THESE ARE not exactly glory days for Yorkshire’s leading rugby league teams.
Going into First Utility Super League round six, the second quarter of the regular season, the county’s best-placed club are Castleford Tigers, in sixth.
What has gone wrong?
Castleford had to settle for a draw in their opening game at Hull KR, but looked good after that until injuries struck away to St Helens.
Already without captain Michael Shenton, the loss of Ben Roberts – in particular – had a major bearing on last weekend’s defeat by a very good Salford team.
With Junior Moors, Oliver Holmes and Grant Millington also missing and Luke Dorn limping off during the game, Tigers are getting down to the bare bones.
Too many errors compounded their problems, but Tigers are the Yorkshire team most likely to contest the Super League semi-finals this year.
Winger Denny Solomona, who has nine tries already this year, is the most spectacular finisher in the competition, and Luke Gale is among Super League’s most influential play-makers.
Hull started well, seemed to convince themselves they are the real deal this year and have since lost three successive games and are in a bit of a mess ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Hull have a big pack, but when they failed to get over the top of Widnes Vikings last week, despite dominating early on, they fell apart alarmingly.
Based on some exciting recruits, expectations were high this year. Hull have too much talent in their squad not to make the top-eight, but they are already six points adrift of the semi-final spots and, unless they learn how to beat the top teams, they won’t be getting anywhere near Old Trafford.
The bottom four places are all occupied by Yorkshire teams, two of which were predictable and a couple who weren’t.
Huddersfield are known as a side who can be consistent throughout the season and then collapse when it comes to the big games.
Maybe this year they will do it the other way around. Injuries played a part in their poor start, but they have looked a much better team since Danny Brough returned from a dead leg two weeks ago.
Giants will improve as they get players back and their overseas recruits, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Sam Rapira, settle into the English game.
They are known for their solid defence and even with their problems this year have conceded only 110 points in five games, which is fewer than three of the top eight and within a try of two more. With Brough giving them more of an attacking threat, they are unlikely to struggle for much longer.
The real shock is seeing Leeds languishing in 10th place. More than a quarter of the regular season will have been completed by the end of this weekend, so they need to get cracking if they are going to be serious contenders at the end of the year.
After 2015’s treble there was always a chance this would be a gap year for Rhinos, who are the team everyone wants to beat and are still adjusting to life without Kevin Sinfield and Jamie Peacock. Like Huddersfield, they have had more than their fair share of early injuries, but the side which faced Wigan last Thursday was strong enough to do much better than a toothless 28-6 drubbing.
Rhinos have conceded an alarming 144 points in their opening five games and scored only 76, which is an even bigger concern. At the moment they have the poorest attack in the competition and despite spells of pressure they rarely look like getting over the opposition line.
Lack of leadership and an ineffective kicking game are problem areas and they desperately need Danny McGuire back on the field.
A pre-season win at Leeds gave Wakefield fans unrealistic expectations, but they have a bottom-four budget and a lot will depend on what sort of impact their new coach, Chris Chester, has when he takes charge.
Hull KR had a change of coach after just three rounds, which was ridiculous and are in deep trouble, though if they can get Terry Campese fit that will give them a glimmer.
Their problem is simple: the squad isn’t strong enough. Their first 17 are competitive, but dip below that and they are struggling.