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09 February 2019 08:30

Hull F.C. Castleford Tigers Kingston upon Hull

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Northampton Saints v Newcastle Falcons: Tom Vickers' semi-final preview

The Super League champions, Wigan, took full advantage of another miserable Leeds performance to claim their first victory of the new season, ensuring the Rhinos remain winless under their new coach, Dave Furner. Leeds led twice in an entertaining opening quarter courtesy of tries for Ash Handley and Brett Ferres but were then thoroughly outplayed by a Warriors side who eradicated the two-point deduction imposed on them by the RFL for a salary cap breach before next weekend's World Club Challenge against the Australian champions, Sydney Roosters. "I was encouraged – they never gave up and that's the main thing." Handley's and Ferres's tries gave Leeds six-point advantages but by half-time Wigan, and their outstanding half-back, George Williams, had taken control. After Dan Sarginson's earlier try Wigan scored three more before the break to lead 22-12, with Williams playing a part in all three through his superb kicking. They had plenty of chances after the break to kill off Leeds but did so only in the final quarter as a Zak Hardaker penalty and Williams try put the game beyond the Rhinos.

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Wigan Warriors 34 Leeds Rhinos 16: Promise is erased by familiar failings

The 34-16 win over Leeds lifted the reigning champions off the foot of the table and provided a timely boost ahead of next week's World Club Challenge clash with the Sydney Roosters. Former Barrow prop Joe Bullock scored his first Super League try as he once more demonstrated his comfort at this level while fullback Zak Hardaker kicked five goals on an accomplished home debut. The Rhinos were gifted a dream start when winger Ash Handley collected a ricochet after the ball bounced off the shoulder of opposite number Tom Davies, inside two minutes. Leeds had to work a little harder for their second try, as opposite winger Tom Briscoe kept the ball alive and second rower Brett Ferres proved unstoppable. Tui Lolohea added both conversions as the Rhinos led 12-6 but were twice undone by the kicking game of Wigan half-backs George Williams and Thomas Leuluai which produced tries for centre Dan Sarginson and forwards Ben Flower and Joe Greenwood.

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It was, however, a score that flattered the hosts, with referee Ben Thaler missing a knock-on in the build-up to Wigan's first try and bringing back fullback Jack Walker for a harsh forward pass from prop Trent Merrin. Friday night's 34-16 round-two win over Leeds Rhinos lifted the reigning champions off the foot of the table and provided them with a timely boost ahead of next week's World Club Challenge clash with Australian premiers Sydney Roosters. Former Barrow prop Joe Bullock scored his first Super League try as he once more demonstrated his comfort at this level, while former Leeds full-back Zak Hardaker kicked five goals on an accomplished home debut. The Rhinos' performance was actually a significant improvement on their first-round defeat by Warrington and they were gifted a dream start when left winger Ash Handley collected a ricochet after the ball bounced off the shoulder of his opposite number Tom Davies, inside two minutes. Leeds had to work a little harder for their second try, as right winger Tom Briscoe kept the ball alive and second rower Brett Ferres proved unstoppable as he charged onto Tui Lolohea's pass.

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Lolohea added both conversions as the Rhinos led 12-6 but they were twice undone by the kicking game of Wigan half-backs George Williams and Thomas Leuluai, which produced tries for centre Dan Sarginson and forwards Ben Flower and Joe Greenwood. It was, however, a score that flattered the hosts, with referee Ben Thaler missing a knock-on in the build-up to Wigan's first try and bringing back full-back Jack Walker for a harsh forward pass from prop Trent Merrin. Wigan were forced to switch second rower Wilie Isa to centre on the 200th appearance of his career after losing Sarginson to injury at half-time but they were good enough to consolidate their winning position. Wigan Warriors got their Super League season up and running with a 34-16 victory over Leeds Rhinos on Friday. And it was Wigan who got off the mark at the DW Stadium, scoring six tries after the visitors had begun brightly to warm up for next weekend's World Club Challenge against NRL champions Sydney Roosters with a win.

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The Warriors' Zak Hardaker - back this season after a drugs ban - converted all but one of those scores, making his home debut for his new club against the team with which he won three Grand Finals. Leeds twice went ahead inside the opening quarter of an hour as Ash Handley and Brett Ferres went over either side of Dan Sarginson's reply on the end of George Williams' cross-field kick. They battled from behind to beat Leeds 34-16, although the victory came at a cost as Dan Sarginson suffered an ankle injury which puts him in doubt for next week's World Club Challenge against Sydney Roosters. THERE ARE signs Leeds Rhinos can become a good team, but last night's 34-16 defeat at Wigan Warriors showed they are still some way from that at the moment. Wigan scored a couple of tries in penalty sets, one when the officials missed a knock-on in the build up, so Leeds could feel aggrieved, but they should be more concerned about their inability to defend kicks which led to the hosts' first three tries.

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Then Watkins was penalised for a ball steal and Wigan again made the gift count as the impressive Joe Bullock brushed off Walker's attempted tackle for the hosts' fourth try and a 10-point lead after Hardaker had tagged on the extras. Watkins went over for an unconverted try from Lolohea's pass after Leeds snaffled a short kick-off, but Wigan wrapped things up when Hardaker sent Farrell over and tagged on his fifth goal. Sydney Roosters – who take on Wigan in the World Club Challenge a week tomorrow – have named former Leeds winger Ryan Hall in their 23-man travelling squad, but he is still recovering from a knee reconstruction and is not expected to play. Director of rugby Chris Boyd makes six changes to the starting XV that saw off East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers last time out, with Teimana Harrison set to lead Northampton again at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday (kick-off: 12.15pm). David Ribbans returns to the engine room alongside Api Ratuniyarawa, while the only change to the front row sees Ehren Painter come in at tighthead with Francois van Wyk and James Fish selected again by Boyd.

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Meanwhile Boyd has opted for a 6-2 split amongst the replacements, with the likes of Alex Waller – in line for his 250th Club appearance if he enters the fray – Tom Wood, Paul Hill, and Heinrich Brüssow all hoping to make an impact off a bench packed full of experience.