A review of the latest action in the Betfred Super League.
Super League results
Thursday, February 8
- Huddersfield 20-6 Warrington
- Leeds 20-11 Hull KR
Friday, February 9
- Wakefield 14-12 Salford Red Devils
Saturday, February 10
- Wigan 24-10 Hull FC
- Catalans Dragons 12-21 St Helens
Sunday, February 11
- Castleford 13-12 Widnes
Castleford held off a spirited challenge by Widnes to earn their first win of the 2018 Betfred Super League season with a hard-fought 13-12 success.
Last season's runners-up suffered a heavy defeat at St Helens in their opener and they were well below their best in seeing off the Vikings.
The Tigers dominated the opening 40 minutes but were frustrated by strong Widnes defence until Greg Minikin finished the last play of the half.
Matt Whitley's converted try nudged the visitors ahead only for Jy Hitchcox to cross to swing the game back Castleford's way.
Luke Gale booted five points to put the Tigers two scores in front but they were clinging on in the dying minutes after Jay Chapelhow had given the Vikings hope of back-to-back victories.
Widnes suffered a double blow on the morning of the match after hookers Lloyd White and Aaron Heremaia pulled out of the squad and they were on the back foot immediately at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.
Castleford were camped on the Vikings line after Joe Mellor made a mess of the kick-off but they could not take advantage of three drop outs as Widnes held firm.
The Tigers racked up almost 1,000 points in 2017 but they looked disjointed in attack in the face of good scrambling defence.
Jake Webster came closest to breaking the deadlock in a frustrating start for Castleford when he knocked on going for the corner.
Widnes threatened briefly when Whitley had a try ruled out for a forward pass by Tom Gilmore and chances continued to come and go at the other end.
Stefan Marsh denied Ben Roberts with a brilliant one-on-one tackle and Mike McMeeken had an effort chalked off for obstruction.
Castleford eventually broke through on the stroke of half-time when Minikin held off a couple of defenders to touch down in the corner after good centre play by Webster.
Gale missed the touchline conversion but the Tigers had a lead and were the fresher team at the break.
Yet it was Widnes who came out firing after the restart and almost levelled the scores when Chris Dean was held up over the line.
The visitors did not have to wait much longer for their try, though, as Whitley collected Gilmore's lovely reverse kick and touched down in front of the travelling supporters.
Gilmore added the extras to nudge the Vikings in front and teenager Danny Walker, their only recognised hooker, ensured they remained on top with an explosive dummy-half run.
The momentum soon shifted and Widnes had to be at their best defensively once again to somehow deny Castleford after they had worked a three-man overlap.
The Tigers continued to knock on the door and they were back ahead when Hitchcox strolled in out wide from Michael Shenton's pass.
Gale landed a difficult conversion and then added another two points from a penalty for interference before knocking over a drop goal to give Castleford a 13-6 lead.
The Tigers appeared to have the points in the bag but Widnes won the ball back from the restart and Chapelhow crashed over next to the posts to set up a grandstand finish.
Gilmore sent two drop-goal attempts wide in the closing minutes but the Vikings could not salvage a point from a gripping contest.
Wigan's gamble in taking a Super League match outside Europe for the first time paid off as they made it two wins out of two at the start of the new season.
The Warriors, who forfeited home advantage to take the match to WIN Stadium in Wollongong, overcame an injury-hit Hull 24-10 thanks largely to two early tries from winger Liam Marshall.
The match contained a plethora of handling errors in the muggy conditions but also plenty of thrills and drama as the the 2017 Challenge Cup finalists beat the drum for Super League in one of Australia's rugby league heartlands in front of an encouraging crowd of 12,416.
Hull were happy to play their part in the pioneering venture but little went right for them from the start as they lost new signing Bureta Faraimo with a head injury after only two minutes while skipper Danny Houghton and back rower Mark Minichiello went off in the second quarter.
Utility back Jake Connor moved onto the right wing in place of Faraimo but he was nowhere to be seen when Marshall sped down the flank for his first try after second rower Liam Farrell had split the Hull defence.
And Connor was well off the pace when Marshall raced clear for his second after centre Oliver Gildart had this time come up with the break.
Sam Tomkins added one conversion and struck an upright with another as the Warriors led 10-0 but winger Fetuli Talanao, who scored a hat-trick in Hull's opening win over Huddersfield, produced an acrobatic finish on 23 minutes to pull a try back.
At the time it seemed a minor inconvenience for Wigan, who looked full of invention, particularly through the creativity of Tomkins, who switched between full-back and scrum-half, and England stand-off George Williams.
Marshall twice went close to completing his hat-trick while centre Dan Sarginson looked a certain tryscorer until Connor came up with a last-gasp tackle on the line.
And the misses began to look costly when a defensive mix-up between Marshall and Escare gifted a try to Hull substitute Jordan Abdull.
With Mark Sneyd kicking his first conversion, the Black and Whites were suddenly, somehow, level, although a Tomkins penalty two minutes before half-time enabled Wigan to turn around with a 12-10 lead.
That quickly became 18-10 as substitute Ryan Sutton crashed over for Wigan's third try four minutes into the second half.
Albert Kelly remained a threat for patched-up Hull, who were plucky to the end, but there was no way back for them once prop Ben Flower barrelled his way over for Wigan's fourth try on 68 minutes.
Both teams finished the game with 12 men after Tomkins and Griffin were sin-binned by Australian referee Matt Cecchin following an ill-tempered fracas.
St Helens made it back-to-back wins to start their Betfred Super League season as they won 21-12 away to Catalans Dragons.
Jonny Lomax, Regan Grace and Adam Swift scored tries while Danny Richardson kicked nine points. Catalans responded with tries from David Mead and Alrix Da Costa, both converted by Lucas Albert.
Saints came into the game following an opening win over Castleford while Catalans suffered a heavy defeat away to Widnes.
The Saints opened the scoring in the first minute without Catalans touching the ball after kicking off. Ben Barba broke clear down the left, drew the full-back and passed inside to Lomax who raced over to score. Richardson added the conversion to take the score to 6-0.
Catalans worked hard to get back into the game and David Mead burst onto Lucas Albert's inside pass but the Papua New Guinea full-back slipped at the vital moment.
Albert was then unlucky not to level the game as Ben Garcia's offload to the half-back drifted forward.
It was St Helens who managed to extend their lead in the 23rd minute as Lomax and Richardson combined down the right to get the ball to Barba and the full-back produced a smart miss pass to send Grace in for the try. Richardson added the conversion from the touchline.
Some great defence from Zeb Taia and Alex Walmsley kept the Catalans scoreless at the break but the opening stages of the second half saw them build pressure on the Saints line, forcing two goal-line drop-outs, a penalty and two scrums.
That pressure eventually told as Mead picked up and darted over from short range to touch down despite the best efforts of four St Helens defenders.
St Helens were reduced to 12 men in the 52nd minute as Morgan Knowles was shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Thibaud Margalet.
Two minutes later and the numbers were temporarily evened up as Catalans' Benjamin Jullien was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle on Lomax.
Swift extended St Helens' lead in the 58th minute with a superb finish down the right as the ball was sent to him from Tommy Makinson. Richardson added the conversion from close to the touchline as St Helens re-established their 12-point advantage.
Da Costa reduced the deficit once again in the 62nd minute as he picked up from acting half and darted over to score after Remi Casty had gone within a metre of the St Helens line. Albert converted to take the score to 12-18.
With 10 minutes remaining Richardson had an opportunity to extend the lead with a penalty attempt but his effort hit the post and bounced clear. From the resulting drop-out, though, St Helens gained good field position to allow Richardson to add a drop goal.
In the closing minutes he booted a further penalty to extend the winning margin.
Wakefield joined Leeds on four points as they made it two wins out of two in the Betfred Super League - but only after Salford's Gareth O'Brien missed a last-gasp touchline conversion attempt.
The Red Devils full-back was unable to split the posts with any of his three kicks and his last miss proved crucial as Wakefield, despite being outscored three tries to two, held on for a 14-12 victory at the Mobile Rocket Stadium.
It was a thrilling finale to a match desperately short of quality on a bitterly cold night, with Scott Grix's converted try early on and Liam Finn's penalty giving Wakefield an 8-0 lead at the interval.
Salford, thrashed 40-12 by Wigan in their season-opener last week, were particularly poor but the Red Devils rallied after the break through tries from Robert Lui, Niall Evalds and Kris Welham, only for Jacob Miller's converted score to prove decisive.
Chris Chester's men beat Hull KR last week and although they flattered to deceive at times - and were spared by O'Brien's wayward kicking - they maintained their 100 per cent record.
Wakefield started full of intensity and the lively Grix burst through a gap in the Salford defence to open the scoring after five minutes.
It was not a try that lit the touch paper for Wakefield as their opponents responded with no little effort.
But, despite having plenty of possession and territory, there was a lack of penetration to Salford going forward, with Wakefield's defence holding firm on their own line on multiple occasions.
Jake Bibby wasted Salford's only gilt-edged chance of the half after spilling Kris Welham's high pass with the try-line at his mercy.
Wakefield rode the storm and Finn opted to take the two points on offer in front of goal three minutes before half-time when Salford were penalised following a dashing break down the right from the hosts.
Salford shipped 30 points in the second half against Wigan last week but, after surviving a scare when Wakefield prop Pauli Pauli failed to take advantage of some loose defending, the visitors found a route back into the match in West Yorkshire.
It was Wakfield's turn to switch off after quick handling down the right from Salford was followed by Lui going over from dummy-half in the 47th minute
That provided the spark for a rejuvenated Salford as, seven minutes later, the ball was spread out wide for Evalds to go over in the left corner although O'Brien's failure to convert both scores left the scores level at 8-8.
But some indiscipline from Salford allowed Wakefield some respite and they were able to forage ahead once again in the 63rd minute when Miller was alert to touch down to the right of the posts after Ryan Hamshire's seemingly desperate kick.
Hampshire himself was then denied a try after a knock-on and Wakefield's inability to kill the game off came back to haunt them when Welham burrowed over in the final minute in the right corner.
O'Brien had failed to split the posts with his two previous conversion attempts and he sent his third effort from the touchline wide after the hooter to give Wakefield victory.
Jimmy Keinhorst made the most of his late call-up by scoring a hat-trick of tries to help Leeds salvage a 20-11 victory over promoted Hull KR at a rain-soaked Elland Road.
The Betfred Super League champions will fly out to Australia on Friday for their World Club Challenge clash against Melbourne with a 100 per cent record from their opening two games but with their pride dented by a lively Rovers.
Indeed, it was a performance that had Jonny Bairstow, fresh from England's cricket tour Down Under, scratching his head as he sat next to Rhinos coach Brian McDermott in the 16,149 crowd.
Keinhorst, who did not make the Rhinos' Grand Final team and was left out of their opening match, only played because of an injury to team-mate Joel Moon which forced McDermott into a late reshuffle.
The home side were second best for long periods of the game to a side inspired by Super League debutant Chris Atkin, who formed an exciting half-back partnership with former Rhinos captain Danny McGuire, who also had his moments on his return to Leeds.
Between them, the half-backs forced four goal-line drop-outs in the first half alone as Leeds struggled for any cohesion in the difficult circumstances.
Yet it was from a counter-attack near their own 20-metre line that the visitors took the lead, second rower Maurice Blair freeing centre Andrew Heffernan and winger Ryan Shaw evading the last-ditch challenge of young full-back Jack Walker.
Shaw added the touchline conversion and Hull KR extended their lead three minutes later when full-back Adam Quinlan took Atkin's delayed pass to cross for a second try.
Already lacking Moon, who had a leg injury, Leeds suffered further disruption when back rower Brett Delaney went off with concussion and prop Anthony Mullally sustained a dislocated finger.
There seemed no way back for the reigning champions but they suddenly found a spark to score two tries in four minutes and bring the scores level.
Prop Adam Cuthbertson charged onto a pass from the returning Stevie Ward to grab one and Keinhorst demonstrated his worth with a solo try, taking Cuthbertson's pass and beating three men on his way to the line.
Richie Myler added one conversion as the scores were locked at 10-10 at the break but Atkin nudged Rovers back in front within two minutes of the restart with a neat drop goal.
Hull KR captain Shaun Lunt, a Grand Final winner with Leeds in 2012, was then held up over the line as the Rhinos lived dangerously.
Leeds claimed for a penalty try when hooker Matt Parcell was held back as he chased a loose ball and although it was turned down, the momentum had begun to turn.
And the Rhinos finally took the lead on 67 minutes when Keinhorst took Carl Ablett's pass to cross for his second try and Myler kicked his second goal.
That was already a harsh scoreline for the visitors and Leeds piled on the agony eight minutes from the end when Ryan Hall gathered Myler's high kick to work Keinhorst over for his third try.
Huddersfield secured their first Betfred Super League win of the season with a comfortable 20-6 victory over Warrington at a sodden John Smith's Stadium.
After losing to Leeds last week, the Wolves' wait for a win under new coach Steve Price goes on.
Tom Lineham gave them an early lead but quickfire scores from Dale Ferguson and Darnell McIntosh put the Giants ahead, with Danny Brough and Bryson Goodwin trading penalties as the hosts led 14-6 in a tight first 40 minutes.
The scoreboard remained untouched until the 63-minute mark as Jordan Turner dived onto a Matty Russell mistake for the sole score of the second half in a match affected by the adverse weather.
Warrington looked good early, as a Lee Gaskell kick ricocheted into the arms of Ben Currie before handing off to Goodwin, only to be halted by a great recovery tackle from Brough.
However, Warrington created a four-man overlap on the left edge where an inch-perfect chip from Ratchford was collected by a diving Lineham, whose momentum on the greasy surface slid him into the in-goal area for the first try of the match after five minutes.
The wet conditions limited both sides from passing the ball around but Huddersfield managed to hit back nine minutes later when they worked their way to the Warrington line and a short pass from Brough found Ferguson who crossed.
Huddersfield soon extended their lead with terrific play on the final tackle after a cross-field kick by Jordan Rankin was kept alive by Turner, before a grubber kick by Jake Mamo was not dealt with by two Warrington defenders allowing McIntosh to nip in.
Price's side were inches from reducing the gap as Declan Patton looked to lay on a replica of Lineham's first score with another weighted kick to the left edge, but the winger could not hold onto the ball with the line at his mercy.
Former Scotland captain Brough improved the Giants' advantage to 10 points with a routine penalty and the hosts thought they had crossed once more when Mamo sliced through the Warrington defence, but it was chalked off for obstruction before Goodwin reduced the deficit on the half-time hooter to 14-6.
The visitors began the second half on the front foot as they pinned Huddersfield in their own half with successive goal-line drop-outs and penalties but the home defence continued to hold firm.
A half-break from Goodwin led Warrington back into the Giants half but a stray pass from Kevin Brown found the touchline with two men free on the left wing, before another drop-out came to nothing as the second half remained scoreless until 63 minutes.
Warrington prop Mike Cooper was put on report for an alleged kick whilst in possession, and the hosts capitalised on the infringement when a short kick from Brough was pounced on by Turner after Russell failed to collect.
The Huddersfield half-back added the conversion from the touchline to improve their lead to 14 points with 17 minutes remaining and that was how it stayed.