We round up the key lines from the head coaches’ post-match press conferences after a dramatic first day of Super League’s 2021 Magic Weekend at St James’ Park in Newcastle, which included Catalans Dragons claiming the League Leaders’ Shield for the first time in their history…
Daryl Powell praised his Castleford Tigers team for coming through in adverse circumstances as they overcame a resilient Salford Red Devils side in the opening game of the weekend.
Player of the match Peter Mata’utia and Jordan Turner were deputising in the halves, while Paul McShane’s comeback from an abdominal injury lasted just 40 minutes before being forced off at half-time.
Tigers head coach Powell felt his side were not at their best, but was nonetheless impressed with how they overcame those difficulties to keep their bid for a place in the play-offs on track.
“Obviously we didn’t have any of our recognised half-backs,” Powell said. “Peter and JT stood in and I thought they did a great job, but we were never going to be as fluent.
“Losing Paul McShane at half-time put us under pressure but Adam Milner came on and I thought he was exceptional for us.
“We’ve got two games left and we’re in a great position. The players are hanging tough and finding a way to win games when they’re under pressure.”
Salford kept in the hunt for large parts of the game thanks to tries from Ken Sio, Joe Burgess and Ata Hingano, and Powell’s opposite number Richard Marshall felt they let the match slip from their grasp.
“They looked desperate today and they just got on top of us,” Marshall said. “They unravelled us defensively in the first half. I thought we fixed it up in the second half and it came down to a few one-on-one misses.
“The opportunities were there for us but defensively I didn’t think they had to do too much to score their tries.
“We got to within four points with 12 minutes to go and probably created our downfall.”
Steve McNamara admitted Catalans Dragons were second-best for much of their top-of-the-table clash with St Helens, but was nevertheless delighted to claim a maiden League Leaders’ Shield.
Three tries inside the final four minutes saw the French side claw back a 30-12 deficit to send the match into golden point, with James Maloney landing the crucial drop goal to seal a historic triumph.
Ever the one for driving higher and higher standards for his team though, Dragons boss McNamara was not satisfied with some aspects of their display.
“I thought we started the game really well, but I thought we were second best for a fair part of the game,” McNamara said.
“It was a very dramatic finish, it’s outstanding for our club and winning League Leaders is a by-product and everything else that goes with that – the golden point and the way we nearly blew it, they nearly blew it and we managed to get it with an amazing drop goal.
“[But] you look at it in the cold light of day – it wasn’t good enough for us to be able to perform like that for those 80 minutes.”
St Helens head coach Kristian Woolf was dismayed as to how the reigning champions let the result slip through their grasp, blaming a lack of intensity in the final 10 minutes.
“For somewhere between 60 and 70 minutes I thought we’d played as well as we have and we really had the game well in control,” Woolf said.
“Unfortunately, we dropped our intensity. We stopped playing and when you do that, and you leave it to chance, you can get your pants pulled down.
“It was only a 10-minute period that we dropped our intensity, and a 10-minute period was enough to hurt us.”
Richard Agar hailed the energy of his Leeds Rhinos side as they took a massive step towards securing a place in the Super League play-offs with a dramatic golden-point win over Hull FC to close out day one at St James’ Park.
Kruise Leeming was the hero with the drop goal, while Jack Broadbent marked his return to action with a try in a game which saw the Rhinos forced into an early reshuffle after Rob Lui went off in the first half with a head injury.
Leeds had trailed by 10 points before clawing back level and sending it into extra-time, and head coach Agar was beaming with pride afterwards.
“I’m really proud,” Agar said. “If we hadn’t won the game, I couldn’t have faulted the effort, the determination was incredible from our guys.
“I felt we deserved the win, even though there was not much in it – pretty much all their points came off kicks. We kept bouncing back off the ropes and we didn’t stop playing.
“To summon up that type of energy was incredible. The game was nip and tuck – I thought it was a theatrical piece of sport.”
Hull FC now need to win their two remaining regular-season games and hope both Leeds and Castleford slip up in theirs to make the play-offs after dropping to eighth, and head coach Brett Hodgson bemoaned the manner in which he felt the Black and Whites stopped playing.
“It might be mathematical, but we’ll give it everything that we’ve got,” Hodgson said. “It’s not about the league table, it’s super important we finish the season off well.
“That badge contains a huge amount of history and we need to perform at our best in our last two matches against Wigan and Wakefield to uphold that history.
“I thought we went out in the second half and stopped playing. We could have been a lot better at rounding the game off.”