Thursday, 24 July 2014

Super League Round 22 Preview

A wave of glorious sunshine is likely to be the backdrop to this week of Super League action as the season enters round 22.

Tonight sees a game between two sides both competing at different ends of the table as Hull (12th) host Castleford (4th).

Hull come into the game in poor form with no wins in their last five games featuring four losses and a draw and Bradford's relegation means that the Airlie Birds are technically bottom of the current Super League as it would be known in 2015.

Castleford come into the game after a bounce back from mixed form with three wins and a draw from their last five games with the latter being the 24-24 draw with Leeds in the previous round and with a Challenge Cup semi-final in a fortnight, the Tigers will be keen to cement a top four place.

Last season's meeting at the KC stadium saw a dominant Castleford side win 52-0, a score that Hull would be eager to erase from their minds and may prefer a repeat of the reverse meeting earlier this season when Castleford edged a 19-16 win and as a result are on course to complete a double over FC.

Hull make one change from the defeat to Wigan with Gareth Ellis returning with fitness boosts for Setaimata Sa, Kirk Yeaman and Richard Horne while Castleford included James Clare, Ashley Gibson and Garreth Carvell in place of Jake Webster, Justin Carney and Craig Huby.

Hull FC: Abdull, Bowden, Cunningham, Ellis, Green, Hadley, Houghton, Lineham, Paea, Paleaaesina, Rankin, Sa, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Watts, Westerman, Whiting, Yeaman
Castleford Tigers: Dixon, Shenton, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Mariano, Wheeldon, Ellis, Gibson, Clare, Finn, Jewitt, Carvell.

Hull are in desperate need of a win but here I see Castleford continuing their good form so Hull 20 Castleford 38.

Friday night features two games with the televised tie likely to be an exciting one as Salford host Leeds.

Salford come into the game in good form with a run of three wins in their last five games and as a result are still in with a chance of reaching the end of season play-offs. The Red Devils have bounced back from a bad first half of the season and a place in the top eight would surely count as a success.

Leeds come into the game also with three wins in their last five games but only one in their last three after a bad-tempered ending in round 21 saw them slip to a 24-24 draw at home to Castleford which led to them slipping to third place but the end of the round.

Last season's meeting at the AJ Bell stadium saw Leeds secure a 42-16 win as part of a league double over the Red Devils and after a comfortable 36-4 win in this season's reverse meeting, another league double in on the cards for the Rhinos.

Salford include fit-again Kevin Locke while Gareth Hock and Tommy Lee are suspended while Leeds are of course without suspended captain Kevin Sinfield meaning Danny McGuire will take the captain's armband with Liam Sutcliffe likely to replace Kevin Sinfield and Brad Singleton, Elliot Minchella and Josh Walters have also been drafted into the squad.

Salford Red Devils: Fages, Rapira, Evalds, Sa'u, Johnson, Tasi, Chase, J. Walne, Walton, Locke, Meli, Caton-Brown, Ashurst, Puletua, Hansen, Morley, J. Griffin, Tomkins, D. Griffin.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, S. Ward, Delaney, Bailey, T. Briscoe, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Minchella, Walters.

This could be a close one on recent form but I will go for Leeds to secure a win so Salford 18 Leeds 26.

The second game of the evening is a derby of sorts as St Helens host neighbours Widnes with both looking to move clear of the respective chasing packs.

St Helens come into the game atop the Super League and in good form with four wins in their last five games and in good stead to secure a top four finish after missing out in 2013 while hunting a first League Leaders Shield since 2008.

Widnes come into the game in mixed form with two wins in their last five games including a superb win over Warrington in the previous round and with a Challenge Cup semi-final in a fortnight, there is a need to try and cement eighth place in order to focus on a potential cup final berth.

Last season's meeting at Langtree Park saw Widnes secure a 38-25 win over the Saints and earlier this season, they were triumphant again as on Easter Monday they overpowered their neighbours in a 40-26 win which puts them on course for a superb league double.

St Helens welcome back Luke Walsh in place of the injured Lance Hohaia while Widnes included Patrick Ah-Van in place of Ben Kavanagh.

St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Walsh, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Wilkin, Manu, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Wheeler, Dawson
Widnes Vikings: Ah Van, Allen, Brown, Cahill, Carberry, Clarke, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Isa, Johnson, Leuluai, Marsh, Mellor, Owens, Phelps, Tickle.

This could be a great game to rival the televised tie but I see Saints coming out on top so St Helens 36 Widnes 18.

Saturday afternoon sees London continue their pursuit for a first win of the season as they host play-off challengers Hull KR.

London go into the game still without a win in any competition in 2014 and with only six games left to register a win, the potential for a winless season is high on the cards but the Broncos have turned to youth recently in preparation for next season and could get lucky this weekend.

Hull KR make the trip to London in reasonable form with two wins from their last five games but after a poor defeat to Salford last weekend, they have slipped to three points away from the top eight so need to string  together a run of wins in order to try and get into the mix.

Last season's visit to London saw the Robins secure a 42-22 win and they also came out on top in this season's reverse meeting with a comfortable 48-16 win which puts a league double on the cards.

There is a pattern appearing in meetings between the sides with 2012 seeing each winning at home, 2013 seeing both win away and after Hull KR won the first meeting this year, maybe the omen is on for London to continue the pattern with a home win.

London make one change from the defeat to St Helens with Atelea Vea returning in place of the injured Alex Foster while Hull KR make four changes with the youthful duo of  Macauley Hallett and Connor Robinson included with Ade Gardner and Greg Eden returning in place of  Graeme Horne, Keal Carlile, Kris Keating and Omari Caro.

London Broncos: Atkins, Cook, Dollapi, Drinkwater, Farrar, Griffin, Keyes, Krasniqi, Lovell, McMeeken, Minns, Moore, Slyney, Solomona, Thomas, Vea, Wallace, Wicks, Woodburn-Hall
Hull KR: Burns, Chan, Costigan, Cox, Eden, Gardner, Green, Hall, Hallett, D. Hodgson, J. Hodgson, Larroyer, Netherton, Ollett, Robinson, Salter, A. Walker, Welham, Weyman.

This could be a chance for London to end their losing run but I see the Robins just coming out on top so London 18 Hull KR 26.

Sunday features three games with two likely to have a big effect on the play-off picture starting with Catalan's visit to Huddersfield with the two side-by-side in the table.

Huddersfield go into the game in good form with three wins from their last five games but their hold on the League Leaders Shield is slipping away as they sit six points adrift of top spot but the chance for a top four finish is still within their sights.

Catalan are also in good form with three wins from five and with a five point advantage over ninth place Hull KR, the Dragons are surely cemented in the top eight and have an outside chance of a top-four finish with a six point gap to reduce.

Last season's meeting at the John Smith's stadium saw Huddersfield demolish Catalan in a 60-16 win as part of a league double but Catalan have the potential for a double this season after a 30-14 win over the Giants in Perpignan.

This is a game that is truly hard to call and both teams have experience of close games this season and I see this being similar so Huddersfield 22 Catalan 23. 

Wakefield travel to face Warrington with both sides nursing the wounds of their fine unbeaten streaks ending damaging their respective hopes of success.

Warrington saw a run of eight league wins come to a shuddering halt away to neighbours Widnes last week and with all of their rivals avoiding defeat, it means the Wolves sit fifth and need to win to keep up their hopes of sealing a top-four finish.

Wakefield enjoyed a run of five games unbeaten under new coach James Webster but were brought down to earth with a huge drop as they lost 40-6 away to Catalan and with the top eight now four points away from their grasp, a win is needed on Sunday to keep their hopes intact.

This could have a twist but I think Warrington will secure a win so Warrington 28 Wakefield 16.

The final game of the round is one that on paper will be a sentimental meeting as Wigan make the trip to Bradford.

As the game is a special one in my view, a full preview including the squads for both sides will follow sometime tomorrow afternoon but for now I will include a general preview to follow the other six games.

Bradford come into the game in dire form with no wins in their last five games and after last week's defeat at Huddersfield are officially relegated from Super League and will start next season as a non-SL club for the first time since the competition began.

Wigan are in good form with three wins from their last five games after a mixed period and after a superb win over Hull sit second which is a huge achievement given the ever growing injury list which now features almost a full 13-man lineup.

Last season's meeting at Odsal saw Wigan secure a league double over Bradford with a 36-6 win but this season's reverse meeting really showed why Bradford have been relegated this season after Wigan equalled their record win in Super League with a 84-6 win.

A full preview will follow tomorrow but for now I will say Bradford 12 Wigan 50.