WITH THE second half of the season now underway, here’s an assessment of how the 12 First Utility Super League teams have performed so far.
1 Warrington Wolves: Deservedly top. Have been the the best team so far and shown a massive improvement from last season, though they may be over-reliant on certain individuals. Losses since Craig Sandow’s injury have been a concern. Grade: B +. Star man: Ben Currie.
2: Catalans Dragons: Look like genuine Grand Final contenders this season. They have free-scoring outside-backs and two in-form halves, playing behind a massive pack. Crucially they have conquered their travel sickness and are formidable home and away, though their defence can still be shaky at times. Grade: B +. Star man: Tony Gigot.
3: Wigan Warriors: Other than the drubbing at Wakefield, they have coped well with a lengthy injury list. They haven’t got anywhere near their best with ball in hand, but a mean defence is winning games for them and they have room for improvement. Grade: B. Star man: John Bateman.
4: Hull FC: Prone to the occasional bad result, but have been more consistent this season and look capable of hanging on to a top-four spot, though injuries will have a bearing on that. Their pack is strong and they have plenty of pace in the outside-backs. Grade: B. Star man: Jamie Shaul.
5: St Helens: Disappointing so far, particularly at home. Key men, for example Alex Walmsley in the front-row, have yet to hit top form and their defence has been poor at times. Coach Keiron Cunningham would be under pressure if he wasn’t a local hero, but the win at Warrington showed what they are capable of. Grade: C. Star man: Theo Fages.
6: Widnes Vikings. Started really well, but are on the slide. At home – and when Kevin Brown and Rhys Hanbury play well – they can match anybody, but on current form they might struggle to hang on to a top-eight spot. Grade: C. Star man: Kevin Brown.
7: Castleford Tigers: Until last week’s drubbing by Hull KR they had dealt well with a nasty injury list and will get better as players return. A run of home games over the second half of the season should see them comfortably hang on to a top-eight slot, qualification for the semi-finals will take a big improvement. Grade: C. Star man: Luke Gale.
8: Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: After their expected bad start, Wildcats have been a revelation under new boss Chris Chester, playing with enthusiasm and style and showing attacking flair and new-found defensive resilience, though they they will probably just miss the top-eight. The emergence of a couple of home-grown youngsters is a big positive. Grade: B-. Star man: Tom Johnstone.
9: Hull KR: Made a mistake getting rid of coach Chris Chester after just three games, when the quality and depth of their squad was the real issue. Losing at home to Oldham was a dire result, made even more frustrating by the way they bounced back with victory away to Castleford, which improved their grading slightly. Grade D. Star man: George Lawler.
10: Leeds Rhinos: Last year’s treble-winners have suffered a spectacular fall from grace. Injuries and the loss of their training base have been a factor, but they haven’t coped without the legends who retired last year. Off-season recruitment should have been better and the fact is, they simply aren’t playing well. Grade: E. Star man: Jordan Lilley.
11: Salford Red Devils: Another improved team. Having got rid of some of their big-name signings they look more of a structured unit. They could have a bearing on what happens at both ends of the table, but the points deduction will ensure they can’t press for the top-four. Grade C+. Star man: Robert Lui.
12: Huddersfield Giants: Similar to Leeds, their next two games – both at home to Rhinos – could decide which way their year goes. Are showing signs of improvement and Ryan Brierley could be a smart acquisition, but Giants rely too heavily on Danny Brough being switched on. Grade: D. Star man: Jermaine McGillvary.