Monday, 28 April 2014

Hosts Dominate Fifth Round

After a packed Easter programme, the focus turned to the Challenge Cup fifth round as 16 sides faced off for a place in the last eight. 

Hardaker Double Sinks Saints

The tie of the round was the clash at Headingley between Leeds and St Helens with Leeds in red-hot form and Saints looking to avoid a third successive defeat.

Leeds made a perfect start when Hardaker crossed in the fifth minute with Sinfield converting for 6-0 but were pegged back nine minutes later by a Swift try and Walsh conversion to level the score.
Hardaker put the hosts in front just before the interval with his second score of the afternoon and Sinfield converted for a 12-6 half-time lead.

Sinfield made it 14-6 with a 45th minute penalty and Moon crossed to extend the lead four minutes later with Sinfield converting for 20-6 giving Saints a mountain to climb to void an exit from the competition.

The visitors reduced the deficit in the 53rd minute through Jones' try with Walsh  converting for 20-12. Leeds confirmed their place in the last eight with two tries in the final six minutes from McGuire (74) and Peacock (78) with Sinfield ending with a 100% record from the boot kicking for 32-12. Correct result but a bit off on my prediction of 28-22.

Cougars Out Roar Lions

Swinton hosted Championship rivals Keighley with a place in the last eight at stake and it was the visitors who made the better start.

Lawton crossed inside three minutes for the opening try but Swinton levelled and then led in the eighth minute through a Bowman try and Peet conversion for 6-4.

Bowman extended the lead six minutes later for 10-4 but Keighley regained the lead with two tries in nine minutes from Sheriffe (Jones conv) and Barnett for 10-14 lead which was 10-16 at the interval after Jones sent over a penalty goal.

Craven crossed six minutes after the break for Keighley with Jones converting for a 10-22 lead which was increased further with Barnett's second in the 54th minute as the visitors led 10-26.

Swinton came back with two tries in as many minutes with Bowman completing his hat-trick, Peet converting and then Lewis crossing for 20-26. The fightback by the Lions ended when a minute later Williams scores for the Cougars with Jones converting for 20-32.

Handforth had the last say for the Cougars with a 75th minute drop goal that sent them into the last eight with hopes of a tie against a Super League giant. A correct result and a close prediction score wise of 22-24.

Dragons Fall To Bulls Comeback

After a humiliating 84-6 loss to Wigan on Easter Monday, Bradford hosted Catalan who were in red-hot form and favourites to advance.

Catalan raced into a 0-16 lead with tries from Millard (2), Pomeroy (10) and Elima (13) coupled with two conversions from Barthau giving the Bulls faithful despair of another hammering.

However, Bradford came back stunningly with three tries in nine minutes before the interval with Gaskell (29) and a Foster double in the 34th and 38th minutes joined by a trio of conversions from Foster for a 18-16 lead.

Gale crossed three minutes into the second period with Foster converting for a 24-16 lead and Bradford had the momentum and used it to go to 30 points as Purtell scored with Foster converting for 30-16.

Oldfield ended the Bulls scoring spree with a try for Catalan in the 62nd minute but a missed conversion meant they were still two scores behind at 30-20.

Bradford confirmed the win with two late kicks with Foster sending over a penalty (76) and Gale kicking an 80th minute drop goal for 33-20. Not the result I predicted and the score of 16-30 was wide as a result.

Centurions Maintain 100% Record

A battle between the Championship's top two saw Leigh host Featherstone ahead of a meeting in the league next week.

Leigh flew out of the blocks with a Brierley try in the first minute converted by Ridyard for 6-0 but were pegged back by a Sharp try in the seventh minute to put the score at 6-4.

Featherstone went in front with two tries in seven minutes from Mendeika (16) and Sharp (23) for a 6-12 lead with Brierley crossing for his second and Ridyard converting in the 26th minute for a 12 all score.

Leigh went in front on the hour mark with a try from Kay and extended the lead seven minutes later when Haggerty scored for a 20-12 lead.

Brierley completed his hat-trick and surely sealed the win in the 74th minute when he converted for 26-12 but Featherstone had the last say with two minutes remaining when Mendeika claimed his second try for 26-16 with the Rovers ruing the missed conversions that could have made it 26-24.  A correct result and a close prediction of 30-24.

Vikings End Red Devils Hopes

Salford looked to bounced back from a poor Easter as they hosted Widnes.

The visitors raced into a 0-12 lead with tries from Galea (12) and Brown (16) both converted by Tickle. Hock reduced the deficit for Salford in the 25th minute but Hanbury crossed four minutes from the break with Tickle converting for a 4-16 lead at the interval.

Hanbury claimed his second in the 48th minute with Tickle making it 5/5 with the boot for 4-24 and Sau crossed for the hosts to make it 8-24.

Two tries in as many minutes from Tasi (75) and Hock (77) both converted by Lee gave Salford hope at 20-24 but that diminished in the final minute when White crossed for Widnes and Owens sealed a 20-30 win with the resulting conversion. A failed result but a close score prediction of 28-22.

Warrington Crush Doncaster   

Warrington hosted Championship side Doncaster in what sadly was an easy win for the Wolves.

Warrington raced into a 18-0 lead inside 20 minutes with scores from Penny (9), Russell (14) and Atkins (19) with all three converted by Bridge.

Doncaster did well to keep their hosts out for the next 17 minutes but Warrington went into the break buoyed by two tries in as many minutes from Bridge who also converted both for a 30-0 lead.

Three minutes into the second period the Wolves were in again through Dwyer with Bridge converting for a sixth time for 36-0.

Doncaster just were unable to get on the score-sheet and fell further behind two four tries in twelve minutes with Monaghan (55), Bridge completing his hat-trick (59) and a double from Penny (63,67) with three conversions from Bridge making it 56-0.

Warrington reached 60 points when Bridge crossed for his fourth and converted and had the final say by converting a 79th minute try from Evans for 68-0 and a personal tally of 36 points. Correct result but slightly wide on the prediction of 44-18.

Warriors Overpower Gutsy Hunslet

Wigan looked to keep up their hopes of retaining the trophy when they hosted Championship One leaders Hunslet.

Wigan made a perfect start with four tries in eleven minutes from Williams (3), Bowen (5), Smith (8) and Farrell (11) all crossed with Smith converting all four for a 24-0 lead. Hunslet came back with two tries with Grimshaw (13) and Mapals (20) scoring either side of Bowen;s second in the 16th minute to make the score 30-8.

Smith claimed his second of the afternoon and kicked his sixth conversion for a 46-8 lead in the 25th minute before turning provider for Bowen to complete his hat-trick with Smith making it 42-8 with the boot.

Hunslet did well to keep the gap at 34 points for the remaining 13 minutes of the half and began the second half in the same respect but were caught out by a run from Sarginson in the 47th minute as Wigan went to 48-8.

From there the scoring seemed to die down as both sides were unable to find an end product from their respective sets but Wigan had the final say as James crossed in the 72nd minute.  Smith converted for an eighth time for a personal haul of 24 points as Wigan won 52-8. A correct result and a close one on the prediction of 70-12.

Tigers Ease Past Eagles

The final game of the round saw Castleford host Championship side Sheffield and it was the visitors who had the perfect start.

Turner crossed after only three minutes to stun the home crowd for 0-4 but Castleford levelled and then went ahead with a double from Carney in the 7th and 11th minutes for 8-4.

Millington and Gibson crossed to put the hosts further ahead with Dixon converting the first for an 18-4 lead with Dixon adding a try in the 28th minute for 22-4.

Castleford were on fire as the scored three in four minutes as Ellis (32), Clark (33) and Carney's third in the 36th minute putting them in control at 36-4 into the interval.

Straugher crossed for Sheffield in the 46th minute with Blagbrough converting to make it 36-10 but Cas cancelled out the try with two of their own as Tansey (52) and Ellis (55) scored with Sneyd converting both to take the score to 48-10.

Holmes made it eleven tries for the hosts in the 61st minute with Sneyd converting again to bring up the 50 point mark at 54-10 but Ashton crossed for the visitors and Brambani converted for 54-16.

Castleford had the last say as Carney crossed for his fourth try of the afternoon in the 77th minute and Sneyd converted for a 60-16 win. A correct result and a tad off in the prediction of 48-20.

The draw for the quarter-finals saw four good ties drawn for an exciting weekend of games.

Holders Wigan will host Castleford ahead of a league meeting between the two a week later, Warrington travel to face a revitalised Bradford, Keighley's reward is a trip to Widnes while in what could be a battle between league leaders, Leigh will travel up to face Leeds. 

Warriors Overpower Gutsy Hunslet

Fresh from a successful Easter double header, Wigan hosted Championship One leaders Hunslet in the Challenge Cup fifth round and a great deal of respect was shown in the starting lineup.

Though Wigan were hindered by injuries and with a massive tie away to Leeds next week, Shaun Wane went for a strong lineup with Bowen, Smith, Burgess and Crosby all returning and it paid off as they went in front in the third minute with Taylor finding Williams who crossed for the first try.

Smith converted for a 6-0 lead which was doubled within minutes as Burgess dashed down the wing and picked out Bowen who scored in the middle and  Smith converted successfully for a second time.

Wigan were in total control with a third try in the seventh minute as Bateman supplied Smith who crossed for the try and went on to kick the conversion for a 18-0 lead before doing so for a fourth time when Bowen and Farrell combined with the latter scoring a try with Wigan now 24-0 in front with only eleven minutes on the clock.

Hunslet got themselves on the board when Grimshaw intercepted and raced over the line to applause from both sets of fans but Ansell missed the conversion and the score was 24-4. Wigan were in again just three minutes later as Burgess turned creator for a second time as he found Bowen with the fullback crossing for his second try of the afternoon with Smith converting for 30-4.

Hunslet came back again as a kick from the middle found Mapals on the wing who crossed for the Hawk's second try but Ansell missed for a second time and the Hawks were 22 points behind at 30-8. The gap widened in the 22nd minute when Smith crossed for his second of the afternoon and converted for a sixth time for a 36-8 lead.

Smith turned creator as he found Bowen with the Wigan number one completing his hat-trick with Smith kicking for a 42-8 lead inside the half-hour mark, Both sides exchanged sets but with none resulting in a try as the hosts went into the half-time interval with a 42-8 lead.

Wigan forced an early goal-line dropout and utilised the advantage as Sarginson raced over for a try in the corner forcing a tough conversion attempt for Smith which he missed and the lead was 46-8. Alike the end to the first half, both sides exchanged sets with no end product and Wigan gave Bowen a rest in preparation for Friday as Hampshire replaced him with just over 20 minutes remaining.

Williams came close to his second score of the afternoon as he was held on the final tackle just metres from the Hunslet line and Wigan did get over a couple of minutes later when Smith found James who crossed for the try and Smith kicked for a 52-8 lead that lasted until the end of the game.

 A superb first 40 coupled with a mixed second but the result is the main thing and Hunslet proved they are no walkover having performed far better than the Bradford side that visited on Easter Monday despite playing two divisions below their opponents. 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Challenge Cup Fifth Round Preview

After a bumper Easter weekend, Super League takes a break with nine of the fourteen sides taking part in the fifth round of the Tetley's Challenge Cup.

The weekend begins with the televised tie between Leeds and St Helens, a game that will mean an early exit for one of the competition's top sides and the chance for Leeds to avenge the defeat from the last meeting between the two in the Super League.

Leeds go into the game in stunning form that has seen them displace tomorrow's opponents at the top of Super League including an Easter double against Bradford and Salford while St Helens went from nine wins in a row to two successive defeats against fierce rivals Wigan and former landlords Widnes.

Leeds secured their place in this round with a comfortable 60-6 win over Yorkshire rivals Wakefield while St Helens secured a late controversial 17-16 win away to Huddersfield who were angered by a Walsh drop goal that came after a drop goal from Brough was denied at 16 all.

Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton.

St Helens: Lomax, Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Greenwood, Richards, Thompson.

This game has the makings of a tasty encounter and St Helens will be eager to avoid a third consecutive loss but Leeds just look too strong so Leeds 28 Saints 22.

Tomorrow's other tie sees an all Championship tie between Swinton and Keighley with the two sides due to meet in the league in a fortnight so both will be eager to claim an advantage  in ending their opponents cup run.

Keighley have reached this stage for the first time in a while after a comfortable 54-28 win over fellow Championship side Barrow while Swinton narrowly edged out Championship One side York 31-28 so will be looking for a better performance against a stronger side.

Both sides have has mixed records in the Championship this year so there is not clear favourite going into the tomorrow's match.

For some reason, the 19's for both sides are unannounced despite less than 24 hours before kick-off so prediction wise I will go with form, Swinton 22 Keighley 24

Sunday features seven Super League sides, four Championship sides and sole representative from Championship One and it is the latter where I will begin.

Hunslet Hawks make the trip to face holders Wigan Warriors with the visitors being heavily written from all sides other than their own fans of course as they try to bridge a massive financial gap between the teams.

One view that has ticked off the Hawks faithful and myself was the preview from Sky Sports pundit Phil Clarke who basically labelled the tie as a non- contest and even went as far as saying that it is unfair to charge people for such a game.

Hunslet come into the game with only one defeat all season and with 300+ fans booked to come to the DW on Sunday all eager to have an enjoyable day regardless of the result opposing the aforementioned view and to reach the fifth round from Championship One will be a rich reward for the Hawks.

Proof of the respect from Wigan is shown in the fact that Shaun Wane has selected a strong squad for the game with Bowen, Crosby, Smith and Burgess all returning while Sutton retains his place and fellow academy product Austin is included.

Wigan Warriors: Austin, Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Clubb, Crosby, L. Farrell, Gelling, Hampshire, Hughes, James, Manfredi, McIlorum, S. Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Taylor, Williams.

Hunslet: Kain, Mapals, Watson, Maun, Akaidere, Grimshaw, Ansell, Houston, March, Stenchion, Broughton, Oakes, Mackay, Reed, Lyons, Brickwood, Tebb, Hood, Cook.

I see Wigan winning but with Hunslet showing a lot of fight so Wigan 70 Hunslet 12.

An all Championship tie sees league leaders Leigh host second placed Featherstone in what will be the first of two meetings in a row, with a league game between the two next weekend.

Both sides have had superb starts to the season with Leigh with a 100% record and 'Fev' with only two defeats from nine games, Leigh secured their place in this round with a 28-22 win against Rochdale while Featherstone eased into round five with a 66-0 demolition of North Wales.

Leigh - No squad announced currently.

Featherstone - Ian Hardman, Will Sharp, Etu Uaisele, Greg Worthington, Ben Hellewell, James Mendeika, Andy Kain, Gareth Moore, Kyle Briggs, Andy Ellis, George Flanagan, Matt James, Keegan Hirst, James Lockwood, Andy Bostock, Gavin Bennion, Matty Dale, Tim Spears, Jamie Cording.

As both sides are in good form this could be close but Ii will go for Leigh 30 Featherstone 24.

In the first of two Super League/Championship clashes, Doncaster make the trip to face Warrington with the Super League side wounded by a heavy defeat to Castleford on Monday while the visitors will be buoyed after a win against rivals Sheffield Eagles.

Doncaster are in great-form and sit third in the Championship so will not be a walkover for Warrington who themselves have had a mixed start with six wins from eleven but are vulnerable at home with notable defeats to Wigan, St Helens and most recently Hull KR, something Doncaster will hope to take advantage of on Sunday.

Warrington will hope to edge closer to a fourth final appearance in six years with a win over in--form Doncaster and have named a strong squad as a result which will surely spur the visitors on to spring a surprise win.

Warrington: Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, Dwyer, England, B. Evans, R. Evans, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J. Monaghan, M. Monaghan, O'Brien, Penny, Ratchford, Riley, Russell, Waterhouse.

Doncaster: Carbutt, Cooke, Edwards, Green, Kent, Kesik, Leaf, Morrison, Robinson, Sanderson, Scott, Starling, Spaven, Spiers, Waterman, Welham, Wildie, Wilkinson, Wilson.

I think Warrington will come out on top but Doncaster will give them a good game so Warrington 44 Doncaster 18. 

The second cross-league tie sees Castleford host Sheffield with the hosts in great-form in the Super League while the visitors are in mixed form with four wins from seven in the Championship.

Castleford advanced with a 48-10 win over neighbours Batley while Sheffield thrashed London Skolars 70-28 in the highest scoring contest of the fourth round but one clear negative for Sheffield is that Castleford are a side to be feared at home with only one defeat and with a notable over Wigan and earlier this week against Warrington.

Castleford will look to use their red-hot home form to propel them into the last eight but will be wary of Sheffield who could spring a surprise as despite their mixed form they are the reigning Championship Grand Final winners and as such cannot be underestimated.

The hosts include Kirk Dixon, Justin Carney, Oliver Holmes, Liam Finn and Ben Reynolds in place of Andy Lynch, Weller Hauraki, Richard Owen, Michael Channing and Dan Fleming are all relieved of their duties. Jack Blagbrough, Jon Ford and Menzie Yere all make way as James Davey, Corey Hanson and Alex Palmer join the travelling party.

Castleford Tigers: Tansey, Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Sneyd, Milner, Huby, Millington, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Clare, Finn, Reynolds.
Sheffield Eagles: Lauulu-Togagae, Burke, Hanson, Straughier, Turner, Walker, Brambani, Lillycrop, Henderson, Stringer, Aspinall, Garside, Taulapapa, Owen, Green, Davey, Tagaloa, Palmer, Ashton.

This could be a real cracker of a game but I see Castleford coming out on top so Castleford 48 Sheffield 20.

The final two ties are all Super League ties and I begin with what could be classed as a derby as Salford host Widnes with the visitors in the better form after a Easter Monday win over St Helens.

Salford have been in transition since the appointment of Iestyn Harris with one win in three and have made a number of loan signings including Logan Tomkins (Wigan) and today's acquisition of Greg Eden with both going into the squad for Sunday.

Widnes have surprised many this season and sit fifth in Super League but go into the tie as underdogs and sealed their place with a comeback win over Halifax in round four while Salford squeezed past Hull via a golden point win by 37-36.

Salford welcome back Gleeson, Hansen and Puletua while Eden and Tomkins are included in the 19 while Clough returns for Widnes after being unable to face his parent club on Easter Monday.

Salford: Smith, Rapira, Eden, Sa'u, Hansen, Fages, Chase, Platt, Gleeson, Hock, Lee, Mullaney, J. Walne, Puletua, Tasi, Morley, Meli, Tomkins, Griffin.

Widnes: Allen, Brown, Clough, Clarke, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Gore, Hanbury, Isa, Johnson, Kavanagh, Leuluai, Marsh, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.
 A hard one to call but I feel Salford are due a win and may get it on Sunday so Salford 28 Widnes 22.  

The final game of the round sees two contrasting sides as Bradford host Catalan with the hosts coming off the back of an Easter nightmare with heavy defeats to Leeds and notable an 84-6 loss to Wigan on Easter Monday while Catalan are in red-hot form after an Easter double.

Last week, I said a trip to Wigan was the last thing Bradford needed and how right I was but this weekend they host Catalan who despite being in brilliant form may be affected by the long journey from Perpignan.

Bradford eased into the fifth round with a 60-6 win over Oldham while Catalan beat London 40-24 in Perpignan. Both sides will be eager to have a cup run after mixed starts to the season and have a rich history in the competition with final appearances in the 2000's.

Bradford welcome back Matt Diskin, Luke George, Jamie Foster and Adam Sidlow while Pitts has joined on loan and Fakir is in line to face his former club while for Catalan, Mounis and Lima are replaced by Bousquet and Guasch with Whitehead making a return to his former club.

Bradford Bulls: Bates, Henry, Olbison, Purtell, Gale, Fakir, Kear, Walker, George, Mellor, Diskin, Pitts, Foster, Manuokafoa, Addy, Gaskell, Sidlow, Kearney, O'Brien.
Catalan Dragons: Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Taia, Anderson, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Pala, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Guasch.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Happy Easter For Hosts

After a mixed first part to the Easter double-header, round ten certainly was a day for home comforts with all seven home teams winning comfortably at the expense of their travelling opponents.

Giants Extend Wakefield Woes

Huddersfield completed an Easter double with a comfortable 36-16 win over Wakefield who are on a run of six defeats as a result.

Broughton put the Giants in front in the eighth minute with Brough converting for 6-0, Sammut pulled Wakefield level in the 16th minute with a try and conversion for 6 all.

Lawrence and Ta'ai  (Brough convs) put Huddersfield in control either side of an effort from Walshaw meaning they led 18-10 and went further ahead just before the interval with a try from Cudjoe with Brough converting for 24-10.

Chan crossed in the 51st minute with Brough converting to bring up the 30 point mark for the hosts, Wakefield reduced the deficit when Molloy scored and Sammut converted for 30-16 with Lunt confirming a 20 point win with a try five minutes from the end with Brough ending with 100% success from the boot. A close on prediction wise (36-22) so only one try out and perfect on the Hudds score.

Hull Rout Lacklustre London

London remain winless in 2014 after a 40-4 defeat at Hull who bounced back well from defeat in the Hull derby.

Hull led 18-0 inside 26 minutes with scores from Shaul, Crooks and Thompson all converted by Crooks and it was 22-0 at the interval after Rankin's try and Crooks missed conversion.

Two tries in six minutes put Hull firmly in control at 36-0 with Shaul claiming his second and Miller also crossing with Crooks converting both.

London avoided a nilling as Caton-Brown scored his third try in two games for the Broncos but even with 23 minutes left it would surely only serve as consolation as Rankin ended the rout with a try ten minutes from the end with Crooks converting to bring up the 40 point mark. A wide prediction but close on Hull's score (36-18).

Saints Tickled By Vikings

After losing their 100% record on Friday to Wigan, St Helens lost for the second time in a row as Widnes bounced back from their derby defeat to Warrington.

Hanbury gave the hosts the perfect start with a third minute try with Tickle converting for a 6-0 lead over their former tenants. Isa extended the lead in 19th minute with Tickle converting again for 12-0.

Soliola crossed to reduce the gap to eight but Gerrard's try seven minutes later and Tickle's third conversion put Widnes 18-4 in front. Masoe and Wellens crossed with Makinson converting both to close the gap to 18-16 at the interval.

Hanbury scored his second five minutes after the break for 22-16 and Flynn (Tickle conv) put Widnes in control at 28-16 though nerves crept in when Makinson scored with his traditional one-handed technique to make it 28-20.

Dean put Widnes past the 30 point mark with Tickle kicking his fifth conversion for 34-20 but when Hohaia  crossed for a try and Makinson converted for 34-26,Saints began to believe the comeback was on but were it failed to materialise and Leuluai confirmed the win for the Vikings three minutes from the end with Owens converting for 40-26. A correct result and one not many predicted but the score was higher than expected (25-22).

Rhinos Rise To The Top

After Saints loss at Widnes, Leeds overtook their rivals to go top of the league with a comfortable  32-4 win against Salford making it an unhappy return for Salford head coach Iestyn Harris, a former Rhinos legend.

A tight first half saw Leeds lead 6-4 after a sixth minute try and conversion from Sinfield was met by a first try for Wigan loanee Tomkins just before the half-hour mark.

Hardaker increased the lead four minutes after the interval with Sinfield converting for 12-4 with two tries in five minutes after the hour putting the hosts in control as Burrow (Sinfield conv)  and Jones-Bishop with crossing with the latter converting his own try for a 24-4 lead.

Hall and Briscoe confirmed the win with tries in the 74th and 79th minutes to ensure the Rhinos ended the Easter double -header top of the pile. A correct result an score for Leeds but Salford didn't show up for me (32-26).

Warriors Crush Broken Bulls   

Wigan secured an 84-6 win on Easter Monday for the second year in a row as Bradford were demolished by a youthful Warriors pack.

Wigan led 34-0 inside the half hour with efforts from Green, Gelling, O'Loughlin and Farrell accompanied by two tries and five conversions from Hampshire.

Bradford's woes continued as Wigan eased over the line twice more before the break with Hughes and Powell scoring and Hampshire taking his tally to 24 points and 46 for Wigan overall.

Bateman scored against his former side with Goulding making it ten tries for the hosts with the second period only eight minutes old with Williams taking over the kicking duties with a conversion for 58-0.

Three tried in eight minutes saw Wigan edge towards pass 70 points with Green and Gelling claiming their second tries either side of a score for Williams with the latter kicking all three for a 74-0 lead.

Manfredi added to his successes on loan at Salford with a try just after the hour-mark for 78-0 leaving their record only one score away from being equalled and the chance of a perfect repeat of 2013 came when Gale crossed for Bradford and converted for 78-6.

Both sides made mistakes which ended the scoring spree but the 84-6 record was equalled in the final minutes with a first competitive try for Dudson and a eighth conversion for Hampshire who ended the day with 26 points. Far better than expected for Wigan but Bradford not far off my hopes (48-12).

Tigers Out Roar Wolves

Castleford moved up to second in the table after an easy win over a poor Warrington side.

Clare put the hosts in front with Sneyd converting for  6-0 with Monaghan and a Ratchford conversion

Warrington's chance of a comeback ended with 20 minutes to go as Owen crossed and Sneyd converted for 34-6 with the rout completed seven minutes from the end when Shenton sealed his hat-trick and Sneyd made it six out of seven from the boot for a 40-6 win. A result I predicted, one many didn't but a bigger one than expected.

levelling the score in the 23rd minute. A double from Shenton three minutes before the interval coupled with conversions from Sneyd gave Cas and 18-6 lead which increased with two scores in three minutes from Clare and Ellis with Sneyd's single conversion putting the Tigers in control at 28-6.

 Dragons Comeback Against Rovers
Catalan completed a perfect Easter with a 37-24 win over Hull KR whose good run came to an end.

Tries from Escare, Whitehead and Oldfield and two conversions from Bosc put the Dragons 16-0 up but Rovers came back with scores from Eden, Cox and Caro coupled with a trio of conversions from Burns giving them a 16-18 lead.

Millard and Caro exchanged tries with Bosc and Burns converting as Rovers led 22-24 but Oldfield put the Dragons in front in the 52nd minute with Whitehead crossing for his second on the hour-mark and Bosc converting for a 32-24 lead.

Two penalties from Bosc put Catalan clear at 36-24 with the win sealed in the final minute with a Bosc drop goal. My only fail of the round and 19 point switch from my hopes.

A third successive 6/7 success for me but the return of the Cup could see a first perfection of the season.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Warriors Complete Perfect Easter

After a stunning Good Friday derby win, Wigan hosted a struggling Bradford side who hoped to avoid a repeat of Wigan's 84-6 win over Hull KR last Easter Monday.

However rather than suffering a similar fate they fell to that same score in a 15 try demolition by the Warriors who made sweeping changes from their Good Friday win as Smith, Bowen, Burgess and Taylor were all rested with Flower, Pettybourne and Thornley sidelined.

In came Dom Manfredi, Ryan Hampshire, George Williams, Anthony Gelling, Gil Dudson, Jordan James and Academy product Ryan Sutton who made his senior debut.

Any hopes of a shock win for Bradford suffered an early blow as Wigan opened the scoring after only four minutes after a run from Williams put the hosts in a good position and a quick play saw Green cross to give Wigan the lead. Hampshire kicked the conversion for a 6-0 lead that soon became 10-0 when Green turned creator and found Gelling for a try in the corner, Hampshire missed the long range conversion but Wigan were in control.

Five minutes later, Wigan were in again as O'Loughlin scored his second of the weekend after a fine run and take from Green's kick and Hampshire made up for his earlier miss with his second successful conversion for a 16-0 lead inside 15 minutes. Bradford needed to respond to avoid what could be a record score in the league and Wigan gave a debut to Ryan Sutton who made an instant impact with a good break down the middle, Hampshire spied a gap in the Bulls defence and took advantage to cross for the try and convert his own score for a 22-0 lead.

The pacy fullback was in again minutes later after being picked out by Farrell and again converted his own try for a 28-0 lead that surely signalled a loss for Bradford bar a stunning comeback. Hopes of that comeback were dampened as Wigan reached 30 points in the 27th minute with a clever run by Farrell resulting in a try for the forward and Hampshire stepped up to convert for a fifth time for a 34-0 scoreline inside half an hour which was becoming a humiliation for the visiting side.

Bradford got some good luck when a strong Wigan move was pulled back for a forward pass but that luck left them when they knocked on early in the set and it soon got worse as Wigan brought up the 40 point mark as Hughes crossed for a try and Hampshire kicked for 40-0 with six minutes of the first half still to play.

A horrific first 40 minutes for the Bulls ended with them going even further behind as Powell crossed for a try and Hampshire made it seven from eight attempts with the boot for a 46-0 half-time lead. Thoughts during the interval turned to what happened on Easter Monday last year as a similar second half could result in a 92-0 win beating the record set of 84-6 last April.

Wigan needed 38 points to match that win and began the pursuit quickly as Bateman scored against his former side inside four minutes of the second period with a switch in the kicking seeing Williams take over and kick successfully for a 52-0 lead. A repeat set and another try for Wigan as Goulding scored the tenth of the afternoon after a pass from Bateman and although Williams missed the conversion, 58-0 after 47 minutes is devastating for the visitors.

A third try in four minutes saw Green cross for his second and Williams kick for a 62-0 lead, though a sixty plus point is amazing as a home fan, it was harrowing just how far Bradford have fallen from the halcyon days of Grand Final wins over Wigan in the early 2000's and that fall became even greater as the Wigan kicking duo of Hampshire and Williams combined with the latter crossing for the try and converting successfully for his fourth and Wigans' tenth from twelve attempts for a 68-0 lead.

After having been originally rested from the named 19', Green was having a superb afternoon and he created another try when he picked out Gelling who claimed his second try of the afternoon with Williams converting for a staggering 74-0 lead with 20 minutes still to play. The record of 84 points from this time last year was within reach when Gelling turned creator and found Manfredi for a try in the corner with the long range conversion missed by Williams as Wigan led 78-0.

A few mistakes by both sides saw an end to the consistent scoring which returned with Bradford preventing a nilling when a run by Gale saw him cross for a try and then convert for 78-6. Both sides returned to the mistakes from a few minutes previous and with four minutes to go the 2013 record looked to remain intact. However, Dudson found his way over the line and Hampshire resumed the kicking duties to convert for 84-6 to match the 2013 Easter Monday win which is how the game ended.

A demolition for Bradford and one that will be hard to comeback from with Catalan up next in the Challenge Cup and home games against Warrington and St Helens in the Super League.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Super League Round Ten Preview

This time yesterday, round nine was in full swing on Good Friday yet barely a day later thoughts turn to round ten as the packed Easter weekend enters its second phase. This round traditionally sees some big surprises with Wigan's 84-6 win at Hull KR last year a perfect example as sides look to rest players from the previous round for the full Easter Monday programme.

Huddersfield will look to make it two wins in a row when they host Wakefield who themselves will hope to end a four-game losing streak with a first win since round five against London.

Wakefield were doubled by Huddersfield in 2013, have failed to win a single meeting up in Yorkshire in four attempts and will hope to secure a first Easter Monday win in three years while Huddersfield will look to win for a fourth successive time on Easter Monday and move up the table.

Wakefield bring in Walshaw, Crowther, Molloy and Briscoe in place of the injured Collis, Lyne, Kirmond and the in-form Godinet while Huddersfield who are missing the suspended Ferres name a very strong squad.

Huddersfield - Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Chan, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Ta'ai, Wood, Kaufusi, Mullally, Johnson, Connor.

Wakefield - Mathers, Fox, Sykes, Anderson, McShane, Raleigh, Washbrook, Ryan, Moore, Sammutt, Annakin, Walshaw, Smith, Crowther, Molloy, Briscoe, Siejka, Scruton, Riley.

I feel in this game, Huddersfield will come out on top but hopefully not with an easy win so Huddersfield 36 Wakefield 22.

Hull will look to bounce back from Thursday's last-gasp defeat to their city rivals when they host a struggling London side who still are with out a win in 2014 but came so close in a narrow defeat to Catalan.

London despite losing all nine league games have played well in their last two and will use that as confidence as they look to avoid a tenth successive loss with Caton-Brown in good form after a brace on Thursday.  Hull will look to regain seventh place with a repeat of last Easter when they beat Wakefield after suffering defeat in Hull derby.

Hull are without Bowden, Tuson and Hadley with Pitts, Crooks and Heremaia all returning while London look to give a debut to Burnett in place of Duckworth while Bishay replaces Cunningham who is unable to face his parent club.

Hull - Carvell, Crooks, Colbon, Ellis, Heremaia, Horne, Houghton, Miller, Paea, Paleaaesina, Pitts, Rankin, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Watts, Westerman, Whiting, Yeaman

London -  Bishay, Burnett, Caton-Brown, Cook, Drinkwater, Farrar, Foster, Greenwood, Krasniqi, Macani, Mataitonga, McMeeken, Minns, Moore, Slyney, Wallace, Woodburn-Hall.

Despite their recent displays, I cannot see London winning in this tie so Hull 36 London 18.

Leeds have the chance to top of the league when they host Salford with the Red Devils loking to bounce back from the yesterday's defeat to Huddersfield.

Iestyn Harris has been given positive backing from Salford owner Marwan Koukash as his side look to end the Rhinos run of four wins in five games that includes demolitions of Wakefield and Bradford with Salford hoping to finally beat one of the so-called 'Big Four' after losses to St Helens and Warrington.

The Rhinos welcome back Peacock and Jones-Bishop in place of the injured Ward and Minichella while Salford will be with out Johnson and McPherson who suffered injuries in the defeat to Huddersfield.

Leeds - Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton.

Salford -  Ashurst, Chase, Fages, Griffin, Hock, Howarth, Lee, Meli, Morley, Mullaney, Platt, Rapira, Sa'u, Smith, Tasi, Tomkins, A. Walne, J. Walne, Williams.

This one could be close if Salford improve on Thursday's performance so - Leeds 32 Salford 26.

After losing their immaculate league record at the hands of fierce rivals Wigan, St Helens make the short trip to Widnes, a place they called home back in 2011 while Langtree Park was in construction.

Widnes alike Saints suffered a defeat to their neighbours as they lost 44-6 to Warrington and will be eager Helens will be wary of a backlash from Widnes who won the last meeting between the sides.
to get back to winning ways by beating their former tenants and handing them a second loss in three days while St

Saints are much changed from their derby loss as Walsh, Lomax, Roby, Soliola, Wellens, Walmsley and Richards all miss out with Fozard and Galbraith promoted from the Academy and Thompson, Hand, Charnock and Savelio also coming in to the 19. Widnes include Gore. Lawton, Allen and Leuluai while Clarke is rested ahead of next weeks Cup tie at Salford.

Widnes - 1. Rhys Hanbury, 2. Jack Owens, 3. Cameron Phelps, 6. Kevin Brown, 10. Ben Kavanagh, 11. Dave Allen, 12. Danny Tickle, 13. Hep Cahill, 14. Chris Dean, 15. Lloyd White, 16. Willie Isa, 17. Danny Galea, 18. Paul Johnson, 19. Adam Lawton, 20. Paddy Flynn, 21. Danny Craven, 24. Macgraff Leuluai, 25. Alex Gerrard, 28. Grant Gore.

St Helens -2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Jordan Turner, 4. Josh Jones, 6. Lance Hohaia, 8. Mose Masoe, 10. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Jon Wilkin, 15. Mark Flanagan, 23. Joe Greenwood, 24. Gary Wheeler, 25. Anthony Walker, 26. Matty Dawson, 28. Luke Thompson, 29. Jordan Hand, 30. Carl Forster, 32. Lewis Charnock, 33. Andre Savelio, 36. Matty Fozard, 37. Lewis Galbraith.

The number of stars left out for Saints makes me think Widnes could come out on top in this tie so Widnes 25 St Helens 22.

Wigan will hope to replicate the spirit of their win at St Helens when they host a struggling Bradford side who will hope not to suffer the 84-6 humiliation that Hull KR did at the hands of Wigan last Easter Monday.

Travelling to an in-form Wigan side is the last thing Bradford need after a run of six defeats but they could draw on their famous win at the DW from 2012 when they ended Wigan's ten game winning streak with a 22-30 win.  Wigan will look to make it six league wins in a row that could see them rise to third in the table which would be amazing after their bad start.

Wigan go into the game with three big injuries from yesterday's derby win with Thornley, Pettybourne and Flower all ruled out while Bowen and Green are rested giving chances for Hampshire, Powell, Sutton,Dudson and Connor Farrell to shine. Bradford have made sweeping changes as Brook and Bates are likely to make debuts while Sidlow, Donaldson and Blythe join the injury list featuring Foster, Diskin and George.

Wigan- 25 John Bateman, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 36 Connor Farrell, 12 Liam Farrell, 5 Anthony Gelling, 3 Darrell Goulding, 26 Ryan Hampshire, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 19 Sam Powell, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 37 Ryan Sutton, 8 Scott Taylor, 27 George Williams.

Bradford - Danny Addy, Sam Bates, Danny Bridge, Adam Brook, Nathan Conroy, Jamal Fakir, Luke Gale, Lee Gaskell, Adam Henry, Elliot Kear, Brett Kearney, Manase Manuokafoa, Alex Mellor, Adam O'Brien, Tom Olbison, Adrian Purtell, Oliver Roberts, Chev Walker, Sam Wood.

It is hard to predict anything but a comfortable win for WIgan despite the injuries as Bradford at seriouly lacking in confidence so Wigan 48 Bradford 12.

After strong wins in round nine, Castleford and Warrington face off in a battle of third against fifth with the hosts looking for a unique double over last seasons Grand finalists having beaten Wigan in the early rounds.

Warrington will be wary of Castleford's strength at home as in addition to beating Wigan they came minutes away from doing the same against league leaders St Helens last week before losing 24-28 while Castleford will hope to avoid joining Warrington's list of away wins this season with the Wolves winning three from four.

Castleford bring in Tansey, Webster, Gibson and Fleming in place of Holmes, Carney, Boyle and Finn while  Warrington include Penny in place of the injured Myler.

Castleford - Tansey, Shenton, Webster, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Owen, Channing, Clare, Fleming.

Warrington  -  Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, England, B. Evans, R. Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J. Monaghan, M.Monaghan, O'Brien, Penny, Ratchford, Riley, Russell, Waterhouse.

This could be a tight game and as such I will go for a one point win for Castleford so Castleford 25 Warrington 24. 

The final game of the day sees the in-form Hull KR made the long trip to face Catalan with the Dragons looking for a third consecutive win and third at home in 2014.

After a bad start, Hull KR have turned around massively and depending on other results could have the chance to go fifth with a win while Catalan have bounced back from mixed results to move away from the bottom and close up on the top eight.

Catalan are still without Dureau, Webb and Henderson with Anderson, Millard, Pryce and Mounis recovering from injury and as such are included in the 19 while Rovers will  look to celebrate an Easter Monday win after the nightmare of 2013 when they were demolished 84-6 by Wigan.

Catalan - Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Pala, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia.

Hull KR - Burns, Carlile, Caro, Costigan, Cox, Eden, Gardner, Green. Hall. J Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Larroyer, Lovegrove, Netherton, Poore, Salter, Welham, Weyham.

Catalans home form could be a big factor but Rovers have been on fire recently so this is hard to call but I will say Catalan 22 Hull KR 28. 

Visitors Dominate Round Nine

A packed Easter double-header began with seven stunning games featuring a last-gasp in in the Hull derby and the end of the sole 100% record at Langtree Park.

Bulls Trampled By Rhinos

Bradford's barren run continued on Thursday as they lost 6-46 to a rampant Leeds side who raced into a 0-20 lead inside 15 minutes with tries from Sinfield, Moon, McGuire and Hall (Sinfield two convs). Gaskell replied in style for Bradford in the 23rd minute with Gale converting for 6-20, the scoring spree ended there as Leeds led 6-20 at the interval.

Bradford held firm until the 51st minute when the doors well and truly caved in as Hall crossed for his hat-trick with a five minute double (Sinfield conv). Sutcliffe crossed in the 66th minute with Hardaker taking over the kicking duties with instant success to extend the lead to 6-36 an Bradford looked to be on their way to a heavy defeat.

Watkins scored with seven minutes remaining to put Leeds on 40 points with the final say coming from the man of the night, Burrow who scored in the 79th minute to celebrate his 400th appearance and Hardaker converted to complete the win. My prediction of 12-38 was close but Leeds winning was correct.

Hall Seals Rovers Win

Hull KR left it late to seal the bragging rights in the Hull derby with a 21-20 over rivals Hull FC.

The visitors went in front after 12 minutes when Rankin crossed for the opening try but were quickly pegged back by a Larroyer try for Rovers for 4 all.

Weyman put Rovers in front at the break with a try that Burns converted for a 10-4 lead but three minutes after the interval Hull were level as Bowden scored with Whiting converting for 10 all.

A double from Horne (Burns conv) put Rovers in control with a ten point lead at 20-10 but Houghton (Whiting conv) reduced the gap to four points at 20-16 in the 68th minute.

The Hull derby is well known for dramatic endings but surely no-one expected what happened next, Talanoa crossed to bring the score to 20 all with Whiting missing what should have been a winning conversion.

Both sides looked to claim a drop goal with Burns attempting for Rovers and Whiting denying the score but Hall made sure of the win for Rovers with a last-gasp drop goal that sees them displace their city rivals. My prediction of 24-25 came so close but the hopes of a one-point win were correct.

Dragons Deny Broncos Comeback

Due to their geographical distance from the majority of the league, facing each other is the closest London and Catalan get to a derby but akin to their Challenge Cup meeting it was the Dragons who triumphed.

Oldfield put the visitors in front after nine minutes with Bosc converting for 0-6, London did well to keep the gap to six points but suffered a blow when they conceded two tries in five minutes either side of the half-hour with Taia and Barthau scoring with Bosc converting both for a 0-18 lead.

London gave themselves hope as Caton-Brown crossed for their first try just before the break but Drinkwater's missed conversion attempt put the score at 4-18.

Catalan extended their lead as Pelissier scored in the 49th minute with Bosc keeping up his success from the boot with a fourth conversion for 4-24 and the Dragons looked to have sealed the win in the 65th minute when Duport's try made it 4-28.

However, London stunned the visitors with three  tries in nine minutes as Caton-Brown claimed his second score before Mataitonga crossed three minutes later with Drinkwater's conversions putting them at 16-28 with seven minutes still to play. Catalan held firm but Solomona scored for the Broncos with a minute to go and Drinkwater converted for 22-28 as the nerves crept in.

London failed to score off the final set allowing Catalan to claim the narrow win leaving the Broncos still without a win and with trips to Hull and St Helens up next their best hope will be when they meet the Dragons again at the Magic Weekend in a month. A prediction of 18-28 came so close but bang on in terms of Catalan's points haul.

Warriors Ruin Saints Streak

Good Friday became a 'Great Friday' for Wigan as they ended fierce rivals St Helens' 100% record with a spectacular 14-33 win to extend their Easter streak to five in a row over the Saints.

A perfect start for the Warriors came as O'Loughlin scored inside three minutes with Smith converting against his former side for 0-6.

Makinson scored his tenth try of the campaign to pegged Wigan back with his unique one-handed grounding with Walsh converting for 6 all. O'Loughlin turned creator as he found Sarginson who put Wigan back in front with Smith converting for 6-12.

The name Farrell is synonymous in the history of this derby and an addition came when Liam Farrell scored in the 21st minute, Smith converting for a 6-18 lead and Wigan in control.

Makinson made it 11 tries in nine games with his second on 27 minutes but Walsh's failed conversion left them eight points back at 10-18, Turner reduced the deficit four minutes from the interval with a clever try but again Walsh missed with the boot and Saints were 14-18 behind.

Smith added a penalty for Wigan after the hooter for a 14-20 lead which was soon 14-26 when Farrell claimed his second try in the 43rd minute and Smith was on hand to convert for a fourth time, Saints needed a comeback akin to their win at Castleford but fell further behind when Burgess crossed and Smith made it 6/6 with the boot for 14-32.

Smith completed a personal haul of 13 points with a stunning drop goal in the 68th minute for 14-33 and Saints had no real answer from there as they suffered a first loss of the season to their fierce rivals who themselves have won five in a row in all competitions.The prediction of 18-24 was not to far off but a Wigan win was correct.

 Wolves Crush Neighbours Widnes

After completing a double over Warrington last season, Widnes looked for a third successive win over their neighbours but suffered a huge backlash in a 44-6 defeat.

Warrington raced into an 18-0 lead with tries from O'Brien and one each for the Monaghan brothers with Bridge converting all three to signal their intent.

Bridge crossed for a try of his own six minutes from the interval and converted successfully for a 24-0 half-time lead leaving Widnes with a mountain to climb.

Evans crossed twice either side of a try for Currie with Ratchford converting once for a 38-0 lead that mirrored Widnes' last visit to a 'top-side' when Leeds won 38-4 but Flynn made sure they avoided a nilling with a try five minutes from the end and Tickle converted for 38-6.

However, Atkins raced over in the final minute to bring up 40 points and Ratchford converted to complete a devastating win to put Warrington above their neighbours by way of points difference and a surprise in terms of my prediction as I anticipated a 23-23 close score.

Tigers Outscratch Wildcats

Castleford reduced the to St Helens with a 20-43 win over neighbours Wakefield who are now without a win in four games.

Tries from Carney and Clark (Sneyd conv) put the Tigers 0-10 up with McShane crossing for the hosts and Sammut converting for 6-10 after 17 minutes.

Owen crossed to put Cas 6-14 up but Sammut scored a try of his own and converted in the 33rd minute to reduced the gap.

Two tries in as many minutes from Owen and Wheeldon (Sneyd 2 convs) put Cas in control at the interval with a 12-26 lead.

Lyne crossed two minutes into the second period to reduced the gap to 16-26 and Sammut scored his second eight minutes later to put Wakefield only one score behind at 20-26 but Finn extended the visitors lead and Sneyd converted for 20-32.

This time there was no response in the end zone for Wakefield and their day ended badly with a double blow in the final minute as Clark and Wheeldon both scored breakaway tries with Sneyd converting 1/2 for a 20-43 win.

 Giants Extinguish Devils Run

Huddersfield sealed a first win in five games with a 22-42 win at Salford ruining Iestyn Harris' home debut as Salford coach.

Huddersfield shrugged off their poor form as they raced into a 0-18 lead inside 14 minutes with tries from Lunt, Murphy and Brough with the 2013 Man of Steel converting all three.

Salford reduced the gap to 10-18 with scores from Meli and Morley with Mullaney converting the latter but Murphy claimed his second to give the Giants a 10-22 lead into the interval.

Meli crossed for his second try five minutes into the second period to make it 14-18 but tries from McGillvary and Bailey with Brough converting both put Huddersfield in control at 10-34.

Ashurst scored for Salford to give them hope at 18-34 but with only one successful conversion from four attempts, it was a slim hope for the hosts. Brough increased the lead with a penalty and the win was sealed as Murphy completed his hat-trick seven minute from the end with Brough bringing his tally to 18 points with the resulting conversion.

Salford had the last say as Meli completed his hat-trick in the 78th minute but it was only consolation at 22-42 giving Huddersfield a return to winning ways.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Warriors Ruin Saints Streak

A gloriously sunny afternoon in St Helens saw Wigan become the first team to defeat the Saints who went into the game with nine consecutive wins while hoping to overturn a streak of four Good Friday defeats.

Both sides named strong sides but from the opening kick-off, Saints knocked on and gave Wigan possession in a great position and the Warriors utilised the advantage as O'Loughlin sneaked through a gap in the defence to cross for the opening try.  Smith converted with ease to give the visitors a 0-6 lead.

Saints responded well as a nice run by Makinson saw him score in the corner with his one-handed technique to become the first player to reach ten tries in 2014, Walsh converted to bring the sides level at 6 all after only six minutes. Saints thought they had taken the lead when Wilkin found Dawson with the winger claiming a try in open space but Silverwood went to the screen and the video referee chalked the effort off for crossing in the build-up.

Wigan regained the lead in the 16th minute when a fine break from O'Loughlin resulted in him picking out Sarginson with the winger crossing for the try, Smith converted well for a 6-12 lead for the Warriors. Saints went further behind within four minutes when a kick from Green found Burgess out wide and he in turn picked out Farrell who collected single handed and crossed after eluding Lomax, Smith continued his success from the boot and Wigan now led 6-18.

Saints reduced the deficit in the 25th minute when Walsh picked out Makinson and alike his first try he went one-handed in the corner to the anguish of the onlooking Wigan fans in the East Terrace, Walsh missed the long range conversion to put Saints within two scores at 10-18. Turner crossed for the hosts in the 34th minute but the joy was dampened as Silverwood went to the screen and the decision was 'No Try', but he was successful from seconds later from the next play but Walsh missed again with the score now 14-18.

Wigan made it 14-20 at the interval when they were awarded a penalty with just seconds left of the half and took the most logical option with Smith kicking for goal and doing so superbly. St Helens needed to call on the spirit they displayed when coming back against Castleford last week if they were to win but fell further behind only three minutes into the second period, a grubber kick from Burgess found Farrell who kicked forward and got lucky when a ricochet off Lomax saw the ball rerun to the Wigan forward who crossed for his second try. Smith converted and Wigan were in control at 14-26.

Whatever was said to the Warriors at half-time certainly paid off as they were in again inside four minutes as Bateman sucked into two defenders before finding Burgess who crossed for a well deserved try, Smith continued his streak to put Wigan three scores ahead at 14-32 and leave the hosts needed a miracle to keep their 100% record intact.

O'Loughlin's superb performance acquired a black mark as he was put on report after a tackle on Dawson but St Helens failed to take advantage of the good position as Wigan regained the ball and a couple of sets later, they were awarded a penalty and Smith kicked for goal but missed narrowly with Lomax collected the ball and going on a string run at the Wigan defensive line.

Wigan all but confirmed the win in the 66th minute when Smith sent over a drop goal for a 14-33 lead meaning Saints needed to score four times and though this season writing them off can be perilous, it was hard to see them coming back in this instance. Both sides continued to exchange sets but with no crucial effect as Wigan held on to end St Helens perfect run in 2014 and extend their Good Friday winning streak over the Saints to five in a row.

A superb game from start to finish for Wigan and a second win in three visits on a personal level with  Good Friday wins both home and away secured at the first attempt (2011/2014) but off on the prediction of 18-24 but glad to be overall.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Derby Day Finally Arrives

Good Friday, two words that bring a smile to every Wigan fan at this time of year as it means a meeting with fierce rivals St Helens on 'Derby Day'.

Personally, Good Friday as a Warrior has to start with my first experience in 2011 when Liam Farrell crossed in the final minute to turn what should have been defeat into sheer victory and it was that day that I truly knew how it felt be a 'True Warrior'.

This year will be my first Good Friday away from the DW stadium and 11th derby overall but the excitement of being among 1500+ roaring fans in the East Terrace is hard to contain, so much so that I am grinning from ear to ear just thinking about it.

The build-up to Friday's meeting is spicier this year due to the fact that St Helens have a 100% winning record in their nine games so far and the chance to ruin that record and claim the traditional bragging rights has fired up the Wigan fans to great effect.

After years of seeing St Helens at the top while Wigan looked on from the fringes of the top four and the near disaster of 2006, the turnaround in 2010 seemed like fate to me from the second I booked a Grand Final trip in the March praying Wigan would get there and fate delivered spectacularly.

My first game of the Super League era was one I will never forget as Wigan triumphed 22-10 over St Helens in front of a crowd of 71,000, it was those stunning 80 minutes that inspired me to begin a run that currently stands at 58 consecutive Wigan home games and 70 overall since that glorious evening in October.

St Helens v Wigan is biggest derby of all in Super League in my view, though some people up in Hull may disagree as the topic of the truly biggest derby is a hot issue among fans but the fierce rivalry I have experienced as a spectator in my 11 derbies is something so intense that it is hard to simply put into words.

Last year's Good Friday meeting saw Wigan win 28-16 to extend their run to four Easter victories in a row including the last meeting at Knowsley Road and the first at Langtree Park something that Saints fans are consistently reminded of and a piece of history that will stick in the minds of the Warriors forever.

A fifth successive Good Friday win would surely rank up with the two standout wins above as to end such a stunning record of nine wins in a row would be an amazing feat and could continue a trend that has run for a total of eight Super League titles.
Another incentive then that should there be a winner on Friday, they would be the favourites of the two to go on to become the 2014 Super League Champions which in Wigan's sense would be the retaining of their stunning 2013 title.

As the Easter rounds pack three games in the space of a week, the 19's for both sides were likely to have notable absentees but the surprise comes when Wigan have only one in the form of the sidelined Josh Charnley while St Helens have four with the trio of Willie Manu, Kyle Amor and Anthony Laffranchi sidelined while rising star Adam Swift is left out of the squad for reasons currently unknown.

A number of factors could decide the game with a key issue being goal-kicking, Luke Walsh (31 - most in SL) and Matty Smith (18) have had contrasting success from the boot so far with more than capable backups in Tommy Makinson (3) and George Williams (4) available for Friday if need be.

Goal-kicking is mainly reliant on try scoring and St Helens have the top scorer in 2014 in Tommy Makinson (9) who has sailed to the top of the standings thanks to his unique diving technique in grounding the ball so will be the 'one to watch' for the Wigan defence who will be glad at the absence of Adam Swift (5) who was superb in last year's meetings.

The mixed form of the highly rated Josh Charnley (2) and Joe Burgess (3) have seen two surprise stars for Wigan in terms of try-scoring with Iain Thornley (7) and Matty Bowen (5) both in red hot form with the latter an expert of the full length try (Catalan/London), something St Helens will need to be very wary of on what could be a scorching Friday afternoon.
St Helens -  Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones,  Lance Hohaia, Luke Walsh, Mose Masoe, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook,  Sia Soliola, Jon Wilkin, Mark Flanagan, Paul Wellens, Alex Walmsley, Joe Greenwood, Anthony Walker, Matty Dawson, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson.

Wigan -  25 John Bateman, 1 Matty Bowen, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 12 Liam Farrell, 10 Ben Flower, 3 Darrell Goulding, 6 Blake Green, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 22 Eddy Pettybourne, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Scott Taylor, 4 Iain Thornley, 27 George Williams.

As indicated in the full round preview, I have predicted a close game with the outcome- St Helens 18 Wigan 24.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Super League Round Nine Preview

An exciting Easter weekend begins with round nine over Maundy Thursday and Good Friday aka 'Derby Weekend alike Magic Weekend, no two games kick-off at the same time with three televised over the two days.

Thursday's televised game is the classic Hull derby between Hull FC and Hull KR with both sides in good form ahead of what should be a feisty meeting between the two, Rovers were victorious in last season's Easter derby but went on to lose the next two derbies so will be out to avenge the duo of defeats.

Aside from the city bragging rights, there is another incentive with the sides separated by a single point in the league table with FC sixth on eight and Rovers ninth on seven and this is always an exciting game to watch as a neutral.

Hull -Bowden, Carvell, Colbon, Ellis, Hadley, Horne, Houghton, Miller, Paea, Paleaaesina, Rankin, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Tuson, Watts, Westerman, Whiting, Yeaman.

Hull KR - Burns, Carlile, Caro, Cockayne, Costigan, Cox, Gardner, Green, Hall, Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Larroyer, Lovegrove, Netherton, Poore, Salter, Welham, Weyman.

This should be a real close clash so I will go for a late win for the hosts, Hull 25 Hull KR 24

A lot of Super League sides reside in Yorkshire and despite the hosts recent demise, Bradford against
Leeds is still the biggest Yorkshire derby even though some might disagree in favour of Wakefield v Castleford.

Bradford come into the game in what is their worst form in years as they sit bottom of the table on -2 points and with only two wins from eight the prospect of relegation is surely creeping into the thoughts of the Bulls faithful. Leeds on the other hand are in great form with six wins from eight and come off the back of two comfortable wins over Wakefield so will be confident of a third 40+ point haul in a row though as we all know form goes out of the window when it comes to Derby Day.

After a double milestone last week, Leeds have another in their ranks as Rob Burrow is set to make his 400th appearance for the club with Jamie Peacock rested meaning he is unable to add to his 500th game from the previous weekend while Jamie Jones-Buchanan out injured.

Bradford will be looking for a first win in two years against their fierce rivals but came close in last season's Easter meeting in a 18-18 draw secured late on by an Adam Sidlow try, this year I feel that Bradford could take a beating but stranger things have happened around Easter.

Bradford -  Danny Addy, Matty Blythe, Danny Bridge, Matt Diskin, James Donaldson, Jamal Fakir, Dale Ferguson, Jamie Foster, Luke Gale, Lee Gaskell, Adam Henry, Elliot Kear, Brett Kearney, Manase Manuokafoa, Adam O'Brien, Tom Olbison, Adrian Purtell, Adam Sidlow, Chev Walker.

Leeds - Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Minchella.

A comfortable win for Leeds I feel this time around - Bradford 12 Leeds 38.

As I mentioned earlier,the majority of the Super League is based in the north so for London and Catalan the closest they get to a derby game is facing each other despite being 624 miles apart.

The sides met recently in the Challenge Cup with the Dragons coming out on top in a 42-20 win and the Broncos will hope to avenge their cup exit with a first win of the season despite showing promise last week away to Wigan as they led 0-10 before going on to lose 36-14.

Catalan themselves have only won twice in eight games though both have come in Perpignan against Huddersfield and last week against Widnes with their away form just as bad as London's home form so something will have to give tomorrow.

London - Caton-Brown, Cook, Cunningham, Drinkwater, Duckworth, Farrar, Foster,  Greenwood, Krasniqi, Macani, Mataitonga, McMeeken, Minns, Moore, Slyney, Solomona, Vea, Wallace, Woodburn- Hall.

Catalan - Escaré, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Lima, Taia, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Pala, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Guasch.

An Anglo-French battle that bar a miracle for London will see victory for the French - London 18 Catalan 28.

Good Friday sees the four remaining games and there is no better place to start than with the huge derby between St Helens and Wigan and as it is a special game, a full preview will be posted separately.

Saints go into the game in their best form for years with a 100% record of eight wins in a row while Wigan have comeback from a sketchy start around their WCC trip to win five from seven and will be keen to end the fine run their rivals are enjoying.

A run that has been severely tested with late comebacks needed against Leeds and most recently in last week's visit to Castleford when they came from 24-6 down to win 28-30. Wigan's winning run has seen them play against what many would call 'lesser' sides with their two defeats coming against Huddersfield and high-flying Castleford so this is their biggest test in a while. 

St Helens -  Jonny Lomax, Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Josh Jones,  Lance Hohaia, Luke Walsh, Mose Masoe, James Roby, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook,  Sia Soliola, Jon Wilkin, Mark Flanagan, Paul Wellens, Alex Walmsley, Joe Greenwood, Anthony Walker, Matty Dawson, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson.

Wigan -  25 John Bateman, 1 Matty Bowen, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 12 Liam Farrell, 10 Ben Flower, 3 Darrell Goulding, 6 Blake Green, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 22 Eddy Pettybourne, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Scott Taylor, 4 Iain Thornley, 27 George Williams.
25 John Bateman, 1 Matty Bowen, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 12 Liam Farrell, 10 Ben Flower, 3 Darrell Goulding, 6 Blake Green, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 22 Eddy Pettybourne, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Scott Taylor, 4 Iain Thornley, 27 George Williams
25 John Bateman, 1 Matty Bowen, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 12 Liam Farrell, 10 Ben Flower, 3 Darrell Goulding, 6 Blake Green, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 22 Eddy Pettybourne, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Scott Taylor, 4 Iain Thornley, 27 George Williams
25 John Bateman, 1 Matty Bowen, 32 Joe Burgess, 24 Tony Clubb, 16 Gil Dudson, 12 Liam Farrell, 10 Ben Flower, 3 Darrell Goulding, 6 Blake Green, 14 Jack Hughes, 28 Jordan James, 9 Michael McIlorum, 13 Sean O'Loughlin, 22 Eddy Pettybourne, 23 Dan Sarginson, 7 Matty Smith, 8 Scott Taylor, 4 Iain Thornley, 27 George Williams

This may seem biased but I feel this is when Wigan will show their might in 2014 - St Helens 18 Wigan 24.

In recent years, Warrington against Widnes has been considered a 'gimme' for the Wolves but that all changed last Easter when the Vikings stunned them in a 38-22 victory before going on to complete a league double over the eventual Grand Finalists with a 6-16 win at the HJ.

This year has seen that turnaround continue as Widnes go into the game two points ahead of their neighbours who have had a mixed start to the season which has seen them yet to post a home win with a trio of losses against St Helens, Wigan and last week against Hull KR.

It seems strange to say that Warrington need a win given their recent history but a fourth home defeat in a row could see them drop out of the top eight while a third consecutive derby win for Widnes could propel them into the top four.

Warrington - Roy Asotasi, Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer, Anthony England, Ben Evans, Rhys Evans, Ben Harrison, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, James Laithwaite, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Stefan Ratchford, Matthew Russell,Trent Waterhouse

Widnes - not announced as yet.

This could be a really close game and with both sides smarting from defeats I think this could be decided by a one pointer - Warrington 23 Widnes 22.

The second Yorkshire derby of the round sees Castleford travel to face neighbours Wakefield with both
sides having contrasting starts to the season with the host winning only two of their eight games and the visitors flying high with six wins from eight.

Despite being the lower ranked of the two sides, Wakefield have won two of the last three meetings including the 36-32 victory in September and the Easter derby of 2013 which saw them win 16-37 so Castleford will be eager to avoid a second consecutive Easter derby loss while hoping to regain second spot in the table.

Wakefield's main hope will be to avoid a fourth successive hammering after conceding 40+ points against Hull KR and Leeds (CC and SL) but did display good perfomances in their two wins and also in narrow defeats to St Helens and Wigan so will not be a walkover for the visitors.

Castleford -   Michael Shenton, Justin Carney, Marc Sneyd, Andy Lynch, Adam Milner, Craig Huby, Grant Millington,  Weller Hauraki, Nathan Massey, Daryl Clark, Ryan Boyle, Oliver Holmes, Frankie Mariano, Scott Wheeldon, Jamie Ellis, Richard Owen, Michael Channing, James Clare, Liam Finn.

Wakefield-  Mathers, Fox, Lyne, Collis, Sykes, Godinet, Anderson, McShane, Raleigh, Kirmond, Washbrook, Ryan, Moore, Sammut, Annakin, Smith, Siejka, Scruton.

After a last-gasp loss in round eight, I see Castleford bouncing back so Wakefield 18 Castleford 32 .

The final game of the round sees two sides from opposite sides of the Pennines meet with Huddersfield travelling to Salford as the only Yorkshire side without a derby due to five teams based in the county but Huddersfield have had some good games with Salford in recent years so it does have the spice of a derby all the same.

Salford were the victors last Easter with a 21-20 win but Huddersfield bounced back with a crushing 46-4 win in the reverse meeting. They will be keen to get a first win against the re-branded Red Devils while hoping to improve on a poor start to the season that has seen them win only two out of eight while Salford have won four and will aim to extend the Giants losing streak.

At the start of the season, Salford being in the top eight at Easter I could have expected but to see last year's League Leaders Shield winners down in tenth is a massive surprise and with a packed weekend, a win is a must for Huddersfield to avoid dropping into the bottom three.

Salford -  Rangi Chase, Theo Fages, Martin Gleeson, Darrell Griffin, Harrison Hansen, Gareth Hock, Greg Johnson, Tommy Lee, Shannon McPherson, Francis Meli,  Adrian Morley, Jake Mullaney, Tony Puletua, Junior Sa’u, Tim Smith, Lama Tasi, Logan Tomkins, Jordan Walne.

Huddersfield-  Scott Grix, Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Eorl Crabtree, Shaun Lunt, Craig Kopczak, Jason Chan, Chris Bailey, Michael Lawrence, Larne Patrick, Ukuma Ta’ai, Kyle Wood, Antonio Kaufusi, Anthony Mullally, Josh Johnson, Jake Connor.

Both sides are having a mixed season so this is a hard one to call but I think Salford may just come out on top so Salford 24 Huddersfield 18.