Harry Jones, Andy Morgan and Ian Golden look back at last weekend’s elite rugby league action that had a Welsh presence…
The Physical Disability Rugby League season kicked off last weekend with a festival at Robin Park Arena in Wigan. Wales internationals Justin Martin, Paul Jones, Connor Rice and Tyma Hughes (above) played for Salford Red Devils in their first outing with Jones scoring Salford’s first-ever try. Martin also registered a score. Hughes captained the side as they lost 18-14 to Castleford Tigers and beat Hull FC 22-6. Chris Young and Isaac Pickett were in action for Leeds Rhinos. They beat Wigan Warriors 18-6 and lost 18-0 to Wakefield Trinity.
The Betfred Wheelchair Super League also had it’s first games of the season last weekend and on Saturday, Leeds Rhinos secured a convincing 118-12 victory over Warrington Wolves. Leeds, captained by Jodie Boyd-Ward for the first time were 72-0 up at the break, and the Wheelchair RL’s most capped international player crossed for four tries. Warrington fielded a number of international players, including Mason Baker and Stephen Halsey on dual-registration from North Wales Crusaders, the latter landing two conversions.
Onto the Sunday for the morning kick-off as Wigan Warriors took on defending champions, Halifax Panthers in a highly intense affair, with Wigan fighting back to claim a monumental 59-45 victory over the reigning champions. Martin Lane came off the bench for his Warriors debut, scoring one try.
North Wales Crusaders opened their season with a 68-54 victory over Wigan Warriors ‘A’ in their first game of the Betfred Championship following their exclusion from Super League. With Mason Baker and Stephen Halsey playing their second game of the weekend, the game also saw player/ coach and international, Harry Jones return from injury, Ricki Davies playing his first game since last season’s play-offs and Paul Southall returning following a multi-year hiatus. Crusaders also handed first-team debuts to Jakub Wasieczko and Lewis Lawrinson handed their first-team debut whilst, Wyatt Jones made only his second first-team appearance in the sport. Harry Jones ended the match with four tries, one in an end-to-end first half which saw Baker and Halsey also crossing, with the latter converting all three and landing a penalty to keep Crusaders in the game, losing 30-20 at the break. Davies opened the second half with a quick-fire double as Crusaders took control. Halsey also added to his account with three more conversions, a penalty goal from his own eight-metre line, and an outstanding score when he collected a high crossfield kick from Harry Jones. Baker also crossed for his second of the game.
Following the withdrawal of York from their Championship North season opener, North Wales Crusaders ‘A’ played a pre-season friendly against Warrington Wolves ‘A’. Jess Booth, Wyatt Jones and Jakub Wasieczko crossed for tries, whilst Jonathan Gill, playing his first-ever game of Wheelchair Rugby League slotted two conversions for a 16-0 half-time lead. Warrington scored first in the second half but Crusaders had the final say with debutant Carl Diaper scoring with Gill converting for a 22-4 victory.
The men’s Super League action kicked off on Thursday, with Luis Roberts playing the second half for Leeds Rhinos as they succumbed to a Castleford Tigers comeback in the West Yorkshire derby. There were no such worries for Luke Thomas, who came off the bench to play his part in a fifth straight win for Warrington Wolves, who overcame Leigh Leopards 38-20.
Rhys Williams was in the Salford Red Devils side that edged a golden point encounter with Wakefield Trinity 14-13 thanks to a Marc Sneyd drop-goal, whilst in Super League Reserves, Ewan Badham came off the bench for Bradford Bulls in their 62-12 defeat at Hull FC.
In the dedicated multicultural round in the NRL, Bradman Best and Newcastle Knights were the latest to be seen off by the Dolphins, the competition’s newest club who have won all of their opening three matches. Both Best and teammate Tyson Frizzell – who missed out through injury – gave a nod to their Welsh heritage on the Knights’ social media. Harry Hayes was in the Canterbury Bankstown-Bulldogs U21 side as they beat Wests Tigers 38-6.
A band of brothers 🏴#SWIvFEV | #BlueWall pic.twitter.com/9BZCKBE2xd
— Featherstone Rovers (@FevRoversRLFC) March 20, 2023
In the Championship, there were four Welsh internationals on display at Heywood Road, with Mike Butt the solitary Welshman in the Swinton Lions side that lost out 34-6 to high-flying Featherstone Rovers. Kyle Evans marked his first appearance for Rovers with a brace of tries, with Caleb Aekins celebrating his return to the side with the final score in a 34-6 win for the table-toppers. Retired Wales international, Craig Kopczak, was among the interchanges.
Josh Ralph redeemed himself after spending ten minutes in the sin bin during the first half by creating a try that helped Toulouse Olympique XIII edge out Widnes Vikings, who had both Matty Fozard and Ant Walker in the 17 for John Kear’s Vikings. Two more of the 2021 World Cup squad came up against each other in Newcastle, as hooker Curtis Davies started for a Thunder side who lost 34-6 to London Broncos, who had Dalton Grant among their starting line-up.
Chester Butler started for Bradford Bulls in their comfortable 32-18 win over Sheffield Eagles at Odsal; but Bailey Antrobus was on the losing side for York City Knights, as they went down 14-12 to Connor Holliday‘s Whitehaven. The Championship action concluded on Monday night, where Wales captain, Elliot Kear was in the Batley Bulldogs side that overcame Barrow Raiders 24-12. Barrow had Ben Evans among their interchanges.
In League One, North Wales Crusaders left South Yorkshire empty-handed from their encounter with Doncaster, Owain Abel scoring a try in their 30-16 defeat. Owen Restall and Connor Davies were part of the Dewsbury Rams side who claimed the two points against Workington Town, winning 25-6 to sit top of the table. Sam Bowring scored a try in the 32-24 defeat for Midlands Hurricanes at home to Rochdale Hornets. Shane Lee was among the interchanges for London Skolars who suffered a heavy 66-22 defeat at home to Hunslet RLFC.