LONDON (Reuters) - While Britain’s sporting weekend cupboard was left almost bare by the coronavirus crisis, it was business as usual in Super League as Castleford Tigers beat St Helens 28-14 in front of a sizeable crowd at The Jungle on Sunday.
Peter Mata’utia’s early try and two from Derrell Olpherts put the hosts in command and although Tommy Makinson replied before halftime, Castleford built on their advantage in the second half with Jack Welsby and Jake Trueman going over.
“It’s been a mental week not knowing if we were going to be playing or not, but we just had to focus on ourselves and getting the two points against a great side,” Castleford’s Paul McShane told Sky Sports.
Castleford went joint top with victory over the defending Super League champions, although when they play again is uncertain as the country’s other sports have largely been suspended due to coronavirus.
The British government on Thursday moved to the second stage of its response to the pandemic which has infected 163,000 people globally and killed around 6,000.
Infections in Britain jumped by more than 200 on Sunday to 1,372, with 14 deaths bringing the total to 35.
Premier League and Football League soccer has been suspended until April 3-4 at the earliest while around the world, soccer, tennis, Formula 1, all major American sports leagues and golf have ground to a halt.
Yet Super League elected to carry on, following the government’s decision not to outlaw mass gatherings in an effort to combat the spread of the virus.
It has inevitably raised eyebrows although RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said that unless the advice changes they will be going forward with the season.
“I won’t pre-empt any decision from government,” he told BBC Radio 5 live. “We have managed to liaise with them regularly and they have been very direct with their guidance.
“We’ll be meeting the professional early this week to talk about what the options may look like in the future. But until anything changes we’ll be going forward.”
Responding to surprise that Super League was continuing when the country’s soccer leagues had acted independently to suspend, he said they were simply following government advice, pointing out that the Cheltenham racing festival went ahead last week.
“At the moment it’s everyone’s prerogative to choose what they want to do but nevertheless the games are on,” he said.
Castleford coach Daryl Powell said suspending Super League would be damaging to clubs.
“There’s no doubt about it, the main taking point this week has been coronavirus,” he said.
“The way it’s already impacting on all our lives and the sporting landscape is incredible,” Powell added.
“Financially, soccer can probably cop it but I don’t think rugby league can so there will be some serious thinking going on behind closed doors to see what needs to be done.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond