Leeds Rhinos, the defending champions, will regain pole position today with victory over Warrington, but their quest for a hat-trick of titles could be thwarted by Hull, who are emerging as the surprise package of the season. Hull made it four wins out of four with a 28-20 victory over Huddersfield on Friday night and in Richard Horne they have arguably the form player in the competition.
The one-time Great Britain stand-off made just four appearances in 2008 because of a career-threatening neck injury and was then diagnosed with diabetes. But the Hull-born player has rediscovered his best form, scoring his 100th try for the club a week ago, and added another solo effort in their latest victory. "I think there is a real freshness about his game," said coach Richard Agar. "Whether that's to do with the amount of time he spent on the sidelines and in some of the dark places he's been, but he's in really good shape physically and mentally and it's reflecting in his performances. He has a talismanic presence for us."
Huddersfield, who opened the scoring with a try from captain Brett Hodgson, were lambasted by their coach Nathan Brown. "That was by far the worst performance they've put in since I came to the club," said Brown. "The effort in the first half just wasn't acceptable. There is a heap of blokes in there who should be embarrassed." Salford coach Shaun McRae was also an angry man after seeing Chris Melling, the Harlequins winger, score a hat-trick of tries against his side in a 48-18 defeat - their third in a row. "The supporters are entitled to be upset and angry, I am," said Salford coach Shaun McRae. "Perhaps we do owe them an apology."