Peter Smith: Wakefield prove exception to the rule in defeat-laden round

Chris Chester.
Chris Chester.
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THE YORKSHIRE Evening Post covers seven rugby league teams and last week six of them lost.

Wakefield Trinity’s thumping win against Hull KR bucked the trend, but it was a miserable weekend for Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers, Featherstone Rovers, Batley Bulldogs, Dewsbury Rams and Hunslet.

Neil Kelly.

Neil Kelly.

Monday’s ring-round of coaches for thoughts on their side’s game was not much fun and most of those teams aren’t exactly pulling up trees this season.

Castleford haven’t hit the heights of 2017 and are struggling with injuries at the moment, though they are still well in the hunt for a top-four finish and, if they win their games in hand, will be only two points behind Betfred Super League leaders St Helens.

Leeds are sixth, having failed to impress since a shock victory at Saints in March. They have been involved in a series of close matches, but are in a bad habit of giving teams an early lead and are struggling to manage games if and when they do go ahead.

Rovers are the country’s highest-ranked part-time team, but slipped up at Toulouse Olympique and dropped a place to third in the Betfred Championship.

The value of clubs like Coventry and West Wales will be questioned after results like those in recent weeks, but the game as a whole will benefit when they start producing players of their own, and crowds will improve when results do.

Peter Smith

Batley Bulldogs came a cropper by two points at Barrow and Dewsbury Rams have reverted to the form they were in before coach Neil Kelly turned them around last year, their losing run now extending to nine games.

Hunslet seem to be taking a leaf out of Rhinos’ book. They were 24-0 down to York City Knights last Sunday, but then began to play and in the end were pipped 26-24.

So, much doom and gloom, but it could be worse. Much worse. Imagine how it must feel to support – or indeed have anything to do with – West Wales Raiders or Coventry Bears. Two weeks ago the Welsh side suffered a 144-0 drubbing at York – a world record score in a professional game.

They parted company with their coach in the wake of that embarrassment, and seven days later came away from Odsal with an improved result – losing only 124-0. They are without a competition point after six games in League One, having scored 26 and conceded 556. After playing the top two in the division in successive weeks, they face Doncaster, who are third, in three days’ time.

Coventry are two places better off, third from bottom. Three weeks ago they were – not surprisingly – crushed 90-0 at Super League Widnes Vikings in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. Last Sunday they travelled to Keighley Cougars and lost 98-6. Coventry take on York on Saturday.

Whatever the players of West Wales and Coventry are being paid – which won’t be much – they will deserve every penny of it for having the nerve (and that is not meant in a derogatory sense) to step on the field this weekend.

League One has enjoyed some positive publicity this season, thanks largely to York’s efforts on and off the field.

The struggles of West Wales and Coventry are the other side of the coin. Welsh teams have come and gone over the years and in 1913 the original Coventry club folded after an 102-0 defeat by Leeds at Headingley.

Both West Wales and the Bears are relatively new clubs and the odds are heavily stacked against them. They are based in areas way outside rugby league’s heartlands and do not enjoy the advantages northern clubs do.

A heartland club in League One has a ready supply of available players on its doorstep, from the amateur game or lads rejected by Super League clubs when they become too old for the academy.

In Wales or the midlands that is not the case and, at the moment, their talent pool is restricted to rugby union players or possibly students from the north studying at local colleges.

Coventry attracted a record crowd of 1,294 for a pre-season game against Leeds in January and that showed what can be achieved.

The value of clubs like Coventry and West Wales will be questioned after results like those in recent weeks, but the game as a whole will benefit when they start producing players of their own, and crowds will improve when results do. It will happen, but it takes time. Some heartland clubs have had more than a century and still haven’t got things right.

Oliver Holmes.

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