There was never any doubt that life after Jamie Peacock, Kevin Sinfield and Kylie Leuluai would be hard for Leeds Rhinos but few expected the surprisingly disappointing start to 2016 they have suffered.
After a home defeat to Warrington in round one, a 56-12 hammering by Widnes on Sunday has left the Rhinos sitting at the bottom of the Super League table.
Losing three modern-day greats was never going to be easy, and Leeds haven’t been helped by injuries, including one to captain Danny McGuire, who was always going to have to take on more responsibility without Sinfield.
The Rhinos had already been without Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Stevie Ward, and lost Tom Briscoe, Ashton Golding and Carl Ablett all before half-time at Widnes.
Still, with the amount of internationals in their squad, Leeds remained favourites to beat their opponents, so huge credit must go to Denis Betts’ Vikings, who bought well in the winter and continue to be incredibly tough to beat on their famous ‘i-pitch.’
One of their new signings, Corey Thompson, grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick on his home debut and in Kevin Brown, Joe Mellor and Lloyd White, they have one of the most consistent and settled 6, 7, 9 combinations in the league and look like they could well break into the top eight this season.
Elsewhere, Hull FC, Warrington and Wigan also kept their 100 per cent records intact.
Hull FC were quite well fancied following their spending in the off-season and seem to be justifying their tag as ones to watch, most recently with a superb 38-10 away win over Catalans, who lost just twice at home last year.
Warrington were also convincing winners at home to Hull KR, with new signing Tom Lineham proving his worth with a hat-trick in a 38-8 win.
Wigan, meanwhile, recorded a narrow win for the second week running, this time over an injury-hit Huddersfield side, who looked set to take the two points only for Josh Charnley’s late score. Paul Anderson was still pleased with the showing from his young Giants.
Before Widnes’ win over Leeds it looked like the result of the round was going to come from Salford, as the Red Devils bounced back from a defeat to Hull FC by surprising everyone in thrashing St Helens 44-10, vindicating early-season predictions that this could well be the toughest Super League campaign to call yet.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.