Tuesday, September 29, 2020

World Club Challenge 2020: NRL proves to be much stronger again

The Sydney Roosters demolished St Helens in the World Club Challenge, the annual battle between the winners of the Super League and the NRL. Despite taking time to warm up, the Australian champions continued the southern-hemispheres dominance of the competition over the last 10 seasons.

Slow start doesn’t derail Roosters

St Helens started the stronger of the two teams, giving Sydney little room to gain metres with impressive line speed, and putting heavy hits in. The Roosters seemed a little rattled, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, in particular, giving away some silly penalties early on.

It allowed St Helens to put good pressure on, and take the lead through Luke Thompson early on. Despite that good start, it was the Roosters who would lead 8-6 at half-time with tries from Daniel Tupou and Joseph Manu.

Again St Helens started the second half better, but the Roosters were clinical while the Saints made numerous mistakes around the try-line. Second-half tries from Luke Keary, and a second for Joseph Manu put the game out of reach before a late St Helens consolation try.

Despite only starting their pre-season preparations in the last few weeks, and St Helens already being three games into their season, the NRL champions showed once again the talent gap between their league and the Super League.

The fitness gulf at this stage was obvious for all to see, and last seasons Roosters weakness out wide was once again evident, and maybe more of a concern with the loss of Latrell Mitchell. But the clinical way the Aussies put the English side away again will have disappointed many.

Roosters win again

Several times, particularly in the second half, Saints had the Roosters exposed wide inside the Sydney 10 metre line. But it always ended with either a knock-on or a careless pass into touch. While the weather wasn’t helping, the Roosters had no such problems putting away their chances.

With the NRL champions now having won eight of the last ten World Club Challenges, including seven of the last eight, the Super League has a long way to go if they want to get some pride back.

Saints go down to rare defeat

The Saints suffered only three defeats all of the last seasons, highlighting the gulf between the NRL and Super League. St Helens putting up 916 points in their 29 games with a +521 points differential.

Despite that immense gap in class within the Super League, Saints were unable to put anywhere enough points on the board to challenge the NRL Grand Final winners. The Roosters for their part lost four times in twenty-four games on their way to retaining their NRL crown.

The Roosters now sit atop the table for World Club Challenge titles with five, moving ahead of Wigan on four, and Melbourne, Leeds, and Bradford on three.

World Club Challenge 2020 ends with Roosters retaining title © News Images
World Club Challenge 2020 ends with Roosters retaining title © News Images

The irony of the current situation is the original idea for the competition was thought to be impractical due to the leagues seasons not being synchronised.

If only we could see a genuine contest between  a Wigan and a Brisbane – a World Club final. Alas, it will never happen. Oh sure, a game might be arranged, but logistics dictate that one side would be out of season, rusty or tired, and away from home.

Sydney Herald, 1992

Despite being rusty and out of season, the NRL champions have shown an incredible level of dominance that is verging on the ridiculous. As the NRL teams begin their preseason around the time of the game, it’s hard to believe that they can withstand a full eighty-minutes of pressure in one of the more physical games in sports.

This World Club Challenge could have all been very different if St Helens had taken their chances, but as it stands the NRL continues to rule the league world.

Keep up to date with all the latest NRL news on our dedicated page here, and check out our twitter for the latest news from the sporting world here.

Ray Burton
Ray writes mostly in-depth analytical pieces covering a range of sports from a more statistical perspective drawing his inspiration from the fanalytics movement. Ray writes on the NFL, Premier League, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NRL.

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