and Collins and Boyd-Ward their fourth tries. Hull answered through Mike Midgley, but the Rhinos were truly unstoppable.
Wigan Warriors also delivered a Wheelchair masterclass, defeating winless Warrington Wolves 138-2 as they hoped to book a home play-off spot themselves. The Warriors got off to a blistering start and led 30-0 inside 15 minutes. Dec Roberts, the game’s leading points scorer this year, was in sensational form, scoring five first half tries and nine goals – two of them from the touchline. Welsh international Mark Williams crossed twice in quick succession, Jack Heggie, Adam Rigby – from a Dec Roberts chip – and Lenny Izzard, who converted his own try, all claiming touchdowns, Dec Roberts ending the first half with a three-minute hat trick to make it 60-0 at the break.
Warriors’ beginning to the second period was equally impressive, running in five tries in the opening ten minutes, three of them to Heggie, Williams completing his treble and Matt Wooloff grabbing his first, Dec Roberts maintaining his impeccable kicking record. Dec Roberts posted his sixth try, and Heggie’s fifth brought up the century of points, Dec Roberts then creating two quick-fire tries for his younger brother Nathan. Izzard and Rigby each scored their second as the Warriors’ relentless charge continued despite Kyran Holt’s best efforts, Rigby converting his own touchdown. A penalty on Holt enabled him to gain some measure of reward for his tireless work with a shot at goal that went in off the post, but Rigby took his try tally to five with Dec Roberts finishing with 19 successful shots at goal out of 20, and a 62-point personal haul.
Wigan Warriors 138 Warrington Wolves 2
Leeds Rhinos 120 Hull FC 14
London Roosters 40 Halifax Panthers 26