Thursday, 28 August 2014

Super League Round 25 Preview

Just two rounds remain of what has been an exciting and unpredictable Super League 19 and for the first time in a long time, the top eight is still to be confirmed as round 25 comes around.

Thursday night sees a heavyweight clash between Warrington and Huddersfield with both still harbouring hopes of claiming the League Leaders Shield.

Warrington go into the game on the back of a comfortable win over Castleford and with three wins in their last five games are in good form at the right time of the season but in having the advantage of playing ahead of their rivals, they will be keen to move up to second place. 

Huddersfield go into the game on the back of a home win against Widnes and with four wins in a row from their last five games have secured a top six finish but with just four points separating them from the top, the chance of retaining the League Leaders Shield is still a fair prospect.

Last season's meeting at the Halliwell Jones Stadium saw Warrington ease to a 28-2 win which formed part one of a four game winning run over the Giants in 2013 which included a 44-24 home win in the Challenge Cup and 30-22 win in the end of season play-offs. The reverse meeting earlier this season saw Warrington win 33-14 putting them on course for a double over the Giants.

Warrington welcome back Richie Myler and Gene Ormsby with Ben Currie also returning with the injured Chris Bridge and Simon Grix missing out while Huddersfield will be without Joe Wardle and Brett Ferres who suffered late injuries with Leroy Cudjoe and David Faiumu included

Warrington Wolves: Atkins, Currie, England, R. Evans, Grix, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J. Monaghan, M. Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ormsby, Ratchford, Russell, Waterhouse, Westwood, Wood.
Huddersfield Giants: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Brough, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta'ai, Broughton, Kaufusi, Mullally.

This will be a close one but I tip Warrington to edge a win so Warrington 30 Huddersfield 24.

Friday night features three games with the standout tie being table toppers St Helens travelling to third placed Leeds with the Rhinos buoyant after claiming the Challenge Cup.

Leeds go into the game in a great mood after defeating Castleford in the Challenge Cup final last Saturday and will be keen to secure an illusive treble but despite their fine cup form, their league form is mixed with just two wins in their last five games with the last loss coming away to London.

St Helens sit atop the Super League but will be wary of letting the lead slip so late in the season but with four wins in their last five games they will be in a confident mood as they look for a first League Leaders Shield since 2008.

Last season's meeting at Headingley saw St Helens secure a 30-22 win but they lost out 11-10 in the play-offs to the Rhinos who will be hoping secure a second win at home to the Saints in 2014 after defeating them 32-12 in the Challenge Cup fifth round after suffering a 14-10 defeat in the league meeting at Langtree Park.

Leeds include Mitch Achurch and Brad Singleton in the squad while St Helens welcome back Lance Hohaia but are without Gary Wheeler.

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

St Helens: Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Laffranchi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Walmsley, Percival, Dawson, Richards, McDonnell.

Another heavyweight clash and I see a narrow win for Leeds so Leeds 22 St Helens 20.

Another huge game sees the Hull derby between Hull FC and Hull KR with both still harbouring hopes of reaching the play-offs.

Hull FC go into the game on the back of a defeat to Bradford and with only a win and a draw in their last five games are keen to end the season on a high with a win over their fierce rivals while also boosting their slim hopes of a top eight finish.

Hull KR go into the game after suffering a comeback from Wigan who claimed a draw in the previous round and with just one win and a draw from their last five games are in similar form to their city rivals but sit just two points away from eighth placed Widnes who have a poorer points difference.

Last season's meeting at the KC Stadium saw the Robins secure a 23-10 victory and form is with them after three wins in the last five meetings between the sides including a 38-24 win at the Magic Weekend after 21-20 win at Easter.

Hull FC include Aaron Heremaia in place of Jordan Abdull with Jordan Thompson as Richard Whiting misses out while Hull KR include Mick Weyman, Omari Caro and Kris Weham with Ben Cockayne, Rhys Lovegrove and Sonny Esslemont missing out. 

Hull FC: Bowden, Cunningham, Ellis, Green, Hadley, Heremaia, Horne, Houghton, Lineham, Paea, Paleaaesina, Rankin, Sa, Shaul, Talanoa, Thompson, Watts, Westerman, Yeaman.

Hull KR: Burns, Carlile, Caro, Chan, Costigan, Cox, Eden, Gardner, Green, Hall, Hodgson, Horne, Keating, Larroyer, Netherton, Salter, Walker, Welham, Weyman. 

A fiesty game on the cards but I see the Robins coming out on top so Hull FC 18 Hull KR 26.

Friday's third game sees champions Wigan travel to Widnes in a game where both teams will be eager for a win in order to keep up their end of season hopes.
Widnes go into the game on the back of a defeat to Huddersfield which means they are still not guaranteed a place in top eight and with three teams within four points of them a win is sorely needed after just two in their last five games.

Wigan go into the game on the back of securing a last-gasp draw against Hull KR and with their sketchy away form this year they will be happy this game is their last away trip of the regular season but with three wins in their last five games are in good form.

Last season's meeting at the Select Security Stadium saw a youthful Wigan side secure a 33-32 victory as part of a Warriors treble that included the dispatch of the Vikings on their way to their Challenge Cup triumph. The reverse meeting earlier this season saw Wigan ease to a 48-4 victory in a week where both sides played three times.

Widnes include Alex Gerrard and Cameron Phelps in place of Paul Johnson and Jack Owens while Wigan welcome back Michael McIlorum and Iain Thornley back from long-term injuries while U19's star Jamie Doran is also included.

Widnes Vikings: Ah Van, Allen, Brown, Cahill, Carberry, Clarke, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Joseph, Leuluai, Marsh, Mellor, O'Carroll, Phelps, Tickle, White.
Wigan Warriors: Bateman, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Doran, Dudson, Farrell, Gelling, Green, Hughes, James, Manfredi, McIlorum, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, Sarginson, Smith, Taylor, Thornley. 

Wigan have been average on recent visits to Widnes but I see them coming out strong this time around so Widnes 16 Wigan 36.

Saturday sees London look for back-to-back wins as they travel to face Catalan in Perpignan with Dragons still not guaranteed a place in the top eight.

Catalan go into the game with just one win in their last five games and are in danger of slipping out of what a month a go looked like a cemented seventh place with them coming off the back of a defeat to top eight rivals Salford.

London for the first time in 2014 go into a game on the back of a win as they stunned Leeds with a fight back in the previous round to end their season-long losing streak and having come close against the Dragons twice this season will look to go that extra bit further to claim a win.

Last season's meeting in Perpignan saw Catalan secure a 34-28 win as part of a league double over the Broncos and earlier this season they have recorded three wins in a row against London with the reverse league meeting resulting in a 28-22 win coupled with a 24-22 victory at the Magic Weekend and a 40-24 win in the Challenge Cup fourth round.

On form this should be a close one but Catalan's home form may be a big factor in their favour so Catalan 24 London 16.

Sunday features the final two games of the round but alike the others they could have a huge effect both on the top and bottom of the play-off places. Wakefield host Salford with both sides level on 19 points and just four away from the top eight with the potential loser all but out of the play-off fight.

Wakefield go into the game on the back of a defeat away to St Helens but with two wins in their last five games they will be eager to end a run of two defeats while boosting their hopes of finishing in the top eight.

Salford go into the game buoyed by a win over Catalan and with three wins in their last five games will be confident of reaching the play-offs at such a late stage of the season but will be wary of the Wildcats good form at home this season.

Last season's meeting at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium saw the sides draw 23-23 but Wakefield have won three of the last five meetings between the sides but Salford were the victors when the sides met earlier this season in the reverse meeting at the AJ Bell Stadium with an 18-14 triumph.

A close game on the cards in this one and I feel a draw could be on the cards so Wakefield 22 Salford 22.

Castleford return home after suffering defeat in the Challenge Cup final to host relegated Bradford who have been in fine form since confirming their relegation.

Castleford go into the game on the back of a 23-10 defeat to Leeds in last weekend's Challenge Cup final and with just two wins in their last five league games are in need of a bounce back to form if they are to secure a top four finish.

Bradford go into the game on the back of three straight wins ironically their last defeat was the one against Huddersfield which confirmed their drop into next season's Championship and will be keen to register a fourth successive win in order to end the season on a high.

Last season's meeting at The Jungle saw the Tigers secure a 46-34 victory and in this season's reverse meeting they claimed a 36-16 win but a good omen for the Bulls is that neither side has won both games in the last three seasons.

Castleford's woe at Wembley could see a backlash for the visiting Bulls so Castleford 28 Bradford 16.