Sunday, 30 March 2014

Seven Not Out For Saints

The build up to round seven foresaw a number of tight games, especially between four of the league's big five but close was far from the truth for one of the fierce ties while three sides posted 40+ points in strong wins.

                               Castleford Roar At London

London's woes continued on Thursday as they were hammered 6-54 by Castleford.

Castleford raced into a 0-18 lead through tries from Channing, Holmes and Shenton with Ellis converting all three due to Cas' main kicker, Marc Sneyd starting on the bench.

Vea was sin binned in the 32nd minute for London with Cas being denied a try instantly after a review before extending the lead as Finn went over and Ellis struck his fourth conversion for 0-24 at halftime.

Huby went over six minutes into the second period and Ellis' conversion gave the visitors a 30 point lead and surely securing the two points.

That was confirmed with a three try rally in the space of four minutes as Carney and Dorn scored either side of Shenton's second with Ellis converting the lot for a 0-48 lead.

Castleford posted their last score in the 66th minute when Carney claimed his second and Ellis made it 9/9 for a personal tally of 18 points but London avoid a nilling when McMeeken went over two minutes from the end with Drinkwater converting for 6-54. A correct result for me but my hopes of a 12pt gap seem to have been a delusion.

                               Super Seven For Saints

Friday night's standout tie saw St Helens host Leeds and it certainly lived up to the expectations of a close game with the score 6 all at halftime after McGuire's 18th minute opener (Sinfield conv) was cancelled out by Walker's try six minutes later with Makinson converting.

Sinfield kicked a penalty to make it 6-8 but Makinson scored a try to put Saints 10-8 up and with ten minutes to go, Sinfield kicked a second penalty for a 10-10 score but Saints made it seven wins in row when Makinson scored his second try in with a minute to go.

I expected Saints to stutter with their number of absentees but this win shows they are a real force in 2014.
Hull Shock Red Devils
Hull stunned Salford 30-8 for their first win in three but the first half was close with scores from Miller and Shaul (Crooks 2 convs) sandwiched a Johnson effort giving the hosts a 12-4 lead.

Crooks scored four minutes after the break and converted with further success five minutes later when Horne scored a fifth try for Hull extending the lead to 24-4.

Sa'u scored for Salford but a second missed conversion left the gap at 24-8 and the win was completed in the final minute when Watts went over for a try with Crooks kicking a fifth successive conversion for a haul of 14 points.

Bowen Double Stuns Dragons
Wigan hosted Catalans under heavy rain and fell behind early on with scores from Escare and Pomeroy coupled with Bosc's single conversion giving them a 0-10 lead.

Wigan hit back with a nice passage of play allowing Bowen to over for the try but Smith missed with the boot and the visitors led 4-10 at the break.

Catalan extended the lead as Escare capitalised on a loose ball from Bowen to claim his second try and Bosc converted for 4-16 with scores from Charnley and Farrell both converted by Smith bringing Wigan level at 16 all.

Wigan sealed the win in style as Bowen raced the length of the field to score his second try of the night in the final minute and Smith's third conversion made it 22-16 to the joy of the home crowd. The weather helped to dampen my hopes of an 18 pt. win.

Widnes Fourth After Narrow Win
Bradford's good week off the field didn't carry on to the pitch today as they lost narrowly at Widnes.

The hosts led 16-0 after a try from Owens and a double from Brown with Tickle adding two conversions but Bradford pulled one back through Sutcliffe just before the break and Gale's conversion made it 16-4.

Kear reduced the gap further with Gale kicking for a 16-12 score but four minutes later Ah Van's try put Widnes further in front with Tickle's third success giving them a 22-12 lead.

Kearney reduced the gap in the 67th minute with Gale kicking his third conversion but it wasn't enough to prevent the Vikings from claiming a 22-18 win. Another correct result but with a smaller gap than my 10pt guess.
KR Thrash Woeful Wakefield
The shock of the weekend came as Hull KR claimed their second win in a row in a mauling of Wakefield.
Rovers led 16-0 inside the half-hour after scores from Costigan, Caro and Hodgson with Burns adding two conversions.

Welham added an effort two minutes before halftime with Burns' third success making the score 22-0.
Wakefield managed to stem the scoring spree but only until  11 minutes into the half as Caro bagged his second try and Keating added one of his own six minutes later with Burns converting for 32-0.

It was a case of when rather than if Hull would score again and that came on the hour as Hodgson scored his second try (Burns conv) for a staggering 38 point lead which was made even worse with eight minutes to go when Welham crossed for his second try and Burns made it 12points from the boot for 44-0.

Wakefield avoided a nilling when Godinet scored with five minute remaining and Sammut kicked the goal for what was only consolation at 44-6.

Wire Fightback Against Giants
After the fierce game between Saints and Leeds on Friday another massive face-off took place between Huddersfield and Warrington this afternoon with Grix putting the hosts in front after only eight minutes with Brough converting before adding a penalty before the break with Evans scoring for Warrington before Broughton went over and Brough converted for a 14-4 lead.

Warrington responded only five minutes into the second half when Myler crossed for the try and Ratchford converted for 14-10 while Westwood levelled for the visitors in the 64th minute but a missed conversion meant it 14 all.

Russell put Warrington in front with a try and Bridge took over the kicking duties with instant success for a 14-20 lead, Ratchford kicked a drop goal to put the gap at seven points but two late tries from Ormsby and Monaghan sealed a superb comeback with Bridge kicking 3/3 for a 14-33 win. I had said it would be close but Huddersfield really didn't show up in the second half like I had expected.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bowen Double Stuns Dragons

Fresh from their famous win over Warrington last week, Wigan played host to Catalan last night in game that went right down to the wire as the Warriors looked for a third win in a row while Catalan were hoping for their second win this week.

Wigan welcomed back captain Sean O'Loughlin back from injury while the Dragons included Daryl Millard to boast their pack and it paid off early as they opened the scoring in the fourth minute when a nice piece of play saw Escare run through the Wigan defence and over for the first try. Bosc converted successfully to give the visitors a 0-6 lead.

Wigan responded as Charnley collected from a Catalan kick but the resulting set saw a forward pass and Catalan took advantage and extended their lead as Pomeroy went over for a try but Bosc missed a tough conversion attempt meaning the lead of 0-10 gave Wigan hope.

A succession of penalties saw Wigan get close to the Catalan line but Taylor knocked on with the line in sight and another error came in the next Wigan set when Thornley picked out Burgess who was easily tackled into touch when there were better options available for the Wigan centre.

Wigan forced a dropout and used the advantage to good effect as Bowen went through a gap in the defence and over for they try but Smith missed the conversion meaning the score was 4-10 and remained so into half-time which saw a rousing booing towards the referee after consistent offsides were not given.

The second half began with heavy rainfall which would test both sides but it was Wigan who suffered first as a high kick from Pryce was collected by Bowen but the pressure saw him lose the ball and gifted Escare his second try of the game with Bosc converting for a 4-16 lead.

Wigan got back in the game in the 52nd minute when Charnley scored in the corner and Smith sent over a superb curling conversion to reduce the gap to 10-16 and Wigan could have been level on the hour when Burgess went over but the try was chalked off for a forward pass in the build up.

Wigan thought they had reduced the gap when Charnley went in for a try but it was chalked off for a forward pass but did go over successfully when a nice set of passes in the middle allowed Farrell to go over and Smith converted successfully for a 16 all score.

Wigan after coming from behind had the chance to go in front as they were awarded a penalty in a good position and took the chance to kick for goal but Smith's effort missed but in going dead meant his side retained possession and thoughts turned to a one-pointer.

Smith had two attempts blocked as the clock ticked into the final five minutes and Wigan went achingly close to a try when Burgess was tackled into touch with the line in sight. Catalan chose to kick on the last rather then go for a drop goal and it certainly cost them as Bowen collected the kick before racing towards the Catalan defence, selling them a dummy and then thundering through and over the try line  to a charging roar from the fans as he secured the win. Smith converted from under the sticks for a 22-16 lead which was enough to seal a third successive win.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Super League Round Seven Preview

Round seven sees a brilliant set of matches with two massive ones standing out as St Helens and Leeds face off in the battle of the last two unbeaten sides and Huddersfield host Warrington in a tie between the top two from 2013.

Thursday night sees London face another tough test as they host Castleford who after losing for the first time at the weekend at Salford will be eager to get back to winning ways.

London have showed promise at times this season with the first 40 minutes against Warrington when they led 16-4 a good example but for the main they have been on the back of many heavy defeats with the 54-6 at Leeds the most recent and with Castleford in good form it could be another for the Broncos.

London Broncos: Bishay, Caton-Brown, Cook, Cunningham, Drinkwater, Farrar, Forster, Greenwood, Griffin, Krasniqi, Macani, McMeeken, Minns, Moore, O'Callaghan, Slyney, Solomona, Vea, Wallace.
Castleford Tigers: Shenton, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Ellis, Channing, Clare, Fleming, Finn, Day

Castleford to bounce back in my view but London will be stronger so London 12 Castleford 24.

Friday night's TV game sees St Helens host Leeds with the Saints facing the toughest test to their 100% record so far  while Leeds aim to remain unbeaten themselves in what should be a stunning game between two fierce rivals.

Something has to give between the two who shared the spoils last year with a win each in the regular rounds but with Leeds having the last say in a 11-10 play-off win which Saints would love to avenge on Friday.

However, the advantage will be with the visitors as Saints perfect record has come at a cost with Luke Walsh joined on the sidelines by Jordan Turner while Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook are all suspended meaning their chances of a magnificent seven in 2014 will be severely tested.

St Helens: Lomax, Makinson, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, Soliola, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Wellens, Percival, Greenwood, Wheeler, Walker, Dawson, Richards, Charnock, Savelio.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, P. Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Kirke, Achurch, Briscoe, Singleton.

 I see a really tight game between these two but the absentees for Saints could prove costly and as such I predict Saints 22 Leeds 28.

Hull will look to bounce back from losing to Widnes as they host a revitalised Salford who themselves bounced back by ending Castleford's 100% run on Sunday and will look to kick on with a second successive win.

This meeting is part one of a double as they meet in the Challenge Cup fourth round next week so both will be eager to claim an advantage while improving on their league form with Hull hoping to extend a run of three consecutive wins against Salford after a double last year.

Hull FC: Arundel, Crooks, Colbon, Hadley, Heremaia, Horne, Houghton, Miller, Paleaaesina, Pitts, Rankin, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Tuson, Watts, Westerman, Whiting, Yeaman.
Salford Red Devils: Ashurst, Dixon, Fages, Sa'u, Hansen, A. Walne, Gleeson, Chase, Johnson, Lee, Puletua, Morley, Mullaney, McPherson, J. Walne, Smith, Tasi, Rapira, Meli.

This is a hard game to call as both sides have made mass changes since last year so it is a gamble to say Hull 18 Salford 22.

The third game on Friday sees Wigan host Catalan with the visitors buoyant after claiming their first win on Saturday against Huddersfield while Wigan look continue their good form that saw them secure a first win in four years against rivals Warrington.

Catalans recent visits to the DW have not been fruitful with no win at Wigan since a famous 47-28 win in 2011, a night I remember well after Wigan had drawn 22-22 with Leeds a week earlier but enough of past and onto the present.

It is a shame to see Catalans come to Wigan on the back of such a bad start to the season as they are a side I do admire given that they travel so far for away games and not to tempt fate but this game could be the boost they need to kickstart their charge up the table.

Wigan welcome back captain and leader Sean O'Loughlin to the fold after injury with Catalan welcoming back Bousquet and Cardace from suspension with  Vincent Duport, Scott Dureau, Ian Henderson and Brent Webb all on the injury list while former Warrior Jeff Lima suspended.
Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Dudson, Farrell, Flower, Goulding, Green, James, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, Smith, Taylor, Thornley, Tomkins, Williams.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Millard, Pala, Simon, Bousquet, Paea, Cardace, Baile, Garcia.

As always when the sides meet at Wigan, the travel is an issue and had been a factor in the result but that coupled with the Catalan absentees means a win will take a lot so I say Wigan 36 Catalans 18.

Sunday sees a massive clash as Huddersfield host Warrington with both sides having mixed starts to 2014 sitting in 5th and 7th place and both coming into the game on the back of a loss with the Giants suffering away to Catalan and Warrington being beaten by rivals Wigan.

It is a different story from this time last year when both were flying high in the table, Warrington seem to be a shadow of themselves as was shown in the Wigan game with the seasonal losses of Briers and Morley highlighting that their pack needs a leader and that a vast improvement is needed in ball handling.

Huddersfield on the other hand have done well on the attack but their defence has been lacklustre at times with the last game showing some frailties which Warrington on their day could exploit with the talents of Joel Monaghan and rising star Gene Ormsby while Jermaine McGillvary will look to return to his scoring spree from the opening rounds.

A tight game between two top sides currently on bad run so this one I really cannot call so am saying Huddersfield 25 Warrington 25.

Hull KR host Wakefield with the visitors in good form with heavy wins over London and Catalan and a narrow loss against leaders St Helens after having led at the halfway point while KR got their first win of the season over Bradford with Burns and Keating being instrumental in win with the latter having a great star to the season so far including a superb performance against Wigan.

Both sides will look to move up the table and have both suffered similar problems in the second half of games after leading before going on to lose with their games against Wigan and Saints good examples, so if both sides can muster a full 80 minutes of their strong first halves this could be a really spicy game and could be a close one to call.

As above this could be tight with two good teams having good first halves and average seconds but Wakefield's attack has been stunning this year with only the top two having score more points so I will go for an away win - Hull KR 18 Wakefield 22.

Last but certainly not least is the match between Widnes and Bradford with the visitors hoping to end the week with a double celebration after the news that finally they have new owner in the form of Marc Green and would love a win to go with it to take them away from the minus point total.

Widnes will look to continue their stunning start to the season that has seen them win four from five with their only black mark being their humbling away to Leeds while boasting notable wins against Salford and Huddersfield making them a side to be very wary of.

Despite being bottom of the league,many neglect the fact that Bradford do have two wins and with their financial worries hopefully now behind them they can kick on and move away from the bottom by gaining first win since defeating London in round three. They will also look to improve their attack having failed to score more than 25 in any game something that could make a difference in a tight game.

Hard to see anything but a Widnes win here on their current form so Widnes 32 Bradford 22.



Monday, 24 March 2014

Saints Stay Top While Cas Slip

Round six saw an exciting set of games with some surprises with an 100% record tumbling and two sides gaining a first win of the season.

                                Wigan Battle to HJ Win

Wigan secured a first league win over Warrington since 2010 with an inspired performance that saw them limit the hosts to only four points in a 4-12 win.

Farrell got the visitors started with an 11th minute try after being picked put by Burgess and Smith converted for 0-6 and added a penalty three minutes before the interval for an eight point lead and a first half nilling for the Wolves

Green's try increased the lead with Smith's third successful kick putting them 12-0 up but Warrington could only reply once when Ormsby intercepted and raced clear for the try as they slipped to a second successive loss against their fierce rivals.

                             Hall Treble Downs Broncos

Friday night saw Leeds keep up their unbeaten run with a crushing win over London who remain without a win after their 54-6 humbling.

Leeds got off to the perfect start when Singleton went over in the second minute (Hardaker conv) for 6-0 with a Hall double (Hardaker 2 convs) putting the hosts in control at 18-0. Achurch and Jones-Bishop (Hardaker 2 convs) went over either side of Hall's hat-trick try for a commanding 34-0 halftime lead.

Hardaker went over and converted his own try to put Leeds to 40 points just three minutes into the second half with London preventing a nilling with a try from Caton-Brown seven minutes later with Drinkwater converting for 40-6.

Watkins added a try just before the hour and Jones-Bishop's second edged Leeds towards the 50 point mark which was reached with a minute to go when Burrow went over and converted himself for 54-6.

                                  Dragons Stun Giants
Saturday evening saw Huddersfield travel to Perpignan to face Catalan who were looking for their first win of the season.

The Dragons raced into a 12-0 lead when Taia and Anderson went over for tries both successfully  converted by Bosc who later took tally to six points at the break with a late penalty for 14-0.

Anderson crossed for a second time early in the second half with Bosc converting successfully and when Escare added a third for the hosts just after hour it looked to be game over for the visitors.

Huddersfield got on the board twice in three minutes when Grix and Ferres went over but Brough's single conversion meant they were 24-10 behind and Catalan's first win was confirmed when Whitehead went over (Bosc conv) in the final minute with Houghton's effort only a consolation as they lost 30-14.

                             Widnes Secure Narrow Win

Widnes avenged their 72-10 loss at Hull in August with a slim 0-7 victory which was hampered by bad weather.

Widnes took an early lead as Ah Van went over for a try but the Tickle's missed conversion saw them only 4-0 up, a lead that lasted until 20 minutes from the end as the swirling win and rain prevented both sides from finding a vital touch.

Ah Van kicked a penalty for 6-0 with the win confirmed nine minutes from the end when Gilmore sent over a drop goal and Hull's failure to score saw them nilled for a first time in the league for three years.

                              Rovers End Losing Streak

Hull KR took advantage of Bradford's problems to ease the pressure on themselves with a first win of the season.

Rovers have come close in recent games but nilled the visitors 16-0 in a game that saw them 12-0 up at the break after Burns converted tries from Caro and Keating.

Larroyer added a third on the hour to end their six game losing streak in 2014 and leave the Bulls propping up the league on -2 points.

                           Castleford Fall To Salford Loss

Salford ended Castleford's 100% record with a 23-16 win that saw Rangi Chase face his former side for the first time while Marc Sneyd looked to claim a win against his parent club.

Gleeson put the hosts in front after two minutes while Johnson extended his scoring run with a second in the 19th minute with Mullaney's conversion making it 10-0.

Castleford replied through Carney and Sneyd's conversion closed the gap to 10-6 at halftime but Dixon went over twice and Mullaney's conversions put Salford in control at 22-6.

Cas fought back with tries from Hauraki and Dorn but as Sneyd only managed to convert the latter the gap was six points at 22-16.

Chase came back to haunt his former side with a 73rd minute drop goal that sealed a 23-16 win.

                             Saints Maintain Perfect Start
St Helens made it six wins in a row with a 16-24 win away to Wakefield thereby ending the hosts two-game winning run.

Jones opened the scoring for Saints after 22 minutes but Wakefield levelled through Kirmond and then went in front when Lyne crossed with Sammut's conversion giving them a 10-4 halftime lead.

The Wildcats went further ahead instantly when McShane scored with a Sammut penalty minutes later putting them in control at 16-4.

Saints perfect record was in danger but they pulled back to 16-14 with efforts from Soliola (Makinson conv) and Dawson before taking the lead as Greenwood crossed on the hour mark and Makinson converted for a 16-18 lead.

The fullback completed the turnaround with a try of his own to seal a 16-24 win that keeps St Helens top of the league by a single point.

A reasonable week for my prediction skills with 6/7 correct results with the only failure being not seeing Widnes being able to win at Hull.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Warriors Triumph Over Wolves

Wigan travelled to Warrington looking for a first Super League win over the Wolves since 2010 while Warrington looked to avenge their defeat to the Warriors in last season's Grand Final.

Wigan were without captain Sean O'Loughlin and the suspended Michael McIlorum but buoyed by the form of Matty Bowen after a mixed start to the season and got to a good start as Joe Burgess' dash down the right let to Warrington taking in goal and leading to a dropout but Wigan were unable to take advantage of it with the opening score.

Both sides continued to exchange sets but Wigan got lucky when Joe Burgess broke away and with the line in sight he unselfishly passed to Liam Farrell who went over for the try in front of the home fans who were treated to a loud roar from the away end. Matty Smith successfully converted to give Wigan the lead at 0-6.

Wigan had a good chance to increase the lead when a Matty Smith kick came back to him off a Warrington defender but despite the 'six more' tackles the chance was wasted but Wigan did get over the line again in the 20th minute after taking advantage of a penalty award as Logan Tomkins found John Bateman and he went over under pressure but the decision went to the video referee and was chalked off.

The superb atmosphere from the away end was curtailed by a smoke bomb in the upper echelons but it failed to damage the spirit of the fans who saw a succession of penalties for both sides ended by John Bateman knocking on as the wet weather began to cause trouble in ball handling.

Jack Hughes knocked on for Wigan in the next set and James Laithwaite did so for the hosts but Wigan this time took advantage as they forced a dropout and minutes later were awarded a penalty in a brilliant position with Matty Smith kicking successfully for a 0-8 lead.

A twist of luck ensured Wigan nilled Warrington in the first half as after a Wigan penalty was stopped from going into touch by the hosts, the ball was fumbled and dead as the hooter sounded for the break.

Wigan's luck must have been still in the tunnel as the second half began as Matty Smith kicked into touch but Warrington failed to capitalise as the weather intervened again as both sides knocked on but like in the first half it was Wigan who took the advantage as Liam Farrell picked out Blake Green and he went over for a try in front of the joyous Wigan fans. Matty Smith missed from the kicking tee but Wigan now led for a 0-12 lead.

Warrington got themselves on the score board after Gene Ormsby intercepted a Matty Bowen pass and raced through the defence and over the try line with ease but Stefan Ratchford missed the conversion leaving them eight points behind at 4-12.

The sides exchanged a number of sets with Warrington blowing chances to score after fumbles and a forward pass while in a good position but when Wigan were awarded a penalty with a minute to go the deficit should have increased but Matty Smith missed for the first time all night and at the hooter, Wigan celebrated a 4-12 win that ended a poor run of seven without a win against the Wolves in Super League that propels them to 6th in the table.

Special thanks tonight go to and @Gary_Fev 
for making the win even sweeter as for a change I had some to cheer with at an away game.


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Super League Round Six Preview

This week sees a round spread over four days as Thursday Night Rugby returns while the Saturday game will continue meaning a full weekend of action.

Thursday sees the fierce clash between Warrington and Wigan with the visitors looking for a first League win against their hosts since 2010 while Warrington will look to gain revenge for defeat in the last meeting between the two in last year's Grand Final. I have previewed the big game in full in my Wigan preview so more insight can be found here - Wire v Wigan and my prediction for the tie is Warrington 22 Wigan 24.

Warrington - Roy Asotasi,Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Ben Evans, Rhys Evans, Simon Grix, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, James Laithwaite, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Gene Ormsby, Stefan Ratchford, Glenn Riley, Matthew Russell, Trent Waterhouse,Ben Westwood

Wigan - Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Goulding, Green, Hughes, James, Pettybourne, Smith, Taylor, Thornley, Tomkins, Williams.

Unusually, Friday night sees only one game as London travel to face Leeds, the Broncos remain winless after five games and will look to draw on their first half performance against Warrington in round four when they led before capitulating in the second 40 minutes. Leeds on the other hand are still unbeaten and will be odds-on to continue that after a comfortable win at home to Widnes last week.

Leeds have been boosted this week by the news that star winger Ryan Hall has committed to a new contract which quashes any rumours of his exit, a luxury that London can only dream of as they look to reach 20+ for only a second time this season with the first being in the 22-50 loss to Wakefield last week.

It is hard to see anything but a Leeds win here so I am saying Leeds 48 London 18.

Saturday sees Catalans host Huddersfield with the Dragons still looking for their first win of the season after a poor start that has seen them concede an average of 40 points a game while in comparison scoring only 18 in reply. Last week's defeat at St Helens saw some positives despite a 40-22 loss as they improved their average but the next two games are Hudds and next week Wigan so more than jut an improvement is needed.

Huddersfield on the other hand have bounced back from three games without a win as they demolished Bradford 18-66 with three players scoring twice and Brough claiming 18 points for himself from the boot and will be confident of a win after a double over the Dragons last year with the away meeting seeing them claim 20-28 win after being 10-8 behind.

Catalans need to improve and home advantage may help them so I am gambling here in saying a Catalans win - Catalans 23 Hudds 22.

Sunday sees four games on a packed afternoon with the top two both away at Salford and Wakefield while Hull KR host Bradford and Widnes travel to Hull.

St Helens travel to Wakefield looking to make it six wins in a row in 2014 after their recent win over Catalans saw them remain at the top of the table while Wakefield are looking for a third successive win after thrashing both Catalans and London.

Saints did the double over the Wildcats last season but Wakefield have been superb in the last three games which have seen them score 130 points and will be hopeful of ending Saints 2014 record. Both sides boast two of the best kickers in the league with both Sammut and Walsh with near perfect records but Walsh this week has been sidelined so Lomax will surely deputise and in a close game that could prove vital.

Both sides are doing well but I think Saints will continue their run but not with ease so Wakefield 24 Saints 32.

Castleford travel to Salford and like Saints are looking for a sixth win of the season but the surprise is that pre-season when looking at this game many would have said it would be Salford with the better record, sadly their new-look side have struggled with only two wins from five made worse in a 12-28 defeat to Warrington last week.

Castleford have sneaked wins in the last two games (36-31 v Wigan/19-16 v Hull) and would gladly do so again if it meant a sixth win but Salford despite their recent losses have shown positives most notably last week as loan signing Dom Manfredi (one month from Wigan) ran in two tries and will be eager to add to that this weekend.

I see a close game and no last-gasp for Castleford as Salford improve their form so Salford 24 Castleford 18.

Widnes will look to get back to winning ways after losing their unbeaten record at Leeds when they trval to Hull who themselves suffered defeat last week late on at Castleford. Widnes have been a surprise package this season and boast three wins from their four wins but were found out at Leeds in a 38-4 loss so will be wary of lightning striking twice on Sunday.

Hull have had a mixed start with only two wins (Catalans/Bradford) but have come close in their three defeats against St Helens, Warrington and last week at Cas so should not be underestimated especially after the last meeting between the two that saw Widnes humiliated 72-10 so will be on the hunt to avenge that on Sunday afternoon.

Widnes have done well so far this season and I think they will continue that with a win over the Black and Whites so Hull 18 Widnes 26.

The final game of the weekend sees winless Hull KR host Bradford who boast two wins but after their points deduction sit on -2 at the bottom and come off the back of a 18-66 hammering from Huddersfield while KR were unfortunate to lose at Wigan 34-20 last week.

Both sides will be looking to improve on their recent form with KR looking for that extra step to a win after a good showing at Wigan saw them lead at halftime before being nilled in the second half and saw them dubbed a 'one half team'. They seem to do well in one half while suffering in the other which was also proven when they came from behind to draw away to Huddersfield so a full 80 minutes performance may give them that first win.

Bradford on the other hand have wins but the off pitch issues concerning a takeover haven't helped the on field performances with heavy defeats in the last two denting their decent start to 2014  but the form of Henry and Foster give them some positives ahead of Sunday's game.

I see a close one between two teams both lacking in confidence after poor runs but KR to get their first win of the season so Hull KR 30 Bradford 22.


Warriors Face Wolves

Thursday Night Rugby returns with the long-awaited rematch of the 2013 Grand Final as Warrington host fierce rivals Wigan with the Warriors looking for a first Super League win over the Wolves since 2010.

However, Wigan have had the better of Warrington in the knockout ties most notably in October's Grand Final when they came back 6-16 behind at halftime to win 30-16 with a stunning fightback. Despite this week's game being billed as a rematch of that famous night, there is a mixed feeling among both the fans and players as both sides have made numerous changes since October.

Wigan have since lost the services of the mercurial Sam Tomkins and Pat Richards as well as Harrison Hansen, Lee Mossop, Chris Tuson with all bar the latter played in October while Warrington have had a similar exodus with their talismanic trio of Brett Hodgson, Lee Briers and Adrian Morley all leaving with the latter moving to nearby Salford while Garreth Carvell also moved on.

The fact that 9/34 of those who played in the final have left may not mean much but their exits have certainly been felt as shockingly the two sides have a combined total of five wins while at the top of the League both St Helens and Castleford have that each showing that really it cannot be classed as a true rematch.

The issue of a rematch aside, Wire v Wigan is second in my mind only to the derby with Saints as Warringtons recent rise to the top has spiced up the rivalry between the two with last season's trio of games certainly showing that, the DW meeting saw Warrington claim a late draw with a Briers one-pointer (17-17) and Wigan looked on for a win in the reverse meeting before losing 12-22 late on ending of course by coming out on top in the Grand Final.

Usually Warrington are favourites when the sides meet with Wigan's form against them being terrible but the early season form for both makes it hard to see a stand-out of the two, one major factor that may come into play is Wigan's leader and captain Sean O'Loughlin missing out through injury as without him at times Wigan have been average this year and his leadership can be the difference between a win or loss.

Both sides have named strong squads for the tie and the hopes are that the game will be just as memorable as the last meeting between the two.

Warrington - Roy Asotasi,Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Ben Evans, Rhys Evans, Simon Grix, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, James Laithwaite, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Gene Ormsby, Stefan Ratchford, Glenn Riley, Matthew Russell, Trent Waterhouse,Ben Westwood

Wigan - Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Goulding, Green, Hughes, James, Pettybourne, Smith, Taylor, Thornley, Tomkins, Williams.

A close game is the likely outcome but I think that finally Wigan will end their barren run and win so I am saying Warrington 22 Wigan 24.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Saints And Cas Maintain 100% Records

    Saints overcome troubled Dragons

St Helens made it five wins out of five with a 40-22 win over the winless Catalans to retain top spot and led 24-0 after Jones and Turner went over either side of a Makinson double as Walsh kicked four conversions. Catalans pulled it back to 24-12 at halftime with scores from Garcia and Pellissier with Bosc converting both to reduce the deficit to two scores.

Saints increased their lead as McCarthy-Scarsbrook went over and Lomax took over from the injured Walsh to convert for 30-12. Hohaia and Swift put Saints on 40 points with Lomax kicking 1/2 but an Oldfield double (Bosc conv) made it 40-22 but it was not enough as Saints claimed the two points.

Vikings run ended by Rhinos

Leeds continued their unbeaten run by ending Widnes' in a 38-4 win which was only 10-0 at halfway after a double from Jones-Bishop with Sinfield kicking 1/2 conversions, but was soon extended as Watkins and Bailey scored with Sinfield's conversions putting them 22-0 up.

The Leeds captain went over himself but failed to convert and Burrow and Jones-Buchanan's converted tries put them 38-0 up. However, Widnes had the last say as Hanbury went over to prevent a nilling but a missed conversion meant a 38-4 loss and the ending of a fine unbeaten run.

                                 Manfredi stars in Salford loss

Salford's poor run continued with a 12-28 loss at home to Warrington who opened up 0-16 lead inside 30 minutes with tries from Bridge, Higham and Ormsby with Ratchford kicking 2/3.

Salford hit back as Wigan loanee Dom Manfredi scored on his debut to for a 4-16 halftime deficit but Warrington went further ahead as Monaghan and Asotasi went over with Ratchford converting both. either side of  a second try for Manfredi making it 8-28. Salford closed the gap to 12-28 as Johnson went over but Mullaney missed for a third time to as Warrington completed a comfortable win. 

Thornley treble defeats Rovers

The televised game saw Wigan host Hull KR with a Thornley hat-trick giving the Warriors a 34-20 win after being 20-14 behind. Scores from Langley, Salter and Welham (Burns 2 convs) cancelled out Thornley's opener and Bowen's full length try with Smith 0/2 with the boot. Thornley bagged his second and Smith converted but Cockayne's score meant Rovers had the lead at the break.

Wigan levelled as Farrell went over and Smith converted for 20 all but Hull KR failed to reply and Flower put the hosts in front with Smith's conversion for 26-20. Wigan sealed the win late on with a penalty from Smith followed by Thornley's hat-trick try and Smith's fourth conversion for a 34-20 victory that leaves KR winless.

                  Wildcats crush struggling Broncos

Saturday afternoon saw London's miserable start continue as Wakefield hit 50 points for a second successive game in a 22-50 win.

Mathers put the visitors in front with a quick double with Sammut converting both but a Minns try successfully converted by Drinkwater made it 6-12 with Sammut restoring the 12 point lead after converting his own score.

Wakefield raced to a 6-30 lead at the break with Sammut bringing his tally to 14 as he converted scored from Collis and Lyne but when Mathers secured his hat-trick in the 47th minute it looked to be game over for the hosts despite Sammut's first miss from the boot for 6-34.

London fought back with a Solomona double (Drinkwater 2 convs) either side of Collis' second (Sammut conv) for 16-46 before Godinet and Cook exchanged converted tries.  Mathers brought up the 50 point mark with his fourth score in the final seconds as Wakefield secured their second win of 2014.

                       Giants Crush Bulls
Huddersfield moved up to fourth with a crushing win over Bradford who remain bottom with a negative points total. The Giants scored in the opening seconds through Grix but the hosts responded and Henry scored (Foster conv) for a 6-4 lead.

However, from there until the break it was all Huddersfield as Wardle, Lawrence, Robinson and Chan went over with Grix's second and four conversions from Brough made it 6-32.

Henry reduced the deficit for the hosts with his second try with Foster converting for 12-32 but the visitors hit three tries in ten minutes through Ta'ai, Wardle and McGillvary with Brough converting two for 12-48.

O'Brien (Foster conv) hit back for 18-48 but it was of little consolation as Ta'ai and McGillvary claimed their second tries either side of a Ferres effort with Brought taking this tally 9/12 from the boot for a 18-66 win.


                                      Hull stunned by Cas
Castleford left it late to keep their 100% record intact as they hosted Hull with the visitors opening the scoring in the third minute via Talanoa (Crooks conv) but were soon level as Shenton scored and Sneyd kicked for 6 all.

Eliis put the Black and Whites in front on the half hour and Crooks again converted for 6-12 at half time but Cas levelled as Sneyd scored and then converted his won try for 12 all. Colbon put Hull back in front with a try but Crooks missed the conversion so it was 12-16.

Mariano struck with three minutes to so and Sneyd converted for 18 all but in the next set he hit a one pointer than made it 19-16 and ensured that the Tigers made it two last-gasp wins in a row.

An exciting weekend at both ends of the table and a surprise to see two sides still with 100% records but that may be tested in the next round with the star tie being the a rrepeat of the 2013 Grand Final when Wigan travel to Warrington. 

Thornley Treble As Warriors Triumph

After the last-gasp defeat at Castleford, Wigan looked to bounce back as they played host to Hull KR who came to the DW on Friday night still looking for their first win of 2014.

Wigan had a late change as Sean O'Loughlin failed a fitness test meaning Ben Flower played at loose forward while Logan Tomkins deputised at hooker as Michael McIlorum began his three game suspension while Rovers handed a debut to Ade Gardner who was was on loan from St Helens,

Wigan got off to a brilliant start as Green picked out Thornley and the Centre went over for a try in the corner but the decision was referred to the video referee who gave the try after an extensive review, Smith missed a tough conversion and Wigan led 4-0.

The lead could have increased from the next set as Green turned creator again and kicked toward Burgess on the wing but a fumble when clear from the winger saw him knock on and the chance went but Wigan did go further in front and did so in style as Matty Bowen collected a kick from KR's Keating on the final tackle and raced the length of the field roared on by an the Wigan fans who celebrated as he crossed for a first try at the DW and his second in successive games. Smith missed another conversion and Wigan led 8-0 rather than what could have been 12-0.

Hull responded and had a good chance when Keating dummied twice only to fall as he broke through the Wigan line but he made up for it when he found Langley who went over for KR's first try and Burns converted to reduce the gap to two at 8-6.

Hull then went in front as Eden found Salter and he went through the Wigan defence to score to the joy of the travelling fans who saw Burns miss the conversion but meant they had a 8-10 lead. The lead increased in the 26th minute as KR got a penalty in a good position and used the advantage as Welham went over for his sides third score and Burns made it 2/3 with the boot for a lead at 8-16.

Wigan replied four minutes later as the combination of Green and Thornley worked to perfection again as the former bagged his second try with a zig-zagging run and Smith kicked the conversion to an ironic cheer from the fans to put the score at 14-16.

Wigan's hopes of regaining the lead suffered a blow five minutes befroe halftime as Welham picked out Cockayne who breezed through the Wigan defence for the try and despite Burns' missed conversion it was 14-20 to the Rovers. Wigan thought they had scored in the final secnds ofthe half as Charnley collected a pass on the wing and went over but after a review, the try was denied for obstruction in the middle of the line and Wigan trailed by a converted try at the halfway point.

The hosts were soon level as Burgess combined with Farrell to send the forward over for a well worked try and Smith converted the try to level the match at 20 all. A succession of penalties for both sides disrupted the flow of the game with the majority coming via offside infractions.

Wigan went in front just after the hour mark as they were awarded a penalty and used the advantage to good effect as Smith found Flower who went over for the try to the joy of the home crowd who had more reason to celebrate when Smith successfully converted for a 26-20 lead.

Wigan increased their lead as they were awarded a penalty just metres from the try line and Smith elected to kick and did so successfully to put Wigan 28-20 up and mean Hull KR would need to score twice in order to end their winless run. The next set saw Wigan force a dropout and after a short kick return, Smith found Thornley and the Wigan number four completed his hat-trick and Smith took his tally to ten points to make it 34-20 and Wigan held on to record their second win of the season.