Thursday, 26 June 2014

Super League Round 18 Preview

Round 18 takes place at the height of a gloriously sunny summer and with a four day programme this weekend, fans are guaranteed good weather and equally good rugby league.

Tonight's televised game sees Hull KR host Huddersfield Giants with both sides in good form and eager record a first win over one another this season.

Hull KR come into the game on the back of a comfortable win away to Bradford which ended a run of two defeats and they will be keen to boost their play-off hopes with a win over the Giants as they sit only a point behind eight placed Widnes.

Huddersfield extended their run of wins to three with a battling victory over London and with the top six separated by only six points, tonight they have the chance to go to joint third with Wigan and depending on other results could end the weekend only two points off the top.

The reverse meeting saw the Giants blow a comfortable lead which saw the Robins comeback to secure a point in a 24 all draw which could have been worse for Huddersfield had Hull converted each of their last two tries.

However, last seasons meeting up in Hull saw the Robins triumph in a 35-28 win, a repeat of which would delight the KR faithful and the omen is with the hosts who have won three of the five meetings with the Giants which inludes the last two at home.

Hull KR are able to include Neville Costigan after he avoided a suspension after entering an EGP while Huddersfield also boast an unchanged squad after the win over London.

Hull KR- Burns, Carlile, Costigan, Eden, Esslemont, Gardner, Green, Hall, D. Hodgson, J. Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Lovegrove, Netherton, Ollett, Salter, A. Walker, Welham, Weyman
Huddersfield- Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Kopczak, Ferres, Chan, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta'ai, Wood, Broughton, Mullally, Johnson.

This game is one I am going with past form and may be a gamble but will tip the Robins so Hull KR 31 Huddersfield 26.

Friday night sees only one game but what a huge game it is as 'Derby Day' graces the DW stadium as Wigan host fierce rivals St Helens looking to secure a league double over their neighbours.

Wigan come into the game on the back of a tiring defeat away to Wakefield which ended a run of three games in ten days which saw them rise to the league's summit after wins over Castleford and Widnes but with a wounded pack will be hoping to secure a league double over the Saints.

St Helens capitalised on Wigan's loss to replace the Warriors at the top of the ladder with a comfortable win over top four rivals Castleford and will be keen to retain top spot by defeating their neighbours for the first time since this time last year.

The Easter meeting between the sides saw Wigan triumph 33-14 and put them halfway to securing a first league double over their fierce rivals since 2011 and the Warriors also have the boost of winning last season's meeting at the DW saw them secure a 28-16 win on Good Friday.

Wigan shuffle their pack with Matty Bowen, Joe Burgess, Gil Dudson, Dom Crosby and John Bateman returning with Josh Charnley and Darrell Goulding being replaced by Dom Manfredi and the first call up of the promising Jamie Doran with Liam Farrell suspended.

St Helens welcome back Alex Walmsley from suspension with Josh Jones recalled meaning Gary Wheeler and Andre Savelio miss out.

Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Burke, Crosby, Doran, Dudson, Flower, Gelling, Hughes, James, Manfredi, Murphy, O'Loughlin, S. Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Williams
St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu, Flanagan, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Dawson, Richards, Thompson.

An in-depth preview will follow in a separate post but for this post, I will include a prediction so Wigan 32 St Helens 24.

Saturday features two games with the afternoon match seeing London's quest for a first win continue as they host Widnes who are on a poor run of form. 

London go into the game still without a win in 2014 and as a result surely destined for relegation to the Championship for 2015 and with the departure of the promising Mason Caton-Brown to Salford, their task of surviving grows in difficulty.

Widnes will admit that a trip to a struggling London is just what they need after a packed week which saw heavy defeats to Hull and Wigan end with a battling loss to Leeds so a win would be a much needed boost.

The reverse meeting saw Widnes secure a huge 64-10 win, a repeat of which would end their poor run of form and would add to London's horrific losing run. The omens are against the Broncos who are without a win against the Vikings since a 28-24 win in 2012 and also suffered a 14-28 loss in last 
season's meeting in the capital.

London are without Nesi Mataitonga, Thomas Minns, Ben Farrar and of course Mason Caton-Brown with Mike McMeeken, James Duckworth andloan  James Woodburn-Hall included while Widnes include Kevin Brown, Jon Clarke, Danny Galea, Danny Tickle, Cameron Phelps, Hep Cahill and Jack Owens. The only main absentee is Stefan Marsh.

London- Cook, Cunningham, Dollapi, Drinkwater, Duckworth, Foster, Greenwood, Griffin, Keyes, Krasniqi, Lovell, Macani, McMeeken, Moore, O'Callaghan, Slyney, Solomona, Vea, Woodburn-Hall
Widnes-Ah Van, Allen, Brown, Cahill, Clarke, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Isa, Joseph, Kavanagh, Leuluai, Mellor, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.

Despite both sides being in wretched form, Widnes to bounce back here so London 18 Widnes 28. 

The evening game sees Castleford host Salford in a game between two sides who have created a huge rivalry off the pitch.

Many eyes will be focused on former Tigers hero Rangi Chase returning to the Jungle for the first time and current Tigers hero Marc Sneyd who is on loan from the Red Devils and whose future has caused tension between the two sides.

Castleford come into the game off the back of a poor showings at St Helens and Wigan but had wont the previous three so will be confident of bouncing back against the Red Devils while also looking to move closer to the top depending on the weekend's other results.

Salford come into the game in woeful form with only one win in their last five which came against Bradford in round 16 but was followed by a defeat to Warrington in the previous round and with a number of new signings they have the players to respond to their poor form.

The reverse meeting saw the Red Devils end the Tigers good start to the season with a 23-16 win but last season's meeting at the Jungle saw the Tigers come out on top in a 44-30 win the onus is on Castleford to avoid being doubled and to keep up what has been a good season at home.

Justin Carney and Gareth Carvell are included in place of Oliver Holmes and James Clare while Salford include new signings Mason Caton-Brown and Josh Griffin.

Castleford-Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Finn, Jewitt, Carvell.
Salford-Evalds, Johnson, Sa'u, Meli, Walton, Chase, Fages, Tasi, Morley, Tomkins, Hock, J.Walne, Rapira, Puletua, Lee, J. Griffin, Ashurst, Caton-Brown, Williams.

Castleford have been good at home and need to bounce back but it will be a close one I feel so Castleford 32 Salford 28.

Sunday features three games with the pick of the trio being Catalans trip to face Leeds with the Dragons looking for revenge after the Rhinos became the only side this season to win in Perpignan.

Leeds come into the game off the back of a win over a Widnes that sees them sit second in the table and with Wigan and Saints either side of them facing off there is the chance to go top of the table with a win over the travelling Dragons.

Catalan come into the game in superb form and on a five game unbeaten streak which includes a nilling of St Helens and last week's narrow win over Hull with both in sunny Perpignan, where the Dragons have only suffered defeat once this season which came against Sunday's opponents so they will be hoping to avoid being doubled by the Rhinos.

The reverse meeting as previously mentioned saw Leeds triumph and with a comfortable 40-12 win which was their fourth successive win against the French side which includes last season's meeting at Headingley that saw them win 20-12 so the omens are against the Dragons.

Catalan haven't done well on their travels this year and I see this game ending their fine streak but not without a fight so Leeds 26 Catalan 20.

Wakefield take on Hull with both looking to improve their chances of a end of season play-off place.

Wakefield come into the game after a surprising but deserved win over champions Wigan on Sunday which was only their second win in five games and with the top eight only five points from their grasp, a few wins could see them secure what would be a good end to the season after being tipped for relegation early on.

Hull suffered a narrow loss in Perpignan but will be proud after seeing the French side dismantle sides in previous rounds including the 42-0 win over St Helens in round 16 and with the top eight in sight, the Airlie Birds will be eager to string a few wins together to seal a play-off place while looking to catch their city rivals.

The reverse meeting saw the Wildcats secure a 23-16 win and the form is with them after winning last season's meeting at the Rapid Solicitors stadium with a narrow 27-26 win sealed by a Lee Smith drop goal so the Wildcats will be keen to secure a league double over the Black and Whites.

After watching Wakefield first hand on Sunday, I think they will make it two wins in a row at home so Wakefield 36 Hull 22. 

The final game of the weekend sees Warrington host Bradford with the Bulls looking to secure a league double over the Wolves.

Warrington come into the game off the back of a win over Salford which saw them move into fifth and just four points off the top and two off third place though points difference is against them as they look for a seventh successive league win in a run that dates back to the defeat to the Bulls in the reverse meeting.

Bradford come into the game with a new man at the helm in former Bulls star James Lowes who has also ironically coached Sunday's opponents in the past and to secure a double over the Wolves would be a perfect start for the new coach who takes over a side who suffered a heavy defeat to Hull KR last weekend.

The aforementioned reverse meeting saw Bradford secure a 34-28 win though the sides have also met in the Challenge Cup which saw the Wolves triumph 46-10 and last season's meeting at the Halliwell Jones stadium saw the Wolves win 32-4 so the omens are against the Bulls who will look for a repeat of their win earlier in the season.

Warrington are in stellar form and I see them continuing that on Sunday so Warrington 38 Bradford 18.
A few strange predictions this week are shown in odds of 29.34/1 for the traditional round accumulator but last week shows that anything can happen and as mentioned above a full preview of Wigan v St Helens will follow.