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.