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.