Thursday, 29 May 2014

Giants End Warriors Streak

After a superb trio of wins for the youthful Warriors, their run was halted somewhat controversially away to Huddersfield who completed a double over their visitors. 

A mixed start for both sides saw Wigan look to have opened the scoring when Powell crossed the Giants line only to be pulled back by referee, Ben Thaler for obstruction.

However, Wigan did open the scoring four minutes later as a nice pass from Manfredi resulted in a run and try from returning captain O'Loughlin with Smith converting for 0-6. 

Wigan made it two tries in six minutes when a superb run from Bowen saw him cross for a brilliant try with Smith again successful with the boot for 0-12.

Huddersfield responded well and reduced the deficit after nice play in the middle saw Murphy score in the corner with Brough converting for 6-12.

The sides could have been level when Huddersfield were in again but after a review, their hopes were dashed but within minutes they were level when Lunt crossed the Wigan line and his try awarded after a review with Brough converting for 12 all.

The Giants charge continued as they went in front but only after Wardle was chased down stunningly by Manfredi with the Winger racing back to prevent a try but the next tackle saw Wardle go over and Brough converted for an 18-12 lead.

The travelling Wigan fans frustration grew  after Brough clearly crossed behind a team-mate while in goal resulting in a dash by Murphy that was halted strongly by Burgess with the Giants winger leaving the field injured.

Wigan looked to have made a perfect start to the second half as kick from Smith was taken badly by McGillvary with Burgess capitalising to score a try but after a review, the effort was denied. 

Huddersfield increased their lead as Wardle raced clear to score after what looked to be a forward pass but the try stood and Brough converted for 24-12.

Brough looked to rub salt into the wound when he swept over a drop goal for 25-12 but Wigan responded well with a superb last tackle kick finding Manfredi who grounded the ball superbly but Smith's missed conversion attempt meant a nine point gap at 25-16.

Wigan's hopes looked to be in tatters when a huge mistake from Burgess allowed McGIllvary to race clear for an easy try with Brough maintaining his record with the boot for a 31-16 lead.

Even though their winning record was coming to a certain end, Wigan did have the last say as a nice pass out wide found Burgess who crossed for a try with Smith converting for a final score of 31-22.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Super League Round 15 Preview

Ahead of a break for the Challenge Cup quarter-finals, Super League moves on to round 15.

Tomorrow night sees the 'Battle of the Champions' as 2013 league leaders Huddersfield host double winners Wigan with the Giants looking to secure a double over the Warriors.

The sides met on the opening weekend of the season with Huddersfield winning 24-8 over a Wigan side seemingly focused on the World Club Challenge but who go into the game fully focused on continuing their good form.

Wigan have bounced back from their poor start and currently sit fourth in the table on the back of stunning wins over Leeds, Hull FC and Salford all of which were achieved with a young side due a long injury list.

Huddersfield also had a mixed start but have bounced back including a crushing win over Bradford at the Magic weekend before losing 41-22 to St Helens last Friday which dented their charge towards the top four.

Wigan's buoyant mood increased with the news that captain Sean O'Loughlin is named in the 19 with Matt Bowen also returning in place of the injured Michael McIlorum and Dan Sarginson while Ryan's Sutton and Hampshire retain their places alongside fellow youngster George Williams. Huddersfield include two-try debutant Ben Blackmore with Craig Kopczak missing out.

Huddersfield - Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Ferres, Chan, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta'ai, Wood, Mullally, Blackmore.
Wigan - Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Burke, Crosby, Dudson, C. Farrell, Gelling, Goulding, Hampshire, Hughes, James, Manfredi, O'Loughlin, S. Powell, Smith, Sutton, Taylor, Williams.

In recent weeks, I have been confident of the young Wiganers and will continue that trend by predicting Huddersfield 16 Wigan 24.

Friday night features three fixtures with the standout tie being the clash between Warrington and Leeds.

This season’s previous meeting saw Leeds triumph 18-12 at Headingley in February and with the Rhinos in good form outside of the Magic defeat to Wigan, they will be favourites to stage a repeat which would complete a double over the Wolves.

Warrington come into the game in fifth after mixed first half of the season and will be eager to close up on the top four while handing Leeds only a second defeat in nine games which included a run of seven successive wins.

Last season’s clash at the Halliwell Jones stadium saw Warrington win 19-18 with a last-gasp Lee Briers drop goal securing the win, a luxury they have been without in 2014 after his post-season retirement with the kicking duties combined between Stefan Ratchford and Chris Bridge.

Warrington will be without Ben Westwood who begins a three game suspension while Jamie Peacock replaces Ben Jones-Bishop for Leeds.

Warrington- Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, Dwyer, England, B.Evans, R.Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, Ormsby, Ratchford, Riley, Russell.
Leeds- Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Leuluai, Peacock, Ablett, Sinfield, S.Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton, R.Ward.

This could be a close game but to call it, I will go with form and say Warrington 12 Leeds 18.



After being outclassed by a youthful Wigan side, Salford make the trip to St Helens hoping to bounce back from their recent poor form while St Helens will look to continue their battle for top spot.

This seasons previous meeting between the sides saw St Helens outclass Salford 38-0 at AJ Bell Stadium and with pressure to fulfil their pre-season hopes, Salford are in desperate need of a win.

Saints have stuttered a little since their perfect start ended at Easter but sit second after a win over Huddersfield in the previous round saw them bounce back from a humbling to Warrington at Magic while Salford sit 11th and a long way from their hopes of a top six finish after recent defeats to Widnes and Wigan extended their poor form.

Last year’s clash at Langtree Park saw a narrow 14-10 win for the Saints which included a try from current Red Devil Francis Meli who alike Tony Puletua will face his former side for the first time at Langtree Park on Friday night after both suffering in the previous meeting at Salford.

St Helens -  Makinson, Turner, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Flanagan, Wellens, Greenwood, Wheeler, Walker, Dawson, Richards, Thompson, Hand, Tilley.
Salford -  Williams, Sa'u, Meli, Chase, Smith, Morley, Lee, Tasi, Puletua, Hock, Griffin, Dixon, Rapira, Ashurst, Walne, Johnson, Evalds, Tomkins, Eden.

After overcoming Huddersfield so well coupled Salford poor show against Wigan, I see St Helens on top so St Helens 30 Salford 12.

Friday's third game sees Widnes host Catalan with the Vikings looking for revenge for the 42-20 defeat they suffered in Perpignan last month.

Despite the loss to Castleford on Sunday, Widnes are in good form with three wins from their last five games and intriguingly have registered 12 points in the first half of their last three games before going on to lose twice with Wakefield's comeback added to by the loss last week.

Catalan are in stunning form after four wins in their last five with a loss away to Warrington the only negative as they have moved away from the bottom three to ninth and only sit outside of the top eight on points difference.

Last season’s clash at Widnes saw the sides share the points in a 32-32 draw, a score neither would hope to repeat as they look to move up the table keep up their play-off hopes.

Widnes welcome back Danny Craven after his injury 38 seconds into the Magic win against Salford with Danny Galea also returning while Catalan include Jason Baitieri in place of Antoni Maria.

Widnes-Allen, Brown, Clough, Craven, Dean, Galea, Gerrard, Gilmore, Gore, Hanbury, Isa, Johnson, Kavanagh, Leuluai, Marsh, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White. 
Catalan -Escaré, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Taia, Anderson, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Simon, Bousquet, Paea, Baitieri, Duport, Cardace, Baile.

Both sides being in good form could make for a close game but after tipping Widnes last time around I will say Widnes 22 Catalan 28.

Saturday afternoon sees London host Hull FC with the Broncos still awaiting their first win the season while Hull will look to bounce back from defeats to Leeds and rivals Hull KR.

After 13 successive losses from the start of the year, London are nearing relegation week-by-week and need a miracle to turn their season around with at least five wins needed to close up on the teams above them.

Hull despite being in mixed form are not too worried about the prospect of relegation with their focus on closing the four point gap to city rivals Hull KR who occupy the final place in the play-off eight while they will be eager to dispatch London ahead of a week off due to their early exit from the Challenge Cup.

London's hopes of ending their barren run may rest on the form of Mason Caton-Brown who has been a shining star in what has been a bad season for the Broncos with Hull boasting a strong attack and defence combination overall despite only five wins in 14 games.

London have improved recently but I feel a win on Saturday is beyond them so London 16 Hull 26.

Sunday afternoon features the final two games of the round with Bradford and Wakefield facing off in a must win game for the Bulls who are currently eight points adrift of safety with the final place occupied by their opponents.

After a decent start to the season, the only positive in recent weeks for the Bulls was the win over Warrington but followed by two heavy defeats to St Helens and Huddersfield coupled with last week’s loss to Catalan means an improvement in form is desperately needed in order to prevent a damaging relegation.

Wakefield themselves are also in poor form with a crushing defeat to rivals Castleford at Magic followed by a mixed performance at home to Warrington in the previous round and know that a win on Sunday could create a massive gap between themselves and the bottom two.

Bradford will hope for a repeat of the reverse meeting between the sides as they came away with a 23-10 win against a Wakefield side who will hope to avoid suffering an unwanted double to the Bulls while looking to increase the gap to their opponents in the standings.

Last season's clash at Odsal saw Bradford triumph 40-6 so though based on form the odds will be against Bradford, the past does favour them going into Sunday's face-off and but I have seen something in Wakefield recently that makes me think they will secure a win so Bradford 16 Wakefield 25.

The weekend's final game sees Castleford host Hull KR with the Tigers in great form at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle this season while the Robins coming into the game on the back of two comfortable wins over rivals Hull FC and London.

Castleford's early season form surprised many critics who didn't expect much from the Tigers who currently sit third just ahead of double winners Wigan who they face twice in the next fortnight at the DW in both the Challenge Cup and the league.

Hull KR have also caused a few surprises this season and are a team not to be written off this season after famously coming from behind to draw at Huddersfield coupled with a double over rivals Hull FC and a stunning win over Warrington.

This season’s previous meeting saw Castleford triumph 30-10 and at home Castleford have been hard to stop with only St Helens and Leeds going away with wins so a similar result for the Robins will boost their chances of breaking into the top five this season while denting the Tigers chances to close on the top two.

Last season’s meeting at Castleford saw the Tigers secure a 32-24 win, one which they will be eager to repeat as they look to complete a double over the Robins.

This could be a close one and it is really hard to call so I will go for a late win for Castleford so Castleford 31 Hull KR 30.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Top Eight Battle Narrows

A four-day weekend for round 14 saw the home sides dominate with only two away sides securing victories in a programme that saw three teams score 40+ points.

Young Warriors School Red Devils

Thursday night saw a young Wigan side travel to a strong Salford with the Warriors aiming to go second while their opponents looked to move closer to the top eight. 

Both sides had early chances chalked off with Salford crossing first through Meli and Wigan minutes later through Hampshire, Wigan came close to breaking the deadlock when a kick from Powell rand dead just inches from Burgess' grasp.

Salford crossed through Hock before his effort was reviewed and denied for a double movement with a fourth review of the half coming when Sarginson crossed for Wigan only to be denied due to an obstruction. The first awarded try came in the final seconds of the half when superb dribbling kicks from Smith bounced well for Bateman who scored superbly but had to wait for confirmation via a review with Smith converting for a 0-6 lead at the interval.

Wigan started the first half perfectly with Powell crossing for a try but the trend of reviewing continued as the try was awarded with Smith converting for 0-12 which was soon followed by a superb run by Hampshire who found Burgess out wide with the Winger racing over the line and another Smith conversion put Wigan clear at 0-18.

Salford's bad luck continued as they were denied a first try via yet another review with Wigan quelling any worries with a drop goal from Smith for 0-19 which was later followed by a superb combination between Manfredi and Burgess with the latter claiming his second try with Smith converting for 0-25.

Salford had the last say with Meli crossing in the final seconds but Smith's missed conversion meant a 4-25 loss. A correct result and a close prediction of 12-30 to start off the week. 

 

Rhinos Overcome Airlie Birds

After both suffering defeats in the previous round, Leeds and Hull faced off both looking to get back to winning ways on Friday night.

After a run of stunning home wins in 2014, it was a surprise to see Leeds held to a single score in the first half as Moon scored the opening try in the 24th minute with Sinfield converting for 6-0, a lead that lasted into the interval.

The lead increased in the 55th minute when Singleton scored the Rhinos' second try with Sinfield converting successfully for 12-0 before adding a penalty in the 68th minute for a 14-0 lead that with 12 minutes remaining was not an impossibility for Hull to overturn. However, the chances of a comeback were all but ended as Ward crossed for Leeds and Sinfield maintained his 100% record from the boot for 20-0. Hull avoided being nilled in the final minute as Shaul scored their sole try with Westerman converting for a final score of 20-6. A correct result and a close prediction of 30-12. 

Saints End Giants Charge

After a controversial Cup exit to St Helens earlier in the season, Huddersfield travelled to Langtree Park looking for revenge and to build their superb winning run.

The hosts got off to a brilliant start with two tries in the opening ten minutes from Wheeler and Hohaia with both successfully converted by Walsh for a 12-0 lead that soon became 18-0 when Wellens made it three tries in 14 minutes and Walsh converted for a third time.

Huddersfield responded with a try from Patrick which Brough converted for 18-6 but it did little to stem Saints' scoring spree as Dawson crossed six minutes later and despite Walsh failing to convert, the lead increased to 22-6 and lasted into the interval.

Wilkin extended the lead three minutes into the second half with Walsh converting for a 28-6 lead that was reduced two minutes later when Giants debutant Blackmore made his mark with a try but Brough's missed conversion attempt meant an 18 point gap at 28-10.

Masoe crossed for St Helens in the 53rd minute with Walsh converting for 34-10 with Huddersfield responding instantly through Ferres with Brough's conversion putting the score at 34-16 with more than enough time remaining to stage a comeback.

However in the 67th minute, Wheeler struck for a second time for St Helens with Walsh converting for a 40-16 lead and in doing so surely confirming the win but Huddersfield had their say as Blackmore scored his second try of the evening just four minutes later with Brough's conversion reducing the gap to 18 at 40-22.

The last say went to Walsh who rubbed salt into the wound with a 79th minute drop goal to seal a 41-22 win and ruin my chances of a perfect week of prediction with an incorrect result and wide prediction of 20-28.

Dragons Delight Over Bulls

After Magic performances that were poles apart, Catalan hosted Bradford on a hot Saturday afternoon in Perpignan.

Bradford's task was a hard one in the scorching heat and made worse right from the start as Escare opened the scoring in the first minute for Catalan with Bosc converting for a 6-0 lead before a mistake in the 11th minute allowed Whitehead to extend the lead with a try that Bosc converted well for 12-0 to give Bradford a mountain to climb.

A mountain that became instantly steeper when Oldfield raced clear of the Bradford defence to cross for an easy try with Bosc on fiery form with the boot for a 18-0 lead inside 15 minutes with Bulls fans dreading another hammering.

However, Bradford improved and managed to hold off any further Catalan charges before the interval even going close with a few of their own but at 18-0 down at the break needed to converted attack into tries.

Bradford's improved defence didn't continue into the second half thanks to Escare's second try of the afternoon in the 42nd minute which Bosc converted followed by a Simon try in the 49th minute with Bosc converting for a 30-0 lead.

The response came from Bradford with Foster crossing for the Bulls first try of the afternoon but a failure to convert left them 24 points behind at 30-6, a gap that increased three minutes later when Millard struck for the Dragons and despite Bosc not converting the lead was 34-4.

Pryce scored just after the hour to surely end any hopes for his former club as Bosc's conversion ensured the Dragons had a 36 point lead at 40-4 with the afternoon ending with yet another Dragons score as Taia crossed in the 77th minute and Bosc made it 14 points from the boot with a seventh conversion for a final score of 46-4. A correct result and but wide on the prediction of 36-20.

Nine Try Robins Thrash Broncos

After coming so close to a first win of the season at Magic, London made the long trip to face a Hull KR side buoyant from cruising in the Hull derby.

Hodgson opened the scoring in the 17th minute with Burns converting but an instant second came from Costigan with Burns converting again for a 12-0 lead. London responded through Solomona five minutes later to reduce the lead to 12-4 but two tries in three minutes from Walker and Gardner with the former converted by Burns making for a 22-4 lead at the interval.

A double from Foster in the 48th and 56th minutes both converted by Drinkwater gave London hope with the deficit now reduced to 22-16 but the charge from London seemed to inspire Hull KR who responded in style.

Three tries in the space of nine minutes began with Larroyer crossing ahead of Gardner's second try which Burns converted with the spree ending with a try from Hall with Burns again converting for a 38-16 lead that would need a huge response from London to earn their first win of the season.

However, London failed to respond which proved costly for the Broncos as the Robins confirmed the win with two late tries with Hodgson and Hall claiming their second tries of the afternoon with Burns converting the latter for a 48-16 win. A correct result and not too far off with a 38-18 prediction.


Wolves Overpower Wildcats

Two sides that had very different results in the previous round were Wakefield and Warrington who faced off on Sunday afternoon.

Warrington took the lead in the 12th minute when Ratchford crossed for the opening try with Bridge converting for 0-6 with both sides defending well to keep the score at a single try until just before the interval when Warrington ran riot with three tries with a double from Currie and a try from Ormsby but no conversions meant a lead of 0-18.

Bridge crossed for a try of his own before converting for a 0-24 lead seven minutes into the second half with Walshaw responding for the hosts in the 54th minute to make it 4-24 but Warrington confirmed the in late on with tries from Atkins (75) and Myler (80) both successfully converted by Bridge for a 4-36 win. A correct result but wide with the 18-38 prediction.


Tigers Overcome Battling Vikings

Castleford and Widnes met after both securing wins at Magic and as a result looked to make it two wins in a row.

The hosts took the lead after eight minutes with Shenton crossing for the opening try but Widnes hit back with a try from Brown which Tickle converted for a 4-12 lead. Webster struck for Castleford in the 21st minute with Sneyd's conversion closing the gap at 10-12 before Marsh regained the eight point lead at 10-18 with a try that Tickle converted successfully.

Castleford pulled Widnes back in style with three tries in four minutes from Wheeldon and after Flynn's sin-binning, and a double from Dorn with all three superbly converted by Sneyd for a 28-12 lead which increased to 34-12 in the 65th minute when Clark struck with Sneyd's fifth conversion of the afternoon following to give Widnes a 22 point deficit to overcome. 

Two tries in as many minutes from Phelps and Gilmore alongside a Tickle conversion gave the Vikings hope at 34-22 but the Tigers held on for the win. A correct result and perfect prediction of 22 for Widnes but the hopes of 25 for Castleford were a bit off.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Young Warriors School Red Devils

After the stunning Magic Weekend victory over Leeds, Wigan faced a short turnaround as the injury ravaged and youthful Warriors travelled to Salford last night for the round 14 opener.

Blake Green's injury on Saturday meant the 17 named for last night's game at the AJ Bell Stadium averaged only 21 years of age pale in comparison to the strong and older Salford side who seemed to have the better start in piling the pressure on Wigan which saw Sarginson knock on to give the hosts possession in a good position only for Hansen to waste the chance by knocking on himself.

Both sides seem to be struggling in ball handling due to the wet conditions but Salford looked to have taken an early advantage as a nice passage of play saw Meli score in the corner but Bentham asked for a review and after numerous replays the try was denied and Wigan breathed a sigh of relief.

Three minutes later the video referee was called into action again but to judge on a Wigan effort after Matty Smith found Hampshire with the fullback crossing the Salford line, the review of the try saw a second denial of the game leaving both sides level.

Wigan came achingly close to breaking the deadlock when a superb kick from Powell looked to be finding the grasp of Burgess on the wing but sadly the young Winger ran out of room before the dead ball line and the chance of a try slipped away.

Salford responded and on the final tackle of their set they got lucky with Hampshire's mistake giving them a good chance from a goal-line dropout with Wigan's fans in dismay at seeing McIlorum replaced so early meaning a potential addition to a growing injury list.

The review system was utilised for a third time in under 28 minutes when Hock crossed for Salford after a strong attacking set from the Red Devils but on the replay it was clear he had committed a double movement so another no try was announced.

Wigan quelled the pressure on their defence and went on the attack before being awarded a penalty just metres from the Salford line after Manfredi had been tackled in mid-air when attempting to receive the ball and in the resulting set, a nice passage of play saw Sarginson cross for a try but yet again Bentham asked for a review to the clear annoyance of both sets of fans.

Alike the previous three efforts, a no try was announced and with only seven minutes left until the interval, the prospect of a scoreless first 40 minutes was on the cards. However, in the dying seconds of the first half, Matty Smith showed skills akin to a professional footballer with a double pass forward from the boot with his second flighted perfectly for Bateman to take and touch down over the Salford line.

Of course, the decision went to a review as it seemed Bentham was unable to actually award a try himself and to the joy of the Wigan fans behind the posts, the try was given to end the hopes of a level half-time score which was added to by an easy conversion by Matty Smith for 0-6 at the interval.

Wigan came out for the second half clearly inspired by the traditional war cry from Shaun Wane as they extended their lead only five minutes into the second half as after forcing a dropout for Salford, some quick play from Powell saw him cross for a try but as was becoming a trend in the game, Bentham asked for a review but after replays the try was awarded and Smith converted for a 0-12 lead for the young Wiganers.

Salford's woes increased further when a stunning run from Hampshire sucked in the Red Devils defence allowing him to easily find Burgess on the wing with the Wigan No 32 racing over the line to be greeted with the surprise of a seventh review of the evening. A few rewinds and replays later, the try was awarded and Smith kicked a tough but superb conversion for 0-18 leaving Salford with a huge task ahead of them in order to comeback and win.

The comeback looked to have begun when Salford crossed the Wigan line just minutes later but another review resulted in a no try and the home fans frustration grew further as the Wigan fans seemed to revel in the downfall of their hosts.

A three score lead with ten minutes to go was not a guarantee of the win and Wigan knew exactly that when Smith kicked a spectacular drop goal to extended the lead to 0-19 requiring four or more scores from the Red Devils.

However, any hopes of such a miraculous comeback ended in style as Manfredi picked out fellow his fellow Winger who raced the length of the Salford half to touch down for his second try of the night to the tune of "There's only one Joe Burgess" from the ecstatic Wigan faithful in the North stand with Smith converting for a 0-25 lead.

The win now sealed, Wigan's goal turned to a potential nilling of their hosts but in the final minute, Salford ended that pursuit with a try as Meli crossed in what was a small consolation and lacking of a shine when Tim Smith missed the conversion to leave the final score 4-25 to the victorious Wigan side who as a result move up to second in the table.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Super League Round 14 preview

After an exciting Magic Weekend in Manchester for round 13, Super League moves onto round 14 with six of the 14 sides having a short turnaround.

Tonight sees the meeting between Salford and Wigan with the home side likely to feature many former Wigan stars including Gareth Hock, Harrison Hansen, former coach Iestyn Harris, Martin Gleeson and the on loan Logan Tomkins.

Wigan secured a stunning win over Leeds at Magic but suffered a blow with Blake Green sidelined for three months while Salford suffered a narrow defeat to neighbours Widnes in a match where both sides exchanged the lead numerous times.

After their mixed start and hopes of a top six finish,Salford have now decided on a more realistic hope of the top eight and currently sit in ninth place ahead of the the tough tie against the Warriors tonight and as Wigan are likely to field a similarly youthful side to the victorious one on Saturday, Salford will be wary as Wigan's youngsters have performed very well this season and for Wigan there is the prospect of second place in the table.

Last season's meeting between the sides saw Wigan win 42-0 on the opening weekend against a Salford side very different from that which will take the field tomorrow evening as the Red Devils look to move up to tenth in the table after only four wins in 13 games while Wigan after their blip away to Leeds are in great form with nine wins from their 12 games this season.

Salford include the aforementioned foursome with Wigan links while Wigan include the fit again Ryan Hampshire with Greg Burke and Ben Austin coming in place of the injured Blake Green and Matty Bowen and John Bateman who may have been rested with former Red Devil Jordan James also included.

Salford- Howarth, Rapira, Eden, Sa'u, Hansen, Platt, Chase, Williams, Gleeson, Hock, Lee, Dixon, Ashurst, Puletua, Tasi, Morley, Meli, Tomkins, Griffin

Wigan - Austin, Burke, Burgess, Crosby, Dudson, C.Farrell, Gelling, Goulding, Hampshire, Hughes, James, Manfredi, McIlorum, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Sutton, Taylor, Williams.

Despite Wigan's injured list, I see the heroes of Magic triumphing again so Salford 12 Wigan 30.

Friday night features two games with the televised match, St Helens hosting Huddersfield with the Saints hoping to erase the memory of the Magic defeat to Warrington while Huddersfield will look to build on the heavy win over Bradford.

Last season's meeting saw Huddersfield hammer Saints 40-4 in what was Nathan Brown's first game against his former side with the Giants going on to lift the League Leaders shield but their form this season has seen them win only seven from 13 as they sit fifth while Saints after a perfect eight game winning run have only won two of their last five but still sit second and close to the top.

The two sides met in the Challenge Cup with Saints winning 17-16 with a last-gasp Walsh drop goal after Brough had one denied for the Giants controversially at 16 all with the dismissal of Brett Ferres for a dangerous lifting tackle hopefully not in the minds of the Saints players ahead of tomorrow's game.

Saints trio Alex Walmsley, Jonny Lomax and Josh Jones all miss out with Jordan Hand, James Tilley and Gary Wheeler all recalled while Huddersfield recall Jermaine McGillvary in place of the injured Jodie Broughton.
 
St Helens- Makinson, Turner, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Flanagan, Wellens, Greenwood, Wheeler, Walker, Dawson, Richards, Thompson, Hand, Tilley.

Huddersfield- Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Chan, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta'ai, Wood, Mullally.

This game could go either way and it may seem like a gamble but I am going for Huddersfield so St Helens 20 Huddersfield 28.

The second game sees Hull travel to face Leeds with both sides looking to bounce back from Magic defeats to Hull KR and Wigan respectively.

Leeds will be eager to bounce back from the Magic defeat to Wigan, a loss that ended their run of seven successive wins that has propelled them to the top of the table and will look to take advantage of a Hull side currently on a poor run of one win in five including the damaging defeats to Wigan and rivals Hull KR in recent weeks.

Alike the aforementioned ties, the two sides also met in 2013's opening weekend with Leeds winning 36-6, a score that the Rhinos would be proud to repeat but a repeat that would further extend Hull's losing run which is made worse by the fact that their city rivals Hull KR sit two points and two places clear of the Airlie Birds, a fact that FC will be eager to erase.

Leeds hand a debut to Robbie Ward due to injuries to Paul Aiton and Rob Burrow with Jamie Peacock sidelined and Kallum Watkins and Tom Briscoe returning while Hull are without Garreth Carvell but are able to give an instant debut to new signing Setaimata Sa while Ben Crooks returns from injury in place of the suspended Jason Crookes.

Leeds- Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Leuluai, Ablett, Sinfield, S Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Kirke, Clarkson, Achurch, Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton, R Ward

Hull- Bowden, Crooks, Colbon, Ellis, Hadley, Heremaia, Horne, Houghton, Miller, Paea, Paleaaesina, Rankin, Sa, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Watts, Westerman, Yeaman.

As both sides are eager for a win this could be a superb match-up but I see Leeds coming out on top so Leeds 30 Hull 12.

Saturday's game sees Catalan host Bradford with the Bulls in need of a win to close up on the top 12 while Catalan will look to build on their win over London on Saturday.

Bradford seem to be different from one week to the next with a superb win against Warrington seemingly forgotten after heavy defeats to St Helens and Huddersfield and with the gap to themselves and London widened to eight points at the bottom, a win is a must for the Bulls.

Catalan are in great form with four wins in their last five and as a result are ninth with a record of six wins in 13 which has quashed early worries of relegation and has given them confidence of a charge for the top six with the form of Morgan Escare and Elliot Whitehead being a huge contributing factor to their rise in form.

Last season's meeting saw a 30-10 win for Catalan with a repeat something Bradford will hope to prevent as they try to replicate the performance that saw them defeat Warrington for only their third win of the season.

Catalan are still missing the quartet of Scott Dureau, Brent Webb, Ian Henderson and Greg Mounis with  Julian Bousquet, Antoni Maria, Jean-Philippe Baile and Damien Cardace recalled in place of Mathias Pala, Benjamin Garcia, Jason Baitieri and Joan Guasch. Bradford include new signing Jordan Baldwinson with James Donaldson and Manase Manuokafoa returning with Antonio Kaufusi back in contention.

Catalan- Escare, Pryce, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Simon, Bousquet, Paea, Duport, Cardace, Baile.

Bradford - Addy, Arundel, Baldwinson, Conroy, Donaldson, Foster, Gale, Gaskell, George, Henry, Manuokafoa, Kaufusi, Kear, O'Brien, Olbison, Mellor, Pitts, Purtell, Sidlow.

Catalan's good from and home advantage will be major factors and as such I will pip for them so Catalan 36 Bradford 20.

The remaining three games take place on Sunday with the the first game seeing Hull KR host a London side still searching for their first win of the season while Rovers will look to build an magnificent Magic win over city rivals Hull.

The Robins are buoyant after a comfortable Magic win in the Hull derby and with two wins and a draw from their last five sit eighth in the table with the form of Liam Salter and Ade Gardner contributing factors to their success.

London despite coming close on Saturday before losing to Catalan by a missed conversion at 24-22 are still without a win in 2014 and like Bradford could be ten points adrift from avoiding relegation with some experts predicting that the Magic defeat was London's last real chance of a win this season.

Last season's meeting between the sides saw London triumph 34-22 with a hat-trick from Mason  Caton-Brown who this season has been a shining light for the Broncos despite their lack of a win and of course a repeat would be superb for London.

After watching both sides on Saturday, Hull KR are a side to be wary of as their pacy attack at times made fools of the Hull defence while London also have a strong attack but were let down in their defence.

The Robins good form could be a factor here and if they attack at their full strength they should come out on top so Hull KR 38 London 18.





Castleford take on Widnes with both sides in good form and sitting well placed on the top of the table after strong wins at the Magic Weekend.

Both sides have been a welcome surprise this year after poor seasons in recent years and to see them both in the top six is a joy as it shows that sides can go from the bottom to challenging at the top in the space of a single season.

Last season's meeting saw Castleford win 28-26 and a similar result on Sunday would not be a surprise with both sides in good form and each with three wins from their last five games as Castleford sit third with nine wins from 13 overall and Widnes sixth winning eight from 12.

Castleford have been very strong at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle in 2014 with their only defeats coming against St Helens and Leeds and as such are a team to be wary of for visiting sides but Widnes have done well when against strong sides with stunning wins against Huddersfield and St Helens being perfect examples.

This game is one that is really hard to call but after a long thought, I will go for Castleford so Castleford 25 Widnes 22.

The final game at the weekend sees Wakefield host Warrington which on paper could be a mismatch after contrasting results at the Magic weekend.

Wakefield after two stunning comeback wins against Hull and Widnes were brought down to earth with a heavy defeat to neighbours Castleford while Warrington fought off a comeback from St Helens to avenge their opening weekend loss to the Saints.

Last season's meeting saw Warrington win 41-34 and with the current form of both sides, a similar result cannot be ruled out as Warrington have three wins and Wakefield have two wins from their last five so form wise it is pretty close.

However, the sides are separated by five places in the table with the Wildcats twelfth and the Wolves above them in seventh with their attacks quite close points wise but with Wakefield's defence letting them down this season,

This could be a cracking game but I see Warrington coming out on top so Wakefield 18 Warrington 38.
 







Monday, 19 May 2014

A Magical Weekend In Manchester

Against a backdrop of glorious sunshine awash with colour, Super League graced the Etihad Stadium for a weekend to remember as the Magic Weekend took place in round 13.
Day one of the event featured four games beginning with the early kick-off between London and Catalan with the Broncos looking to end a 12 game losing streak with a first win of the season.

Dragons Survive Broncos Comeback

A tense start by both sides saw Catalan look to have scored the opening try when Pomeroy crossed in the seventh minute but to the despair of the Dragons fans, the try was denied after a review and the sides remained level.

London brushed of the early worries to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when the in-form Caton-Brown crossed for a superb try, Drinkwater added the conversion for a 6-0 lead as the Broncos confidence began the grow. However, Catalan were level within nine minutes as Duport raced through the London defence to score with Bosc converting for 6 all.

Catalan went in front six minutes later when Whitehead crossed to the line to the joy of the fans from Perpignan with a second conversion from Bosc giving them the momentum into half time with a 6-12 lead.

Lima crossed for the Dragons just before the hour with the try awarded after a short review from the video referee with Bosc successfully converting for a third time for a lead of 6-18 leaving London with work to do to prevent a 13th straight loss.

London did battle back with two tries in the space of three minutes, the first coming from Caton-Brown who crossed for his second try of the afternoon in the 64th minute with Drinkwater converting to bring the gap to a converted score at 12-18. Greenwood powered over the line in the 67th minute with a third conversion from Drinkwater levelling the match at 18 all.

The last meeting between the sides saw London stage a late comeback before losing by a single score so when Whitehead scored his second of the game with nine minutes remaining and Bosc converted for 18-24, London had the chance to avenge the aforementioned defeat  and began the comeback  when Drinkwater crossed for a try in the 75th minute but sadly he missed the vital conversion and London were still behind at 22-24.

However, there was one last chance for London when they were awarded a penalty in the final minute just metres from the Catalan line and chose to go for broke with a tap rather than the safety of a draw that would have come from a goal kick, but sadly there was no end product which meant Catalan secured the narrow win while London's poor run continues. A correct result and a close prediction of 18-22.


Vikings Edge Out Red Devils

The second game of the afternoon saw local rivals Widnes and Salford face off with the Vikings suffering an early blow with Craven knocking himself out while attempting to tackle Hock after only 38 seconds. 

Widnes battled on and went in front in the sixth minute when Flynn crossed for a try in the corner but a tight angled conversion attempt was missed by Tickle as Widnes led 4-0 but Salford hit back with Sa'u scoring in the eighth minute and Mullaney converting to give the Red Devils a 4-6 lead.

Widnes looked to have regained the lead in the 15th minute only to be denied by the video referee who decided it was a goal-line dropout rather than a grounded try while Salford were able to extend their lead in the 21st minute with a fine effort from Chase with Mullaney's conversion putting them clear at 4-12.

Two tries in five minutes saw Widnes draw level at 12 all, the first scored by Owens saw a missed conversion attempt from Tickle with Dean crossing for the second try which was awarded after a review with Tickle again missing with the boot meaning Widnes really should have been ahead 18-12 going into the interval.

Just two minutes into the second half and Salford were back in front as nice play from Hansen saw him pick out Ashurst for a try with Mullaney missing the conversion but Salford now led 12-16. Widnes came back yet again as White scored and an ironic cheer greeted Tickle's first successful conversion that gave Widnes the lead at 18-16.

In what was becoming a trend of the afternoon, Salford hit back two minutes later with a fine solo run by Williams culminating in a try for the Red Devils Winger but Mullaney's missed conversion attempt left a narrow lead of 18-20. The trend continued as Widnes went ahead in the 58th minute after a stunning run and grounding by Hanbury was sent for a review with the replays showing no problems and the try awarded with Tickle kicking the conversion for 24-20.

Tickle extended the gap to six points with a penalty in the 69th minute with Salford looking to have reduced the deficit three minutes later only to have the effort denied due to a layer being offside in the build-up. They did score successfully in the 74th minute when a fine run from Meli ended with him crossing for a try but a failed conversion attempt from Mullaney meant Salford were still behind at 26-24.

After opening the scoring early on, Flynn claimed his second try right at the end to secure the win for Widnes despite Tickle not converting as the Vikings won 30-24. A correct result and a close prediction of 28-20.

Robins Overcome Airlie Birds

The first of the evening games was the Hull derby which certainly lived up the the feisty build up as Hull KR faced city rivals Hull FC with the Robins getting off to the better start.

Salter crossed for the opening try on eleven minutes and Burns converted for a 6-0 lead which soon became 12-0 when Larroyer extended the lead for the Robins with a nice try with Burns on hand to convert for a second time before the KR fans couldn't believe their luck as Salter crossed for his second and the Robins' third inside 24 minutes, Burns maintained his record with the boot for a 18-0 lead.

Hull responded well with a Hadley try which was given after a quick review and Miller converted successfully for 18-6 before FC were denied a second score in the 33rd minute after a video referee review. Their second try did come with two minutes left of the half as a stunning run from Shaul saw him cross for a try and Miller converted for 18-12 at half-time. 

Burns put the Robins 20-12 ahead with a penalty in the 43rd minute before a dangerous tackle from Crookes resulted in him being sent off leaving Hull with 12 men as they chased an eight point gap, a gap than a minute later became 14 points as Gardner crossed for a try and Burns converted for 26-12. 

However, FC didnt let the sending off effect them as they scored twice in the space of four minutes to pull back to 26-24, Houghton scored in the 56th minute with Miller converting for a third time before Paleaasina struck four minutes later and again Miller converted to set up a tense final 20 minutes.

The sides exchanged sets but with no end product until the 72nd minute when Gardner claimed his second try of the game with Burns continuing his perfect record with the boot for 32-24 but with eight minutes to go an eight point gap was not impossible for Hull to cancel out but their hopes were ended with two minutes to go when Hodgson crossed for the Robins and Burns converted for a 38-24 win. A correct result and a perfect guess of Hull's 24 points but wide on KR saying 25.

Young Warriors School Rhinos

The final game of the day saw a young Wigan side take on a strong Leeds side who sat atop the league table.

After surviving heavy pressure from the Leeds attack, Wigan scored the opening try as a high kick was superbly collected by Gelling who crossed for a try which was awarded after a review and Smith converted for 6-0 before converting a penalty for an eight point lead.

A potential game-changing moment came in the 25th minute when a high shot from McIlorum on Peacock led to a brawl between the sides and resulted in three yellow cards being brandished with Wigan duo McIlorum and Bateman and Leeds prop Bailey all sent to the sin bin for ten minutes.

Leeds took advantage of the extra man as they responded with a try from Hall but Sinfield's missed conversion meant a four point deficit at 8-4 but when the sides were back to their full compliment, Wigan extended their lead in style as Green zipped through the Rhinos defence before crossing for a superb try but Smith's conversion found the wrong side of the post as Wigan led 12-4 into the break

Wigan began the first half buoyant by successfully keeping the frustrated Rhinos at bay so much so that they lulled Leeds into a false sense of security with disastrous consequences in the 53rd minute. The Rhinos defence readied for a final tackle kick from Green only for the halfback to attack the line and leave McIlorum in a race against Hardaker with the Loose Forward crossing for a try under the sticks with Smith converting successfully for a 18-4 lead.

 A quick Leeds move allowed Ablett to breach the Wigan defence and cross for a try with Sinfield converting to narrow the deficit to 18-10, Leeds went on to force a dropout before spraying the ball out wide to Hall who crossed for his second try in the corner but Sinfield's miss with the boot left the gap achingly close at 18-14.

Wigan suffered a blow as Green left the field in a bad way and  Leeds had a superb chance to exploit Green's exit when Hall intercepted but a knock on saw Wigan regain possession before the next set saw McGuire race clear before being denied by a superb chase and tackle from Williams with the hooker seemingly kicked in chest in the aftermath.  77 minutes on the clock and the win was in sight for Wigan but akin to last years fierce battle Leeds scored after a high kick found Moon who seemed to ground the ball with Thaler asking for a review.
 

After numerous replays, the decision was that Moon had knocked on and Wigan held on to claim a famous win with a correct result for me and a close prediction of 24-22.

Tigers Crush Rival Wildcats

The first game of day two saw a Yorkshire derby between Wakefield and Castleford with the Tigers racing into an 0-18 lead inside 22 minutes with Clark opening the scoring in the 13th minute after a review with Sneyd converting well before scores from Carney and Tansey with both converted by Sneyd.

Wakefield had come from behind to win their last two games but this time around they would need a huge turn of events as Castleford went further ahead with a try from Shenton on the half-hour mark with Sneyd missing for the first time as Cas led 0-22 at the interval.

The Castleford number seven was in for a try of his own eight minutes into the second half and converted his own score for 0-28 with Carney scoring his second in the 55th minute and Sneyd converting for a 0-34 lead. Wakefield got themselves on the board two minutes later when Scruton crossed for a try and Sammut converted for 6-34. 

However, any hopes of a third consecutive comeback win ended for Wakefield when Castleford struck twice in five minutes after the hour mark with Sneyd claiming his second try of the afternoon but failed to convert as the Tigers led 6-38 before Mariano crossed for a try and Sneyd redeemed himself with the conversion for 6-44.

Wakefield posted a second try with nine minutes to go when Sykes scored with Sammut converting for 12-44 but the last say went to Castleford as Clark scored his second try in the final minute and Sneyd converted for a seventh time for a crushing 12-50 win over their local rivals.  

 
Nine Try Giants Crush Bulls

The second game of the afternoon saw featured another Yorkshire derby as Huddersfield took on Bradford with the Bulls opening the scoring after only five minutes with a try from Addy with Foster converting for a 0-6 lead.

Wardle replied with a try for Huddersfield and Brough converted to level the match at 6 all before Bradford regained the lead with a try from Foster but he missed the conversion attempt and the Bulls now led 6-10. Lunt scored a try to bring Huddersfield level before Brough converted for a 12-10 lead which four minutes before the interval became 18-10 with Robinson scoring a try and Brough converting in the 36th minute.

Huddersfield went into the break leading 24-10 as Broughton crossed for a try and Brough converted successfully with the Giants racing into a 34-10 lead just before the hour after tries from Brough and Grix both converted by former.

Bradford's hopes of a comeback were obliterated by three tries in eight minutes from Ta'ai, Mullally and Patrick with Brough on good form to convert all three and claiming a personal tally of 22 points but Bradford had the last say as Foster crossed for his second try in the 77th minute and converted for a final score of 54-16. A correct result but wide with the prediction of 30-18.


 Warrington Overcome St Helens
  
The final game of weekend saw fierce rivals Warrington and St Helens face off with the Wolves scoring the opening try in the eight minute with Bridge's missed conversion attempt meaning they led 4-0.

The lead increased five minutes later as Evans crossed for a try but again Bridge failed to convert and Warrington led 8-0. The Wolves faithful couldn't believe what they were witnessing as two tries in three minutes from Hill and Evans with the latter converted by Bridge made it 18-0.

Warrington went down to 12 men as Ormsby was sin-binned in the 35th minute and St Helens utilised the extra man advantage to get on the board through Walmsley in the 38th minute with Walsh converting for 18-6 at half-time.

Atkins regained the 18 point lead for the Wolves with a try in the 43rd minute with Bridge converting for 24-6 with Monaghan crossing three minutes later to extend the lead as Bridge converted for a third time for a 30-6 lead that became 36-6 when Russell scored in the 51st minute and Bridge converted.

 St Helens came back in style with three tries in ten minutes from Turner, Hohaia and Dawson with Walsh converting all three for 36-24 and with Warrington wary of a comeback bearing further fruit, Ratchford kicked a drop goal with eleven minutes remaining before the win was confirmed in the 72nd minute with Monaghan's second try of the game and despite Bridge missing the conversion, the Wolves won 41-24. My only failure of the weekend and as a result the 20-32 prediction was wide.

 
 


 

That's Magic For Wigan

May 17th 2014, a day to remember for the Cherry and White faithful as their youthful charges performed a magic trick on league leaders Leeds to leave the Rhinos stunning winning run just an illusion.

After a humbling at Headingley a fortnight ago, a wounded Wigan arrived at the Magic Weekend with a lineup that read like a university register with only five players above the age of 23 while Leeds boasted a strong squad in a quest to repeat their Headingley heroics of two weeks previous.

The early stages saw both sides exchange sets with no serious end product but in the ninth minute, Leeds broke the equilibrium as they forced a goal-line dropout after heavy pressure and Wigan held firm despite the Rhinos strong attacking play towards the line.

Wigan's superb defensive work turned to attack and a superb transformation saw Sarginson send Burgess dashing down the wing into a good position before the final tackle resulted a high kick to the corner being majestically collected by Gelling who crossed for the opening try as the Warriors faithful roared but to their surprise, Ben Thaler asked for a review and the roar returned as the try was eventually given. Matty Smith swept over the conversion and Wigan led 6-0.

Leeds blew their first chance of response with a loose carry which gave Wigan good field position which increased when Ablett conceded a penalty with Smith electing to to kick for goal which he did superbly for an 8-0 lead.

The pressure seemed to be getting to Leeds as another mistake arrived after a quick play across the middle resulted in the ball finding touch rather than a Blue and Yellow jersey but within minutes, the frustration boiled over as McIlorum went high on Peacock and all hell broke loose with Ben Thaler brandishing three yellow cards after the melee with Warriors duo McIlorum and Bateman sinbinned alongside Rhinos prop Bailey leaving the sides 11 v 12 after 25 minutes.

Wigan's resolve would be severely tested in the next ten minutes with Leeds forcing a goal-line dropout before using the advantage to cross for a try through Hall on the wing but Sinfield's missed conversion meant Wigan had a four point lead at 8-4.

Another scuffle ensued after Hall had been illegally stopped by Crosby with the young Warrior put on report by Ben Thaler, the sides were back to their full compliment a minute later and Wigan extended their lead in style as Green zipped through the Rhinos defence before crossing for a superb try that sent the Warriors faithful wild in the stands, Smith's conversion found the wrong side of the post but Wigan led 12-4 into the break after an amazing first half by the young charges.

Just 40 minutes away from a famous victory and with a Mexican wave travelling around the stadium, Wigan began the first half buoyant by successfully keeping the frustrated Rhinos at bay so much so that they lulled Leeds into a false sense of security with disastrous consequences in the 53rd minute.

The Rhinos defence readied for a final tackle kick from Green only for the halfback to attack the line and leave McIlorum in a race against Hardaker with the Loose Forward crossing for a try under the sticks and to the euphoric joy of the Cherry and White crowd who burst into a chorus of '"that's why we're champions" and with Smith converting successfully for a 18-4 lead, the belief of victory rose rapidly in the voices of the Warriors fans.

Joy turned to despair after a quick Leeds move allowed Ablett to breach the Wigan defence and cross for a try with Sinfield converting to narrow the deficit to 18-10 which seemed to unnerve Wigan with a mistake from Bowen gifting possession to Leeds who went on to force a dropout before spraying the ball out wide to Hall who crossed for his second try in the corner but Sinfield's miss with the boot left the gap achingly close at 18-14.

Fifteen minutes for the young Warriors to hold on but with a blow as Green left the field in a bad way, Leeds had a superb chance to exploit Green's exit when Hall intercepted but a knock on saw Wigan regain possession before the next set saw McGuire race clear before being denied by a superb chase and tackle from Williams with the hooker seemingly kicked in chest in the aftermath.  77 minutes on the clock and the win was in sight for Wigan but akin to last years fierce battle Leeds scored after a high kick found Moon who seemed to ground the ball with Thaler asking for a review.

The stadium fell silent as the crowd viewed the replay via the big screens, view after view and the Leeds fans began to cheer though Wigan responded with shouts of "knock-on!"and as I write, head in hands the belief from 2013 is still there, The screen displayed "Decision Time and No Try" to a raucous roar from the Wigan fans.

Wigan played a full set with Smith kicking into touch on the last tackle, Leeds had just 19 seconds to score and a kick and chase was a must, the play went backwards before Hardaker chip kicked only to see Crosby collect before being tackled as the hooter sounded to what can only be described as an eruption of joy from the Wigan fans in celebration of a stunning victory from a young side who before kick off were outsiders but triumphed in style.

Last week's humbling of Hull at the KC ranked as Wigan's best win of 2014 but this went one better as Wane labelled the victory as his best ever as a coach and as fan who left the Etihad with no voice and a gleaming smile on Saturday, I would certainly agree as I joined fellow Wigan fans to celebrate proudly and loudly in the stadium concourses. A correct result and a close prediction of 24-22 with Salford up next on Thursday.