Right then, where were we?
Oh, that’s right: when we last updated this thing, our one wish was for us to pick up some form ahead of the cup semi final.
Well, we couldn’t really have asked for much more in all honesty.
Salford rolling into town the week after that dreadful trip to East Yorkshire was just what the doctor order. Well, not that doctor, obviously.
It wasn’t the best of games to watch – the type of “I’m not bored, I’m just tired” game – but a straight forward victory against a team that is struggling was exactly what was needed.
They’re a funny side, Salford, aren’t they?
We really shouldn’t like them. They’re as near a neighbour as we have; they’re as obnoxious as Saints and as deluded as Widnes; cheat the salary cap like Wigan and have a knob head owner like Leigh, but they barely raise a hackle. The hilarious ‘should have bought Swinton’ chant is about all we bother mocking them with these days.
Thursday nights are a bit ‘meh’ anyway but when that “mob” rock up (do they get a free car share rota their season tickets or do they just work it out between themselves?), it’s quite hard to get up for it.
One of them tried to tell us that they were a bigger club than us as they’ve got a gym at their stadium he didn’t look too pleased when he was told that only small clubs have this imaginary league table of big club-ness and that the gym at Stinky Corner probably has more members that their ‘massive’ Rugby League Club.
Then followed a trip to West Yorkshire in the blazing sun, with another comprehensive victory, but, just as importantly, a game that saw Castleford reaffirm its place as the best away day in Super League.
Bradford Bulls may have been the club that set the standard for razzmatazz off the pitch as well as on it when the sport moved to summer, but with the Boot Room beer garden literally feet away from the turnstiles and a vast, open away end allowing you to watch the game with a cold beer, no stadium was made for summer rugby like The Fix-A-Pipe-Jungle.com-Arena-At-Wheldon-Road. Or whatever it’s called this week.
Of course, it’s a fucking shithole in those cold, dark nights in February, but the fixture list has been kind to us in recent years.
You can point out that we only scored one try more than Cas, who were boosted by the return of Rangi Chase making his second debut for the club, and that if they had got all their kicks, it would have been a much closer game.
But they didn’t, and it wasn’t, and at no point did anyone ever really feel Cas were going to pull off a miracle comeback victory. The distance on the scoreboard led to a sense of complacency, perhaps, and as ‘Classy Cas’ threw the ball around in the second half and scored a few tries, they really were nothing other than consolation.
Still, going into a major game as favourites never sits easy with any long-term Wire fan.
We were playing well, yes, in patches, and certain individuals in particular were strong – as they have been all season. Sandow, Ratchford, Gidley, Westerman, Currie and especially Brad Dwyer off the bench all impressed in patches and were potent individual attacking threats.
But we were still prone to the odd lapse in concentration in defence and probably lacked a genuine, free-flowing, fluid team performance that we all know the team are capable of, but haven’t shown for a while.
That was, of course, until we made the short trip to Leigh on Saturday.
After Sandow’s 40-20 in the opening set of the game, followed by turning over possesion and letting Wakey in for a soft try to take the lead, the more of anxious Wire fans were certainly having flashbacks of last season’s horror show at Headingley, where the best possible start was followed by a brain fart, a try for Hull KR and us never really looking comfortable in the game.
The more optimistic Wire fans would have been glad to see us go behind so early on. A kick up the arse, a reality check, a chance to ‘grow into the game’, etc.
And, thank fuck, they were the ones who were right, as people began booking their Wembley tickets and hotels during the second half.
In a near-flawless hour of rugby league, Wire ran in 52 unanswered points.
It was the best team performance for a good while, though we did lose a bit of concentration late on and allowed Wakey in for a few consolation tries.
We couldn’t really begrudge the artists-formerly-known-as-the-Wildcats a few points on their big day, though, especially not the affable Nick Scruton, who seemed to most appreciate the genuinely well-meant applause from the Wire fans as they returned to set up for kick off.
After three consecutive semi final losses, it obviously feels fucking amazing to be back at Wembley. It has been far too long between drinks, but this current crop of players in arguably the best side we have had since that 2011 season when we looked invincible, but ended up not reaching a final.
This time around, we are still on course for a treble. As are, to be fair, Hull.
The Airlie Birds, like us, had a fucking dreadful season last year and have been threatening to ‘crack the top four’ for as long as we have. Both clubs moved from well-loved but decrepit old grounds into brand new, ultra-modern, shiny new stadiums, have been well-run off the pitch for some time and are now looking genuine contenders for silverware.
One club is guaranteed to lift a trophy this season, surely a true vindication of both the salary cap and the structures in place to make a more competitive competition.
After two decades of super league, only four clubs have actually won at Old Trafford, surely a new name on the trophy would be a massive boost to the whole sport. With the super eights starting this week, both Challenge Cup finalists occupy first and second place in the league, there has never been a better chance for that to happen.
From our point of view, as we approach the ‘business end of the season’, we have our place at Wembley secured, we are two points off top of the league and are hitting a bit of good form just at the right time.
Fucking come on.
It’s always our year.