Dave Craven: Shredding the nerves as midweek encounters prove thrillers

Castleford's Marc Sneyd
Castleford's Marc Sneyd
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THURSDAY Night Football is fast becoming rugby league’s very own version of Fright Night Football.

That is not with the regards to the spectators – invariably they are served up some tremendous action – but for journalists it is becoming all too stressful.

That is because, quite remarkably, four of the last five Super League fixtures staged on Thursday evenings for broadcast purposes have actually finished level.

More often than not, too, the defining plays have actually gone down to the very final moments which all makes great television but does little for the blood pressure of reporters needing to file their copy on the hooter. Huddersfield Giants’ frenetic game at Warrington two nights ago was the most dramatic (stressful) yet.

Danny Brough’s equalising drop goal with just 39 seconds remaining, after his side had already squandered a 23-6 lead to fall behind, meant there were at a least a couple of re-writes in the closing stages. There may have been a third, too, when Michael Monaghan insisted Huddersfield’s Leroy Cudjoe had performed a voluntary tackle in front of his own posts just as the hooter sounded.

The stakes were not as high but there was certainly shades of Chris Joynt’s similar effort for St Helens in their 2002 Grand Final win over Bradford Bulls.

That was not awarded, though, and neither was this. Maybe referee Ben Thaler just thought enough was enough with the nerve-shredding entertainment. For everyone.

But it has become a common occurrence. In the previous Thursday night contest, on August 14, Wigan’s Josh Charnley scored with just two seconds remaining to level 14-14 at Hull KR, leaving Matty Smith with a touchline conversion after the hooter to win it.

He missed that which meant the draw theme continued.

Although Wigan had vanquished Salford City Reds 45-4 at the end of July, that was an anomaly in the sequence.

A week earlier, Marc Sneyd had inspired a fightback at Hull FC to deny his future employers a win, the stand-off proving a catalyst in the 18-18 draw.

He, too, missed with a late touchline kick after the visitors had scored three tries in the last 13 minutes to retrieve an 18-4 deficit.

It was a second successive draw for Daryl Powell’s side after they have finished 24-24 at Headingley the previous week.

Relatively speaking, Grant Millington’s 74th-minute try for Castleford had given scribes plenty of time to sort that one out – if not for the small matter of England captain Kevin Sinfield having also been sent off for the first time in his 17-year career moments earlier.

Prior to that, Wakefield had won but only marginally, prospering 12-10, and only after Patrick Ah Van was bundled into touch attempting to score in the final minute.

No wonder Sky Sports are planning to make Thursday nights a staple of their service for a third season running in 2015.

All of which has left me slightly pleased looking at the upcoming fixtures.

This Thursday sees St Helens host Warrington and, seven days later, it is Wigan v Warrington which, of course, means not a Yorkshire side in sight.

That, then, translates to me watching both games from the sanctuary of my sofa – and keeping fingers crossed for all my harassed colleagues.