As expected before the round seven matches even began, it will be Wakefield Trinity Wildcats taking on Bradford Bulls in the Million Pound Game. However, both sides lost their final games in the Qualifiers to part-time Kingstone Press Championship teams. It’ll be interesting to see who responds better in the promotion showdown. Hull Kingston Rovers, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils have all confirmed their places in the 2016 First Utility Super League. Chris Chester’s Rovers finish the Qualifiers campaign with a 100% record to their name. Not many people will have predicted Leigh Centurions to finish bottom of the middle eights, but that’s exactly what’s happened after Sheffield leapfrogged Paul Rowley’s men with a win over Wakefield. Halifax have had a very impressive seven-game campaign, they’ve shown immense spirit and talent. With four permanent signings in the shape of Simon Grix, Will Sharp, Gavin Bennion and Jacob Fairbank already announced for next year, Richard Marshall’s side will be the ‘ones to watch’ once again. Sheffield Eagles are saying goodbye to a hefty number of their squad but Mark Aston’s recruitment can hardly be criticised over the years, so the steel city side are in good hands as they become a full-time operation.
Bradford Bulls 18-52 Halifax – Not the best preparation for the Million Pound Game for Bradford. Halifax were the better team throughout at the Provident Stadium and they picked up a deserved victory. It was the hosts who struck first however, Matt Ryan with the four-pointer after three minutes. Tommy Saxton and Steve Tyrer both scored a try each within seven minutes of each other to put Fax in the lead but two Ryan Shaw tries followed soon after, meaning the Bulls were back in front. Dane Manning grabbed a morale-boosting try with under a minute of the half remaining, Tyrer couldn’t convert so Halifax were two points down at the break. Their cause wasn’t helped one bit by Ryan Maneely, who was sin-binned on 41 minutes. But, as opposed to Bradford dominating with their numerical advantage, the side from The Shay regained the lead with Saxton’s second try of the afternoon. Once Halifax returned to their full complement of players, there was no looking back. Three tries for the visitors in less than ten minutes put the game beyond any doubt. Tyrer notched his second try of the day before Ben Johnston picked up a couple of tries, in no small part to Jacob Fairbank’s handy work with ball in hand. After Johnston’s second try, Halifax found themselves 38-18 to the good and they were certainly not letting their foot off the gas. Adam Tangata, Ben Heaton, and Tyrer all added tries in the dying embers to put the cherry on top of a very impressive Halifax cake.
Prediction – Bradford by 16
Result – Halifax by 34
Hull Kingston Rovers 46-22 Salford Red Devils – Ladbrokes Challenge Cup finalists Hull Kingston Rovers made sure their 100% record in the Qualifiers was going to stay till the bitter end. Despite being two scores down at the break, Chris Chester’s men turned on the style in the second half by scoring 36 points without reply. Greg Johnson opened the scoring for the visitors following an offload from Junior Sa’u. The Robins hit back with two tries in three minutes through outgoing centre Kris Welham and George Lawler. But it’s fair to say the first half belonged to the Red Devils, who backed up Johnson’s earlier score with three more tries. Harrison Hansen, Lama Tasi and Ryan Lannon all crossed the Hull KR whitewash as their side moved out to a 12 point advantage after the opening period. But Salford had no answer to the Rovers renaissance in the second half. Before the hour mark had even hit, Hull KR had flipped their two score deficit into a two score advantage. Josh Mantellato, Ken Sio, Dane Chisholm and Australia-bound Tyrone McCarthy all touched down during a 13 minute period where the visitors just collapsed. Two tries came in the final quarter through Ben Cockayne and Maurice Blair. Job done for Hull KR, who won’t be wanting to be in the Qualifiers next year despite their unblemished record in 2015.
Prediction – Salford by 8
Result – Hull KR by 24
Sheffield Eagles 24-10 Wakefield Trinity Wildcats – Sheffield Eagles claimed their first Super League scalp in the final round of Qualifiers matches. Mark Aston’s side beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats 24-10 at Bramall Lane. To add to an impressive performance by Sheffield, their top tier opponents were left scoreless in the second half. It took 18 minutes for the opening try and it came through Scott Turner in his final match for Sheffield. Eight minutes later came another four-pointer for the hosts, and yet again it was full-back Quentin Laulu-Togagae doing the handy work. The Samoan picked a pass to Cory Aston, leaving the half-back to stride over the whitewash. Walker converted for a 10-0 lead. Danny Kirmond responded a few plays later for Wakefield. The back-rower found his way over the line on his return to the side after three months out. With four minutes left of the first half, Eagles increased their lead courtesy of Menzie Yere, who profited from a deft grubber from Laulu-Togagae . Walker converted but Wakefield cut the deficit on the hooter as Ben Kavanagh barged over from close range. At half-time, the hosts led by six points. Pat Walker made it a two score game with a penalty goal during the final quarter. It seemed like Sheffield’s resolve in defence was going to be rewarded. When James Davey set Laulu-Togagae away into open space, the Eagles fans in the stand went ballistic as they knew their side were going to pick up an extra £50,000 for avoiding a bottom place finish. Walker converted for 24-10 and despite Wakefield pressing hard for a consolation, Sheffield had enough spirit and nous to deny them any second half points.
Widnes Vikings 50-6 Leigh Centurions – A disappointing middle eights campaign finished under a black cloud for Leigh Centurions as they were taken to the cleaners by Widnes Vikings. It was the visitors who went into an early lead after six minutes, Ben Reynolds profited from a great piece of play from winger Liam Kay. Things started to go downhill for the Championship side once Widnes responded with a try from Patrick Ah Van. The conversion wasn’t successful but the missed two points didn’t matter when Kevin Brown scythed his way throughout the Leigh defence on 25 minutes. Gareth Hock was sin-binned soon afterwards for Paul Rowley’s side, so more attacking pressure was being applied by the Vikings as the first half entered the final ten minutes. Their four point advantage turned into 14 points, following tries from Charly Runciman and Paddy Flynn. Five tries went the way of the hosts in the second half, the first came from Alex Gerrard who made amends for his disallowed try earlier on in the half. Rhys Hanbury crossed the whitewash a minute before the hour mark hit, the full-back struck from long distance to the delight of the Widnes faithful. Joe Mellor, Ah Van and Jack Owens were the final three try-scorers during the final quarter.
Prediction – Widnes by 14
Result – Widnes by 44