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Author Topic: Super League playoffs
PR7th Heaven
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Bradford hosted Wigan tonight in the first Super League playoff eliminator. I was there. I witnessed one of the greatest sporting performances I will ever see. Wigan completed the best comeback in Super League history with a Pat Richards drop goal to win 31-30 after being 30-6 down with just 25 minutes left. They will now travel to the winners of tomorrow's Hull vs Huddersfield game on Saturday next, and after this, coupled with league wins over both sides, they must be regarded as favourites to progress again. Leeds finished second to St Helens, who they visit next week in search of a place in the Grand Final. The loser will get another chance at home against the remaining side, which could just be Wigan on current form.

Bradford started well, using their large forwards to carry the ball down the middle of the field, and were soon in front. Solomona scored a hat-trick of tries for the home side, with only Leuluai replying, and Wigan went in 22-6 down. A couple of the tries were questionable, especially Solomona's attempt to ground the ball, which was awarded by the video ref in the absence of conclusive evidence. The principle of "benefit of the doubt" was applied to the attacking side, a decision which is in keeping with the rules but is relatively rarely made.

After conceding a further eight points early in the second period, I had written Wigan off completely. Then something remarkable happened. Wigan started playing expansive, inventive rugby and Bradford could not keep up. Calderwood's burst down the right had the air of a consolation, but in fact it was a taste of things to come. The winger, who has had a difficult season, showed his best side in answering Solomona's hat trick with his own. Australian Trent Barrett turned on the style, brilliantly putting Calderwood in on the right, and then a breakaway in which he showed that he still has the pace which made his name at Leeds. Hansen scored as well, and with Pat Richards converting each one, Wigan were level.

Bradford were no longer making the yards through the middle of the field. Their forwards, who had utterly dominated the first half, ran out of steam as Wigan cut out the mistakes and kept Bradford under pressure. Harris' one missed kick of the six he attempted ultimately cost Bradford: that's how close this game was.

I paid just 15 to watch this, and I was one of only 9000 present. It's a worry that the game's major occasions can't attract larger crowds, especially to a historic venue such as Odsal. Two-thirds of the ground is terraced, and it sits in a massive bowl, which was formed by a glacier. Over 100,000 people once watched a Challenge Cup final here, but the ground has been scaled down since then, and now the old terracing lies under grass above the stands. This makes for an impressive spectacle when you enter the ground: the stadium glows beneath you under bright floodlights.

Perhaps it's the old fashioned nature of the ground which puts people off attending. St Helens, who are the must successful side of recent years, currently hold the League and Cup, yet cannot fill the antiquated Knowsley Road. Crowds have risen again this season across Super League, but it's a shame more people didn't come to see this game. I watched the game with some friends of mine, both Bradford fans, and so we stood with the home fans. I cheered each try and didn't get so much as a funny look, even though it seemed I was the only Wiganer on the terrace. It feels good to be a League fan at the moment. Still, at the back of my mind is Wigan's skulduggery over the salary cap, which led to a four point deduction. There is widespread anger in the game at the leniency of this sanction, although Bradford were themselves fined for a breach of the cap. Ultimately, Wigan have started to redeem themselves and, although they surely won't have enough to win the playoffs, may just make it to the final. Here's hoping.

Posts: 906 | From: The other end of Stretford | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Cavalry Trouser Tips
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Whoever is playing Huddersfield, I hope they murder them.

I fucking hate rugby league.

Posts: 4359 | From: Mekonta | Registered: Jul 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
PR7th Heaven
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Well CTT, you got your wish in that Hull beat Huddersfield 22-16 last weekend. That means they went forward to play Wigan last night, and another magnificent game saw the away side sneak through 18-21 thanks to another great Pat Richards performance. Hull were no pushovers, and at one stage led 14-6, but Wigan continued their run of second half fightbacks to take the tie.

They will now travel to Leeds on Friday to contest a place in the Grand Final against St Helens, who edged past Leeds 10-8 on Friday in a brutal encounter. Given that Leeds have had an extra week's rest, they start as favourites, although Wigan have beaten them three times this term, including two victories at Headingley.

The playoffs are producing some compelling rugby this year. Every game has been decided by a single score, and hopefully the two remaining games will keep that up. The next game is Leeds vs Wigan on Friday at 8, live on Sky, and if the matches so far are anything to go by, it should repay the effort of finding somewhere to watch it.

Posts: 906 | From: The other end of Stretford | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gangster Octopus
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Watched some of the Hull-Wigan game on Saturday. Exciting stuff, pity the pie-eaters won.
Posts: 20721 | From: Far away, without a city wall | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Rogin the Armchair fan
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One of my best mates, Helen, is a huge Rugby League fan of the pie-eating variety. She's absolutely wound up about tonight's game, in a way that's hilarious to watch for me, as I really don't follow any particular team in Rugby League apart from when Britain are losing the Ashes. I now appreciate what my non-football supporting mates must think about me, every couple of days before or after a Liverpool match.

I shall be supporting Wigan tonight with her, in empathy. That and because Leeds is a complete shithole. The only city in the world that's been "regenerated" to look like postwar Glasgow.

[ 05.10.2007, 08:55: Message edited by: Rogin the Armchair fan ]

Posts: 15858 | From: this corner of the bar you can only see half of the big screen | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mouldy Old Dough
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A small aside but, twelve months after completing a season in which they contrived to lose every single league game, congratulations and good luck to Oldham Roughyeds ahead of their NL2 Grand Final against Fev Rovers on Sunday.

The club have lurched from one crisis to the next in the past decade, many of them self-inflicted admittedly, but a first promotion for 14 years would be a timely tonic, especially with the upcoming restructuring.

With regard to Super League, their astonishing momentum will propel Wigan to a win tonight I reckon, but Saints to give them an old-fashioned schooling at Old Trafford next Saturday evening.

[ 05.10.2007, 15:05: Message edited by: Mouldy Old Dough ]

Posts: 316 | From: Walking down Sheepfoot Lane | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gangster Octopus
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It's also Castleford and Widnes on Sunday, with the winners getting the last ever promotion spot to the top division. Or something. It goes without saying that it's imperative that Castleford must win...
Posts: 20721 | From: Far away, without a city wall | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mouldy Old Dough
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Danny Brough has been a class apart whenever I have seen Castleford this season, including the regular season game against The Chemics, so I fully expect Cas to triumph.

Should be a good day Sunday, looks like a full house at Headingley.

Posts: 316 | From: Walking down Sheepfoot Lane | Registered: Oct 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Joe Public
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Cas make it then

Four NL play-off final defeats in consecutive years for Widnes coach Steve McCormick (two with Whitehaven now two with the Chemics).

Posts: 4524 | From: The North-West Frontier | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
GIK
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So is that pretty much it for Widnes then?

Permanent exclsion from the top tier? Haven't you gone all franchise now?

Posts: 5389 | From: Cheshire with Love | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Oululainen
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A buyer will come in for Widnes and they'll go semi-pro as opposed to full-time.

They will need to drop the "Super League or Bust" attitude if they are to be considered for franchise place in the future.

Posts: 7 | From: Oulu | Registered: Nov 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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