Posts Tagged ‘2009’

Challenge Cup Final 2009: A Photo Essay

August 30, 2009

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In the end, it wasn’t as close or as tight as I thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. Everything about the day was enjoyable, except for the second half when it became abundantly clear that the Huddersfield Giants simply didn’t have what it took to beat a Warrington Wolves side that was a defensive juggernaut on the day. The speed and swarm that Wire possessed in defense turned practically every pass the Giants made into a hospital pass. On top of that, Lee Briers and Michael Monaghan played a vital role in producing one of the Wolves’ most composed performances of the year, and with about twenty minutes to go it became quite clear that the Wolves were entering shutdown mode, a move they played almost to perfection. 

It was a frantic start to the game as Brett Hodgson’s kick was charged down by Louis Anderson, which led to Richie Mathers opening the scoring. From the stands it seemed like Louis had knocked on in the process of picking up the ball, but looking at the TV replay it seems it was either his toe or a funny bounce that made it look that way. The Giants hit back when Shaun Lunt finished off a rather nice team move, but only after he had been denied by the video ref in one of a few calls that the people I was sitting with in the stadium thought were dubious (and the replay ddin’t make think it was any better of a call either). 

Warrington replying with two quick tries to Michael Monaghan and Chris Hicks, followed by the second disallowed try that the Giants thought they had scored (David Hodson’s finish wiped off due to obstruction) seemed to kill off the game for me. From that point onwards Huddersfield fell apart. The second half in particular saw them drop an outrageous amount of ball in key positions early in the tackle count. It’s debatable how much this even mattered though because whenever the Giants did hold onto the ball, all they did was run sideways and pass to a stationary man. This made it easier for a Warrington side who had brought their A-game defensively anyway, and meant that the second half turned into a rather dour battle. Warrington had shown touches of invention and class in the first half but (understandably) resorted to a more conservative gameplan in the second half. Although Vinnie Anderson and David Hodgson both got on the scoresheet, the second half was clearly never going to turn into a shootout, and as it became clear that the Giants didn’t have what it took it undermined the drama somewhat.

Were Huddersfield affected by the debatable video ref calls? Maybe. If they were, then it’s their own fault they lost because they should have just got on with it. I was really disappointed by the Giants because they’ve been a top team all year, and for them to flop so hard on the biggest stage yet was disappointing. Even so, they’re still top contenders to reach Old Trafford at this stage, so hopefully for them they’ll learn from this experience. 

Conversely, Warrington were a revelation. I knew they could muscle up as well as anyone, and I knew they were capable of fantastic attacking play, but I never expected them to be so… solid. Apart from Lunt’s two scoring attempts, they never really looked fazed at all, and they followed up conceding with two quick-fire tries. Their defence was brutal and completely choked Hudderfield out of the game. Even if Warrington don’t make the playoffs (and at this stage it looks unlikely) they’ve still won a trophy, and definitely have the foundations to be a challenger next year.

Like for Friday’s game, I took some photos with my camera phone. In fact, I took a lot of photos. See them after the break, and admire the story that they create.

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Super League Previewaganza 2009!

January 30, 2009

sllogo1Holy shit! One minute I’m moping abouth the end of the World Cup, and having to make do with Ice Hockey and the NFL for my contact sport fix, and the next minute it turns out that Super League restarts in a week! How the time flies! Admittedly, it’s starting a week earlier than usual so both Harlequins and Leeds can play Manly over the next few weeks, and really the season properly kicks off in two weekends time, but sod that. Once the ball is kicked-off at Headingley next Friday, the season’s begun again,

Of course, this season is more interesting than most because it is the start of the Brave New World we now live in, or the Licence Era as it has also been called (by me, just now). We got a little taste of this last year, but now we know that none of these sides will be relegated at the end of the season. It will be interesting to see if this has the effect of allowing more British youngsters to have starting opportunities, which was one of the main reasons behind the switch to licences. There were signs that this might be the case last season, and it was particularly nice to see a club like Harlequins (long known as a side of backpacking Aussies) bringing through their own talent.

What also makes this season really interesting is the introduction of two new teams (which also has the positive side effect of evening out the fixture list so teams only have to threepeat with one other side now) in Salford City Reds and Celtic Crusaders. Salford have of course done this whole Super League thing before, and have mostly been encamped in the nether regions of mediocrity (they have only made the playoffs once), but they have some emerging talent coming through. For Celtic though, this is a whole new ball game, and the Rugby League watching public will be looking to see if they can compete with the big boys. They will also have the added pressure of being expected to introduce a new breed of Welsh superstars who have been missing from the game ever since Rugby Union went fully professional. Of course, given that Harlequins have only really started doing this after 25 years, I think it’ll take a while before we get a plethora of Welsh talent back in the game, but at least the opportunity for it to happen has now been made easier.

Apart from that, a lot of the questions are the same: Who can stop Leeds and Saints? Are Wigan about to hit the big time again? Will Warrington finally stop under-achieving? How small will Quins’ crowds be? What does the ref think he’s doing?

Anyway, over the next week or so I’ll have previews of each team and their chances. I should be doing two a day, but obviously there’s scope for that to go horribly wrong.  And I may even get around to answering some of the above questions…