Talking Points: Sunday rugby league, Channel 4 bonus and Curtis Sironen


THERE were plenty of talking points from what was eventually an ugly Saints win over Castleford.

From Sunday rugby, Channel 4, Tommy Makinson’s return and the impact of Curtis Sironen.

1. Saints fighting for Super League wins.

Saints started yesterday’s game strongly – and when Curtis Sironen’s early score was added to by one from Morgan Knowles it looked very much like Kristian Woolf’s men were going to post the perfect riposte to last week’s hammering at Salford.

And had Tommy Makinson been able to polish off that couple of Jonny Lomax’s kicks wide, and if some of the passes stuck then the scoreboard would have looked a lot more emphatic by even half time.

Although Saints always seemed comfortable in the first hour, the performance became a little disjointed – not helped by Jack Welsby going off for a HIA or Sironen getting a yellow card.

Cas never went away and the 20-0 lead Saints had at the hour mark was suddenly vulnerable when the worked the ball for powerful winger Bureta Faraimo to finish off three unconverted tries.

So ugly at times, but 22 games into a tough season – and one plagued by injury – means that Saints simply have to find ways to keep winning.

It won’t be pretty at times – but the subsequent games against Hull, Hull KR, Wigan, Wakefield and Toulouse Saints need to simply get enough wins to secure top or top two and then hope that they get some more bodies back for the business end and don’t lose any more to injury.

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2. Tommy Makinson.

One player who did come back on Sunday was Tommy Makinson after missing the last four games.

He was centimeters away from finishing a couple of opportunities, was alert enough to pluck a short drop out of the air and brought his trademark energy and enthusiasm. But his most telling contribution was his 15 plus carries that allowed the pack something to rumble forward out of yardage.

Until Will Hopoate and Mark Percival return, there will be plenty of focus on that edge delivering.

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3. Sunday rugby league.

There were a few grumbles from a couple of Friday fans who were not able to attend after the switch to Sunday for TV purposes. There will always be winners and losers on game days – and Sundays are a lot more popular among those fans who want to take young children.

It does seem that a lot of fans prefer Fridays for homes but Sundays for aways – but obviously that can’t please everybody.

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The gate was 10,144 with a pretty low traveling support – but a combination of the peak holiday season, the cost of living crisis and the game being broadcast free to every living room on Channel 4 means that is a decent attendance.

Sunday was always the traditional day for rugby league from the 1970s onwards – and on the face of it playing games in daylight (with no need to put the floodlights on in these days of costly energy prices) should allow clubs to make game day more of an event.

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That is something that is limited on a rush from work on a Friday night.

But it is no longer that simple. TV selections wreak havoc with any planning – not simply for the game day but to coaches who want a relatively consistent turnaround.

Not just that, Sundays are now wall-to-wall televised football – which was never a feature. And whether we like that or not Premiership football has a massive pull.

And finally our own work and leisure habits have changed. In contrast to the 70s, Sundays are no longer just a day of church, shops all shut and rubbish telly. And in the summer there are other distractions, plus plenty more who have to work in leisure and retail.

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4. Channel 4’s rugby league coverage is a breath of fresh air.

You just knew that broadening live Super League coverage beyond Sky Sports by extending a handful of games on Channel 4 would be good news for the sport.

And it has not simply been about getting extra pairs of eyes on the game by being broadcast free-to-air.

It is also about the quality of their output and the value this broadcaster has added to the appeal of the game as a whole.

Their build-up promo ad, led by James Graham, was just the sort of customized build-up the sport needs to grow an audience beyond the regulars.

Given they have just a handful of fixtures, they have been able to treat each game like an event – ​​and pick out a line, a theme that gives a taste to hook in those who are not necessarily aficionados of the game. That is a win all round. And on top of that – it’s always great to each Jammer’s passion for the Saints still burning brightly.

5. The boot of Danny Richardson still torments Saints.

The former Saints half back got the usual ‘used to play for a big club’ treatment when he returned on Sunday. It is only banter, of course, and as a half back he’ll be used to all manner of means to knock him off his game. Water off a duck’s back as they say.

That said, it is not the best chant to direct against a player who probably did not want to leave, but was just surplus to requirements at the time.

And given the service we had out of Theo Fages and then Lewis Dodd, it was undoubtedly the correct call as you can’t keep players like him in reserve.

But it probably fired him up even more on Sunday as he tormented Saints with an astute kicking game, plundering one 40/20 and another that had the same effect. We should want the lads that have come through the Saints system to do well, whatever colors they are wearing (but just not against Saints).

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6. Curtis Sironen’s muscular display.

How strong did Curtis Sironen look on Sunday? Remarkable given his arm was heavily strapped having picked up a bicep in the previous round at Salford. To misquote the famous Alex Murphy summary; “If he’s got a bad arm then I want two of them.”

He was unstoppable as he ripped through the Cas defense for the fourth minute try.

And in defense he joined in with Morgan Knowles, Matty Lees and Alex Walmsley in whacking the Cas ball carriers.

It was a relief to see him out there – particularly as the initial fear had been the same ruptured bicep as Jonny Lomax.

But that has now been tinged by another two-match ban for a high shot as he sought to save the line from a Cas raid with an instinctive reaction tackle.

The good news is that he’ll be back for the Wigan game.

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