7 Apr 2021

Round 2 talking points

Warriors full back dilemma

Zak Hardaker showed us once again his unrivalled ability at full back with a commanding performance during the Warriors 34-6 victory against Wakefield Trinity. Hardaker's try, try assist, 8 tackle breaks and 152 metres followed his round 1 effort of a try, try assist, 7 tackle breaks and 242 metres - elite numbers from an elite player. Hardaker is no stranger to the full back role and has made no secret of his desire to play there.

Bevan French's imminent and timely return to action - the Warriors are desperately in need of reinforcements across their back line - leaves head coach Adrian Lam with a difficult and unenviable decision to make. French was arguably the most exciting player in Super League last season - his mazy running and exhilarating brand of rugby was a joy to watch - as he became the Warriors first choice number 1. 

But Hardaker's start to the year has undoubtedly created a selection headache for Lam at full back. Hardaker's versatility and form at centre last season will likely result in him reverting back to that position when French returns - especially given the Warriors were forced to play two back rowers in the centre position against Trinity last week. 

Never the less, to have quality players such as Hardaker and French competing for one role is a luxury not many coaches have. Both are hugely exciting, enigmatic players that have an innate ability to change a game for their team. Hardaker's early season form can hopefully - for the Warriors sake - be continued in the centre spot when French is once again available for selection. 

Fairy tale ending for Powell?

After the Tigers Good Friday victory against the Rhinos, Daryl Powell was asked about his end of season departure from Castleford. Powell admitted there was some apprehension about the squads reaction, given the announcement was so close to the start of the 2021 campaign - but was pleased with the teams response during the opening two rounds of the season.

The reaction of the players and the manor in which they have won their two games – both against quality opposition – reflects both Powell’s influence at the club and his relationship with the Tigers players. A man who is highly respected and a coach who has invested so much to make Castleford the force they are today.

If their first two games are anything to go by, it may well be a fairy tale ending for Daryl Powell. The Tigers have started the year in scintillating form – led by experienced players such as reigning Man of Steel Paul McShane.

McShane, along with the impressive Jake Trueman and new signing Niall Evalds, have been instrumental in the sides two victories in 2021. Add to the mix a fit again Danny Richardson, and the Tigers are in with a real chance to compete at seasons end. The key factor – as is the case at most clubs – is whether Daryl Powell can keep his top players fit. The Tigers struggled last year when they lost players such as Trueman and Liam Watts to injuries for large chunks of the year – resulting in individuals like McShane playing out of position on numerous occasions. 

With the quality of player that Powell has at his disposal this year, you’d be crazy to write them off. However, their success will ultimately depend on how their star players are managed and whether Powell can keep them fresh and firing for the remainder of the year.

The Reynolds effect

Hull FC produced another dominant performance in round 2 to maintain their winning start to 2021. A team that last season struggled for consistency have begun the new year looking like a side that could challenge near the top. The introduction of a new head coach has undoubtedly revitalised the black and whites - as has their new half back, Josh Reynolds. 

The introduction of Reynolds in the Hull spine has seemingly brought out the best in their play makers. Marc Sneyd - who is typically their first receiver and general on the pitch - has more time to guide his troops around the field along with Danny Houghton, who has flourished in the opening rounds back in his familiar starting hooker role. Sneyd's ability to direct traffic in attack has allowed the unpredictable and energetic Reynolds to roam free out wide and create time and space for the in-form Jake Connor.

Connor's early season performances have been nothing short of superb - the black and whites new number 1 seems to be a more assured and mature player working under former full back and Man of Steel Brett Hodgson. The ability of his half backs to dictate the pace of the game allows Jake Connor to float around out wide as a second phase option and provide ample opportunities for Hull's dangerous back line to pounce.

Again, it's still early in the season, but Hull FC have already shown huge improvements in attack - they have scored more points than any other team after two rounds. And - perhaps even more importantly - have a new found resilience in defence which, at times last year, was severely lacking.