Super Saturday provides golden moments for Championship

Halifax pushed Leeds Rhinos close, but the Super League came out on top on Sunday. On Saturday, all three Championship clubs beat their Super League opponents.. Rhinos Luke Briscoe scores his try. 23rd September 2018.
Halifax pushed Leeds Rhinos close, but the Super League came out on top on Sunday. On Saturday, all three Championship clubs beat their Super League opponents.. Rhinos Luke Briscoe scores his try. 23rd September 2018.
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Championship clubs enjoyed their very own Super Saturday when, in unprecedented style, they defeated Super League rivals 3-0 at the weekend.

Not only did Toulouse come from 19-0 down to beat Hull KR in the south of France but London Broncos also edged Salford Red Devils 11-8 at Ealing.

Furthermore, Toronto Wolfpack completed the trio of second-tier victories by beating Widnes Vikings 20-12 in Ontario, a result that also relegated their opponents and ended their seven-year stay in the top-flight.

Never in its four-year history have Championship clubs had such combined success in the Qualifiers.

It is all the more ironic given Saturday’s stunning results came barely a week after it was decided the oft-maligned format would be disbanded for 2019 with a one-up, one-down promotion and relegation preferred.

Yet the Qualifiers continue to be utterly compelling; heading into this week’s final round still no side is yet confirmed of a Super League place next term.

Leeds Rhinos are in first after yesterday’s 36-6 win over Halifax and two points ahead of Salford, Toronto and Hull KR who sit second, third and fourth, separated only by points difference.

It would need a remarkable chain of events for Rhinos not to qualify in any of the automatic top-three spots even if they lose at home to Toronto on Friday.

However, below them it is intriguing; Toulouse and London sit fifth and sixth but just two points behind that clutch of teams in joint-second.

That means they can both still be promoted automatically let alone via the Million Pound Game involving fourth and fifth.

Toulouse head to Salford on Thursday while London host winless Halifax on Saturday, Hull KR rounding off at home to Widnes the following day.

Points difference will almost certainly decide some final places in what should be a fascinating finish.

Of all the sides, Hull KR will be spitting most after letting that 19-0 advantage slip to lose 34-23 at the Stade Ernest Argeles

Tim Sheens’s men made the perfect start thanks to tries from Robbie Mulhern, Craig Hall and Chris Atkin inside the first quarter but a poor defensive performance was ruthlessly exposed by Toulouse as they turned the game on its head either side of half-time.

“To be 19 points up and get run down and run over is very, very disappointing,” Sheens said.

“I think we got in front and thought we just had to keep going and we’d win the game but those three tries in the first half brought them right back into it.

“I think we put the cue on the rack at 19-0 and that’s not good enough for a Super League side or any side for that matter.

“To say I’m not happy is an understatement but I’ve got to keep a level head on things.”

London – who had already beaten Widnes – produced their best defensive display of the season when they needed it most, said coach Danny Ward.

Their victory over Salford was built on the hosts’ ability to shut down the Red Devils for large periods after taking the lead.

Ward said: “I’m drained by the game, so I can’t imagine how the boys are feeling! It was good to watch to see how well the boys were playing and they were fantastic, their attitude and work-rate was excellent.”

Meanwhile, Widnes chief executive James Rule says they will keep a full-time team despite dropping into the Championship.

He described relegation “as a devastating moment” and apologised for “the experiences of the past two years” in a statement issued within minutes of the club’s third defeat by Championship opponents.

Widnes finished bottom two years running and must now win the 2019 Championship Grand Final to reclaim their place.