Sunday, 28 September 2014

Giants Lit Up By Fiery Dragons


After the shock exit of Leeds in week one of the play offs, fellow Yorkshire duo Huddersfield and Castleford looked to keep up the hopes of an all-Yorkshire Grand Final as they hosted Catalan and Warrington in week two.

The league standings suggested a final four of first, second, third and fourth was on the cards but continuing the trend of what has been a truly unpredictable season there was a chance for both fifth and seventh to defy the odds and put themselves just one win away from a dream ticket to Old Trafford.


Wolves End Tigers Fairytale

After suffering a 41-0 humiliation to St Helens in week one, Castleford's second chance in the play offs saw them host Warrington who qualified for week two with a 22-19 win over Widnes.

Warrington went into the game with hopes of taking the next step towards a third consecutive Grand Final and began that journey superbly with a fourth minute try from Ryan Atkins which Stefan Ratchford converted for a 6-0 lead.

Castleford bounced back in the 24th minute with a try from Jamie Ellis but surprisingly their efficient goal kicker Marc Sneyd missed the resulting conversion attempt at 6-4 but after missing the chance to level, Castleford fell further behind within three minutes as Joel Monaghan crossed for a try for the Wolves who led 10-4 despite Stefan Ratchford's failure to convert.

Warrington increased their lead to eight points with a Stefan Ratchford penalty goal in the 52nd minute with Castleford responding with a try from Luke Dorn just five minutes later and this time around, Marc Sneyd converted successfully to reduced the deficit to two at 12-10.

However, Warrington regained their eight point lead in a clinical fashion with two tries in the space of four minutes as Gareth O'Brien and Rhys Evans both registered efforts with Stefan Ratchford converting once from two attempts for 22-10.

Stefan Ratchford increased his personal tally to eight with a second penalty goal in the 71st minute for 24-10 and surely secured a place in week three with only nine minutes remaining but Warrington made the victory certain just two minutes later with a second try of the evening for Joel Monaghan and with Stefan Ratchford's conversion, they led 30-10.

The Wolves did have a negative ending to a great win though as Rhys Evans was sent to the sin bin in the 75th minute and Castleford took of having an extra man as Micheal Shenton crossed for a try just a minute later but Marc Sneyd was unable to convert leaving the final score at 30-14. A correct result and not far off with the prediction of 24-20 to Warrington.

Giants Lit Up By Fiery Dragons

After a 57-4 mauling away to Wigan in week one, Huddersfield's second chance saw them host a Catalan side who stunned Leeds 24-20 with a last-gasp win.

The pre-match for the game was far from ideal for both sides as a major power failure at John Smith's Stadium left half of the pitch in darkness but a decision was made to allow the game ahead with hopes the lighting would eventually reach full capacity.

Huddersfield have a poor record in the play offs and their nerves looked to have cost them from the kick off as Michael Oldfield looked to have opened the scoring in the Dragons first set but after a video review it was deemed that Jodie Broughton had prevented the Dragons winger from grounding the ball.

The Giants shook off the early scare and opened the scoring in the fourth minute with Jodie Broughton crossing for a superb try which Danny Brough was unable to convert at 4-0 but Catalan fought back and drew level in the 12th minute with an effort from Darryl Millard with a tough conversion attempt missed by Thomas Bosc at 4-4.

Catalan looked to have gone ahead from the restart as Ben Pomeroy crossed for a try after a stellar back-handed pass from Elliot Whitehead but after a video review the try was chalked off for a knock-on in the build up.

The Dragons did go in front in the 20th minute as Michael Oldfield crossed for a try which was successfully converted by Thomas Bosc for a 10-4 lead but Huddersfield responded well and drew level in the 27th minute with Aaron Murphy's effort converted by Danny Brough for 10-10.

Huddersfield looked to have gone ahead just four minutes into the second half as Broughton broke through the Dragons defence to go over for a try but after a video review the effort was chalked off due an obstruction in the build-up.

Catalan were awarded a penalty just two minutes later and wary of the Giants attack, they elected to go for goal with Thomas Bosc converting successfully for a slim 12-10 lead. Video reviews seemed to be the theme of the evening as another was called for on the hour mark after Luke Robinson looked to have touched down for a try and the score was awarded with Danny Brough converting for 16-12.

Huddersfield have had their share of tight games this season with their 17-16 win over St Helens the most recent example so Catalan had to be wary of a drop goal attempt with as the game entered the final 15 minutes.

However the worry ceased in the 69th minute when Ben Pomeroy touched down to level the score at 16-16 and with huge pressure and a tight angle, Thomas Bosc swept over a superb conversion for 18-16 . Both sides pushed for more points but the final ten minutes saw both the Giants and Dragons defences hold firm.

A final score of 18-16 meant that the Dragons became team from seventh place to reach the last four and put them just one win away from Old Trafford for the first time since 2009 but the task will be a tough one as they were 'clubcalled' by League Leaders Shield winners St Helens. A correct result and not far off with the prediction of 28-24 to Catalan.

As mentioned above St Helens will face Catalan while the other semi final sees a repeat of last season's Grand Final as defending champions Wigan face runners-up Warrington in what will be a second meeting in the space of four weeks.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Super League Play Offs Week Two Preview

After seeing Leeds and Widnes exit the season-extending competition, the quartet of Castleford, Catalan, Huddersfield and Warrington will all be keen to avoid suffering the same fate while the reward for the two victors is a place in the semi-finals away to either St Helens or Wigan.

Tonight sees a fierce tie between Castleford and Warrington in what will be the first ever play-off fixture to be played at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle and given that very fact, Warrington will be favourites for the win having played in two of the last Grand Finals ending both as the runners-up.

Castleford go into the game with just two wins in their last five games and find themselves in week two after a humiliating 41-0 defeat away to League Leaders St Helens who came so close to losing the LLS to the Tigers themselves as a Castleford win in round 27 would have given the Tigers top spot.

Warrington go into the game in decent form with three wins and a draw from their last five games with their only recent blemish being the round 27 defeat away to Wigan and after top four finishes in the last few seasons, playing in week two after win is a strange concept for the Wolves. As mentioned above, they are gunning for a trio of Grand Final appearances and would favour a trip to St Helens over Wigan given their victory at Langtree Park in round 26.

The sides have a win apiece in their two meetings this season with both games won by the hosts with Castleford winning 40-6 back in April and Warrington triumphing 48-10 in August so the omen is with Castleford to continue the trend. Prior to this season, Warrington had won the last three meetings between the sides.

Both sides have named strong squads seemingly unchanged from last week as they look to book their place in the last four and as a result be just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final.

Castleford -Dixon, Shenton, Carney, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Wheeldon, Ellis, Channing, Clare, Finn, Jewitt.
Warrington-Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, England, B.Evans, R.Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ormsby, Ratchford, Waterhouse, Wood.

A close game between two very good sides but I see Warrington's knockout experience proving vital so Castleford 20 Warrington 24

Tomorrow's tie sees Huddersfield host Catalan with the Giants having to play in week two for a second year in a row having suffered defeat to Wigan while Catalan stunned Leeds.

Huddersfield go into the game with three wins and a draw from their last five games with the only blemish being last weeks play off defeat at Wigan with the Warriors storming to a 57-4 win which added to the Giants poor run of defeats in knockout games. The Giants are yet to grace a Grand Final and will be keen to put themselves just 80 minutes away with a win.

Catalan are in fine form with four wins in their last five games which includes the last-gasp win over Leeds last week which was the Dragons fist ever triumph at Headingley and given their mixed away form in 2014, it was a double triumph after such a long trip from the south of France.

The sides have a win apiece with each winning when at home with Catalan securing a 30-14 win in Perpignan in March before falling to a 38-16 defeat in July so the omen will be with the Giants to continue the trend but they have also won four of the last five with the March loss the only blemish in the last five meetings between the sides.

Huddersfield are without Scott Grix and Josh Johnson who are replaced in the 19 man squad by Anthony Mullally and Captain Danny Brough while Catalan are unchanged from the win over Leeds.

Huddersfield -Murphy, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Broughton, Brough, Robinson, Kopczak, Lunt, Kaufusi, Ferres, Ta'ai, Bailey, Crabtree, Patrick, Faiumu, Mullally, Lawrence, Connor.
Catalan - Escare, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Bousquet, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Williams. 

A close game and I have a sneaky feeling Catalan will make it two wins in a row in Yorkshire so Huddersfield 24 Catalan 28.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Young Warriors Set Up Derby Clash

After defeating Hull KR U19s in week one of the Academy play offs, Wigan U19s hosted Leeds U19s on Sunday with a place in the semi final the prize for the victor and would put Wigan just two wins away from retaining their title.

However, Wigan's hopes suffered an instant blow as Ash Handley crossed for the opening try for Leeds inside a minute but with Jordan Lilley unable to convert, The Rhinos held a slim 4-0 lead. Wigan fought back superbly with three tries in five minutes as Liam Marshall, Kyle Shelford and Oliver Gildart all scored after pacy runs through the Rhinos defence with Ryan Hampshire converting twice from three attempts for 16-4.

Wigan extended their lead further in the 21st minute when Ben Austin crossed for a try which Ryan Hampshire converted successfully for 22-4 before Leeds responded with a second try for Ash Handley but with Jordan Lilley unable to convert the score remained at 22-8.

Leeds gave themselves hopes of staging a comeback in the 57th minute when Nathan Barker crossed for a try but with Ben White unable to convert the Rhinos were still on the wrong end of a 22-12 score which was added to in the 69th minute by Oli Gildart's second try for the Warriors. Ryan Hampshire was unable to convert but at 26-12, Wigan were in control and managed to hold the 14 point lead until the end of the 80 minutes set up a tie away to St Helens on Saturday.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Dragons Late Charge Stuns Rhinos

Week one of the Super League play offs had been billed as a close set of games but only the eliminators saw the build-up lived up to as the qualifiers saw a 98-4 aggregate score.

Wonderful Warriors Crush Giants

Wigan looked to have made a perfect start when a Joe Burgess collected a high kick out wide and offloaded to Dan Sarginson but unfortunately the Warriors centre knocked-on with the try line in sight but it served as a warning of things to come as the next Wigan set saw them awarded a penalty in a dangerous position. Matty Smith elected to kick for goal and did so successfully for a 2-0 lead.


Huddersfield responded well as Brett Ferres looked to have crossed for a try but the decision was dependant on a video review which eventually saw a 'NO TRY' displayed on the big screen after the Giants had knocked-on.

The first try of the evening came in the 23rd minute and began life with a pass from Anthony Gelling finding Josh Charnley out wide with the winger crossing in the corner meaning a tough angle for Matty Smith to attempt to convert from and a decent effort travelled the wrong side of the posts at 6-0.

Wigan extended the lead from the restart as a superb run from Josh Charnley put the Warriors in a great position which resulted in a stellar dash from Matty Smith who crossed for a try under the posts which he duly converted with ease for a 12-0 lead which soon became 18-0 when Tony Clubb battled over the line after a minor slip and Matty Smith duly converted.

Huddersfield were in danger of being out of the game before half-time as Wigan scored again just after the restart as a stunning run from Dan Sarginson saw him pick out Joe Burgess out wide who sprayed a pass inside to Liam Farrell who crossed for a well-worked try and gave a good angle for Matty Smith to convert from for a 24-0 lead.

Wigan's scoring spree looked to continue even further before the interval as the combination of Dan Sarginson and Joe Burgess looked to have broke through the Huddersfield defence again as the latter crossed for a try but after a video review the effort was chalked off leaving the score at 24-0.

Huddersfield needed to score first in the second half to have any chance of a comeback and they did just that with just two minutes on the clock as a high kick found the arms of Leroy Cudjoe who crossed for a try which Jake Connor was unable to convert at 24-4.

However, Wigan responded with a famous try as with his brothers Logan and Sam watching on from the stands, Joel Tomkins crossed for his first try in Cherry and White since his return from Rugby Union and Matty Smith's conversion made it 30-4.

The right side of the Giants defence seemed to be a weakness as Wigan's left wing duo of Dan Sarginson and Joe Burgess exploited the open space with the former crossing for a try which Matty Smith converted well for 36-4.

Wigan breached the 40 point mark in the 54th minute as a clever run and offload from Eddy Pettybourne saw him pick out Joe Burgess who in turn threw a pass to Matt Bowen who crossed for a superb try which allowed Matty Smith to convert successfully for 42-4.

The previous meetings between the sides this season saw Wigan out muscled by Huddersfield but with 58 minutes on the clock, revenge seemed to be a certainty as a superb dash from Josh Charnley saw him power through the Huddersfield defence and cross for a try in the corner which Matty Smith converted from the touchline to a huge applause at 48-4.

The game was over as a contest in the 65th minute when a nice passing set resulted in a try for Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin but a tough conversion attempt for Matty Smith saw him miss at 52-4. The home crowd were in awe in the 72nd minute when a last tackle kick from Huddersfield found the arms of Joe Burgess in goal and the winger dashed the length of the field unchallenged to score an amazing try and despite Matty Smith failing to convert, Wigan continued to celebrate a superb effort from their young winger at 56-4.

As the final minutes ticked down, Matty Smith was announced as a well deserved man of the match and he celebrated the award by putting the gloss on a fine performance with a drop goal in the final minute for a final score of 57-4. A correct result but wide with the 30-22 prediction to Wigan.

Super Saints Rout Tigers 

St Helens celebrated collecting the League Leaders Shield pre-match with a superb 41-0 rout of Castleford who looked a shadow of the side that came so close to sealing top spot.

The pre-match build-up focused on the meeting of what many consider to be the best two hookers in Super League in James Roby (Saints) and Daryl Clark (Castleford) but it was the former who made the first impact as he crossed for the opening try of the evening in the 19th minute. Mark Percival converted successfully and St Helens led 6-0.

James Roby furthered his impact on the game with a second try in the 26th minute which alike the first effort, Mark Percival converted for 12-0 and the hosts went into the half-time interval with a 13 point lead after Jordan Turner swept over a drop goal in the final seconds.

Jordan Turner extended the lead for St Helens just six minutes into the second half with a try which Mark Percival converted for a 19-0 lead which stretched to 25-0 just before the hour mark when Adam Swift crossed for a try which Mark Percival converted successfully.

Castleford's chances of staging a comeback suffered a blow in the 63rd minute when Michael Shenton was sin binned for a professional foul as he hauled Paul Wellens back when the Saints fullback looked to touch down for a try but a video review denied the chance of a penalty try being awarded.

St Helens took advantage of the extra man with a try from Tom Makinson just a minute later which forced Mark Peercival to try and convert from a tough angle which he was unable to at 29-0 but it mattered not when Kyle Amor battled over the Castelford line for a try in the 69th minute which Mark Percival converted for 35-0.

Castleford's miserable trip across the Pennines got even worse as Mose Masoe crossed for the hosts in the 75th minute and after a video review the try was awarded with Mark Percival's sixth conversion of the evening breaching the 40 point mark and handing the Tigers a nilling in a 41-0 final scoreline. A correct result but wide prediction of 28-20 to St Helens.

Vikings Suffer Wolves Fightback 

Warrington fought back from 18-0 down at home to Widnes to secure a 22-19 victory that set up a tie away to Castleford and puts them just two wins away from a return to the Grand Final.

Widnes raced into a 1-0 lead with a brace of tries from Paddy Flynn in the fifth and ninth minutes which were both successfully converted by Danny Tickle and the Vikings extended their lead on the half-hour mark with an effort from Rhys Hanbury which Tickle converted for 18-0.

Warrington hit back just four minutes before half-time as Joel Monaghan continued his scoring spree in 2014 with a try which Stefan Ratchford converted to reduce the deficit to 18-6 and wary of a fightback, Kevin Brown swept over a drop goal in the final seconds of the half for a 19-6 lead.

However the extra point proved to be in vain as a three try spree from the Wolves in the space of 14 minutes saw Warrington comeback to level before taking a 22-19 lead. Joel Monaghan crossed for his second and third efforts of the afternoon to complete his hat-trick either side of an effort for Rhys Evans with Stefan Ratchford converting twice from three attempts to complete the comeback.

Warrington did suffer a blow in the second half when a collision between  Matthew Russell and Widnes forward Magraff Leuluai saw the Wolves fullback stretchered off but the Wolves were able to hold on for the win and set up a trip to Castleford on Thursday. A correct result and close prediction of 26-16 to Warrington.

Dragons Late Charge Stuns Rhinos

When it comes to the Super League play offs, Leeds have been synonymous with success in recent years including the famous Grand Final victory from fifth place but they will have to watch from afar this year as they fell to a sixth consecutive defeat as Catalan staged a late fightback.

The Dragons made the trip to Headingley looking for a first ever win at the home of the Rhinos and also hoping for revenge after a last gasp 31-30 defeat earlier in the season but it was the hosts who opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Carl Ablett crossed for a try and with Kevin Sinfield converting, Leeds led 6-0.

Catalan hit back with a try from Sam Williams in the 26th minute with Thomas Bosc converting successfully to level the score at 6-6 before Leeds regained the lead with a Kevin Sinfield penalty goal four minutes before the interval for 8-6. 

The Rhinos opened up an eight point lead at the interval as Kallum Watkins crossed for a try in the final minute of the half with Kevin Sinfield's conversion bringing the score to 14-6 at the interval but the Dragons reduced the arrears to just two points when Zeb Taia crossed fora try just two minutes into the second half with Thomas  Bosc converting for 14-12.

Catalan went ahead in the 57th minute as Louis Anderson crossed for try and with Thomas Bosc converting successfully, the Dragons led 18-4 but were pegged back with ten minutes left of the 80 as Jamie Jones-Buchanan registered an effort that Kevin Sinfield converted for 20-18.

However, Catalan stunned the Rhinos with just a minute remaining as Sam Williams crossed for his second try of the evening after capitalising on a costly error from Tom Briscoe to secure a famous win with Thomas Bosc's conversion putting the gloss on a 24-20 win. The win means Catalan will face another long trip next week as they face Huddersfield while Leeds' hopes of a league and cup double disappear. An incorrect result but close prediction of 30-24 to Leeds.

Wonderful Warriors Crush Giants

In a reverse meeting to last season's week one play off between Huddersfield and Wigan, Thursday night saw the Warriors host the Giants in a game where the victor would be just 80 minutes away from the Grand Final.

Wigan looked to have made a perfect start when a Joe Burgess collected a high kick out wide and offloaded to Dan Sarginson but unfortunately the Warriors centre knocked-on with the try line in sight but it served as a warning of things to come as the next Wigan set saw them awarded a penalty in a dangerous position. Matty Smith elected to kick for goal and did so successfully for a 2-0 lead.

The Warriors continued to pressure the Giants defence and forced a goal-line dropout in the 10th minute and the resulting set saw Wigan come just inches from the first try as a kick out wide grazed the fingertips of Joe Burgess before gliding into touch.

Huddersfield responded well to the close call as Brett Ferres looked to have crossed for a try but the decision was dependant on a video review which eventually saw a 'NO TRY' displayed on the big screen after the Giants had knocked-on.

The first try of the evening came in the 23rd minute and began life with a pass from Anthony Gelling finding Josh Charnley out wide with the winger crossing in the corner meaning a tough angle for Matty Smith to attempt to convert from and a decent effort travelled the wrong side of the posts at 6-0.

Wigan extended the lead from the restart as a superb run from Josh Charnley put the Warriors in a great position which resulted in a stellar dash from Matty Smith who crossed for a try under the posts which he duly converted with ease for a 12-0 lead which soon became 18-0 when Tony Clubb battled over the line after a minor slip and Matty Smith duly converted.

Huddersfield were in danger of being out of the game before half-time as Wigan scored again just after the restart as a stunning run from Dan Sarginson saw him pick out Joe Burgess out wide who sprayed a pass inside to Liam Farrell who crossed for a well-worked try and gave a good angle for Matty Smith to convert from for a 24-0 lead.

Wigan's scoring spree looked to continue even further before the interval as the combination of Dan Sarginson and Joe Burgess looked to have broke through the Huddersfield defence again as the latter crossed for a try but after a video review the effort was chalked off leaving the score at 24-0.

Huddersfield needed to score first in the second half to have any chance of a comeback and they did just that with just two minutes on the clock as a high kick found the arms of Leroy Cudjoe who crossed for a try which Jake Connor was unable to convert at 24-4.

However, Wigan responded with a famous try as with his brothers Logan and Sam watching on from the stands, Joel Tomkins crossed for his first try in Cherry and White since his return from Rugby Union and Matty Smith's conversion made it 30-4.

The right side of the Giants defence seemed to be a weakness as Wigan's left wing duo of Dan Sarginson and Joe Burgess exploited the open space with the former crossing for a try which Matty Smith converted well for 36-4.

Wigan breached the 40 point mark in the 54th minute as a clever run and offload from Eddy Pettybourne saw him pick out Joe Burgess who in turn threw a pass to Matt Bowen who crossed for a superb try which allowed Matty Smith to convert successfully for 42-4.

The previous meetings between the sides this season saw Wigan out muscled by Huddersfield but with 58 minutes on the clock, revenge seemed to be a certainty as a superb dash from Josh Charnley saw him power through the Huddersfield defence and cross for a try in the corner which Matty Smith converted from the touchline to a huge applause at 48-4.

The game was over as a contest in the 65th minute when a nice passing set resulted in a try for Wigan captain Sean O'Loughlin but a tough conversion attempt for Matty Smith saw him miss at 52-4. The home crowd were in awe in the 72nd minute when a last tackle kick from Huddersfield found the arms of Joe Burgess in goal and the winger dashed the length of the field unchallenged to score an amazing try and despite Matty Smith failing to convert, Wigan continued to celebrate a superb effort from their young winger at 56-4.

As the final minutes ticked down, Matty Smith was announced as a well deserved man of the match and he celebrated the award by putting the gloss on a fine performance with a drop goal in the final minute for a final score of 57-4 which give Wigan a week off and means Huddersfield will have a second chance next weekend.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Super League Play Offs Week One Preview

After a superb final round in the Super League regular season finally confirmed the final placings for the 14 teams, the season moves on to the end of season play off competition with the top eight teams in the Super League ladder facing off.

Tonight sees a meeting between second place Wigan and third placed Huddersfield with a week off and a semi final place awaiting the winners and a second chance next week awaiting the losers, the latter something Huddersfield will hope to avoid a repeat of from 2013

The sides met at this stage last season but with Hudddersfield as League Leaders and Wigan in fourth place with the Warriors defying the odds with a 22-8 victory at the John Smith's Stadium which of course laid the foundations for their Grand Final win a month later over Warrington.

Despite the placings this time around, Huddersfield are the favourites to advance on the basis that they secured a league double over Wigan this season with a 24-8 win at the start of the season at the DW Stadium followed by a 31-22 victory in the reverse meeting in late May so the Giants will be confident of writing the wrongs from last season.

Wigan go into the game in good form with three wins from their last five games including strong wins at home to Leeds and Warrington in the last two rounds which will boost their confidence and hopes of reaching and winning a second consecutive Grand Final. The Warriors will be keen to exact revenge on the Giants who are the only side to have been them home and away this season.

Huddersfield are in superb form with four wins in their last five games which has seen them move from what seemed like a settle sixth place to the heights of the top four which resulted in a third placed finish which is good given that their defence of the League Leaders Shield was a mixed one.

Wigan have the luxury of naming an unchanged squad after the win over Warrington with the only notable absentee being Iain Thornley while the Giants will be without talismanic captain Danny Brough for a second successive game meaning Jake Connor will continue to deputise with Luke Robinson retianing his place in the 19 after a heavy hit from Alex Walmsley in the win over St Helens while Eorl Crabtree and Scott Grix return.

Wigan: Bateman, Bowen, Burgess, Charnley, Clubb, Crosby, Dudson, Farrell, Flower, Gelling, Green, Hughes, McIlorum, O'Loughlin, Pettybourne, Powell, Sarginson, Smith, Tomkins
Huddersfield: Grix, McGillvary, Cudjoe, Wardle, Murphy, Robinson, Crabtree, Lunt, Kopczak, Ferres, Bailey, Lawrence, Patrick, Faiumu, Ta’ai, Broughton, Kaufusi, Johnson, Connor

Both sides are in great form but when it comes to the back end of the season, Wigan really step up so Wigan 30 Huddersfield 22. 
 

Friday night features what in some terms could be looked at as a strange clash as League Leaders Shield winners St Helens host fourth placed Castleford with the Saints collecting the shield in front of a Tigers side that came just one win away from claiming it themselves.

The tightness of the top four meant that Castleford could have finished anywhere from first to fourth but hopefully they will use the sadness of not securing the LLS to spur them on to securing a semi-final place to be just 80 minutes away from a dream Grand Final.

Despite claiming the League Leaders Shield, St Helens go into the game in mixed form with just two wins in their last five games including defeats against Warrington and Huddersfield in the last two round but they will be keen to bounce back on what will be a night of celebration at Langtree Park.

Castleford are in better form than tomorrow evening's opponents as they have won three of their last five games which put them in a great position to secure top spot and the LLS but the defeat to Catalan in the previous round meant they would remain in fourth and have to watch St Helens collect a prize that came so close to being their own.

St Helens will be favourites for the match given that they completed a league double over Castleford with a 30-28 at Castleford coupled with a 38-16 win at Langtree Park, so Castleford will need to be at their best to avoid a third defeat in a row to St Helens.

St Helens will be without the suspended Alex Walmsley who is replaced by Greg Richards while Castleford are still without Justin Carney who remains on the injury list but otherwise the Tigers are able to name a strong 19.
St Helens - Makinson, Turner, Jones, Swift, Hohaia, Masoe, Roby, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Soliola, Manu, Laffrachi, Flanagan, Amor, Wellens, Percival, Wheeler, Dawson, Richards, Thompson. 
Castleford Tigers - Dixon, Shenton, Webster, Dorn, Sneyd, Lynch, Milner, Huby, Millington, Hauraki, Massey, Clark, Holmes, Wheeldon, Ellis, Channing, Clare, Jewitt, Finn.

This should be a cracking game given the issues of the past few weekes but I think Castelford's limited play off experience could be their downfall so St Helens 28 Castleford 20.

Saturday features the two elimination play offs where unlike the matches between the top four, there is no second chance for the losing teams while the winners will face the losers of the two qualifying play offs.

The prospect of elimination will be a startling one for Warrington who ended last season as Grand Final runners-up having been 40 minutes away from a first Super League title before succumbing to a resilient Wigan fightback. The Wolves alike most of the top five had the chance to finish as high as second or as low as fifth and after finishing in the top three in each of the last four seasons including the 2011 LLS, having only one chance could see them stutter.

Warrington play host to neighbours Widnes for who the play offs are a different prospect as this will be their first participation in the end of season competition and though just taking part is a dream for the Vikings, the chance to dump their neighbours out of the competition and put themselves just two wins away from the Grand Final is something they would never have believed at the start of the season.

Warrington go into the game with three wins and a draw in their last five games with the defeat to Wigan last week ending their unbeaten run but they will be wary of their neighbours given that the Vikings have won three of the last five meetings between the sides.

Widnes are in similarly good form with three wins in their last five games but a heavy defeat to Salford last week may have dented their confidence but having reached the last four of the Challenge Cup this season, they have the experience of performing well in knockout games. 

The sides have a win apiece in the Super League this season with contrasting results as Warrington cruised to a 44-6 home win at Easter while Widnes exacted revenge in July with a 28-14 win so the onus will be on the Vikings to right the wrongs of their last visit to the Halliwell Jones Stadium. 

Warrington will be without the suspended Paul Wood while James Laithwaite retains his place despite an injury last week at Wigan while Widnes will be without Stefan Marsh who limped off in the loss to Salford while Kevin Brown, Jon Clarke, Danny Tickle, Rhys Hanbury and Eamon O'Caroll are all recalled.

Warrington Wolves - Asotasi, Atkins, Bridge, Currie, England, B.Evans, R.Evans, Harrison, Higham, Hill, Laithwaite, J.Monaghan, M.Monaghan, Myler, O'Brien, Ormsby, Ratchford, Russell, Waterhouse. 
Widnes Vikings - Ah Van, Brown, Cahill, Carberry, Dean, Clarke, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Isa, Joseph, Leuluai, Mellor, O'Carroll, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.

This will surely be an exciting derby but Widnes' lack of experience could combine with Warrington's fear of an exit and spur the Wolves on so Warrington 26 Widnes 16. 

The second elimination play off sees sixth placed Leeds host seventh placed Catalan with the Rhinos famous for winning the Grand Final from fifth but will have to go one better this season in what would be a miraculous end to the season while Catalan will look to successfully reach week two for the first time since 2011.

The two sides have met twice in last five seasons in the play offs with the Rhinos winning both by the same score with 27-20 wins in the 2009 semi final and 2012 week one fixtures but for Catalan the long travel involved can be a problem given that their away form is poor compared to their near perfect form at home with only Leeds and Wigan victorious in Perpignan.

Leeds go into the game in woeful form with no wins in their last five games so they will be desperate to win to prevent ending the season with six successive losses while after having won the Challenge Cup, there is the chance for a league and cup double for the Rhinos.

Catalan go into the game in good form with three wins in their last five games but will be wary of a Leeds side that has won each of the last five meetings between the sides and with the Dragons having to travel surely that will play a factor in the outcome.

Leeds will be favourites given that they completed a league double over Catalan with a 40-12 victory in Perpignan early in the season followed by a last-gasp 32-31 victory in June in a game where the lead changed hands several times in the final minutes.

Leeds will hope to welcome back Joel Moon from suspension in an otherwise unchanged squad while
Catalan recall Greg Mounis who replaces Damien Cardace in an otherwise unchanged 19.

Leeds Rhinos (from) -Hardaker, Briscoe, Watkins, Sutcliffe, Hall. Sinfield, McGuire, Singleton, Aiton, Peacock, Delaney, Ablett, Jones-Buchanan, Leuluai, Kirke, Achurch, Burrow, Moon.
Catalan Dragons - EscarĂ©, Pomeroy, Oldfield, Bosc, Elima, Henderson, Lima, Taia, Anderson, Mounis, Maria, Pelissier, Whitehead, Millard, Bousquet, Baitieri, Duport, Garcia, Williams. 

Catalan will need a big performance to overcome their mixed away form but with Leeds in bad form I see them bouncing back here so Leeds 30 Catalan 24.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Catalan Win Shatters Tigers Dream Finish

After 26 exciting and some very unpredictable regular season rounds, the final and 27th round saw the League Leaders Shield winners and the top four positions finally decided going into the last play-off system of the current era before the re-structure in 2015.

Wing Duo Star As Warriors Double Wolves

After a superb win over Leeds in the penultimate round of the regular season, Wigan played host to Warrington with the winners guaranteed a top three finish and with the Warriors looking to complete a first league double over the Wolves since 2003.

A clever kick from Blake Green rebounded off a Warrington defender resulting in a wiping down of the tackle count and after a powerful run from Dan Sarginson, the ball was passed out to the wing for the Joe Burgess to collect and touch down for the opening try of the evening but Matty Smith was unable to convert at 4-0.

After having been denied twice already, it was third time lucky for Joel Monaghan as collected the ball unmarked on the wing after a quick passing play from Warrington carved Wigan open and allowed Monaghan to cross for an easy try which Stefan Ratchford converted successfully for a 6-4 lead for the Wolves.

Warrington extended their lead just after the half-hour as a well-worked move saw Richie Myler break through the Wigan defence and cross for a try but the replay showed a knock-on had been missed by the officials in the build-up but with Stefan Ratchford converting for 12-4, Warrington were beginning to build momentum.

The momentum saw them score a third try in the space of nine minutes as a superb kick from Richie Myler saw Joel Monaghan collect and look to have touched down before crossing the dead ball line but a video review was called for by Phil Bentham and in the replays, the Wolves winger had been successful by the slimmest of margins and the try was awarded with Stefan Ratchford converted for 18-4 at the interval.

Alike last season's Grand Final, Wigan would have to overturn a 14 point deficit to secure the victory and just five minutes into the second half, the foundations were laid for a comeback as a clever pass from Dan Sarginson saw Joe Burgess collect out wide before crossing for a try which was unconverted as Matty Smith missed from a tough angle at 18-8.

Wigan looked to have reduced the deficit further in the 52nd minute as a stylish grubber kick from Anthony Gelling saw Josh Charnley collect before chipping a kick forward which he successfully re-gathered before touching down for a superb try which went to a video review before being awarded but another miss from Matty Smith left Wigan still behind at 18-12.

Tensions rose between the sides just three minutes later as Paul Wood took exception to Eddy Pettybourne's reaction to the Warrington man's tackle and the two exchanged punches which resulted in both being shown yellow cards and sent for a 10 minute trip to the sin bin.

Warrington reached the 20 point mark after Wigan gave a way a penalty just metres from their own line and Warrington elected to go for goal and with Stefan Ratchford converting the penalty goal successfully the Wolves now led 20-12 but were soon the architects of their own downfall.

A rapid passing move saw Warrington close in on the Wigan line only for a pass from Micheal Monaghan to glide into the arms of Josh Charnley who raced 80 metres down the field unchallenged to cross for a stunning try under the posts which Matty Smith converted successfully for 20-18.

Wigan completed their stunning second half fight back in the 66th minute as superb move from Blake Green saw him power over the Warrington line and look to have touched down despite pressure from a number of Wolves defenders which resulted in a video review but the try was eventually awarded and Matty Smith converted for a 24-20 which saw Wigan hold on for the win. A correct result and achingly close prediction of 24-22.


Giants Dent Saints Hopes  

Friday night saw St Helens make the trip to Huddersfield knowing that they would claim a first League Leaders Shield in six years if they avoided defeat and they looked to have got off to a good start as Willie Manu crossed for the first try of the game and after a video review the try was chalked off due a losse carry. 

However, St Helens did open the scoring with two tries in the space of three minutes as Tom Makinson as James Roby crossed with Mark Percival converting once from two attempts for a 10-0 lead but the Saints suffered a blow just three minutes later as Alex Walmsley was sent off after a bad tackle on Luke Robinson who went of injured as a result.

The advantage of an extra man saw Huddersfield build momentum but an effort i the 29th minute from Ukuma Ta'ai was denied before Jake Connor reduced the deficit with two minutes left of the half with a try which he converted for 10-6 at the interval.

Huddersfield made a superb start to the second half as Shaun Lunt levelled the score with a try in the 42nd minute before Jake Connor added the conversion for a 12-10 lead which was extended in the 57th minute when Leroy Cudjoe crossed for a try and despite Jake Connor failing to convert, the Giants held a six point lead.

However, St Helens drew level as Lance Hohaia raced over for a try and with Mark Percival converting the score moved to 16-16. As Huddersfield were missing likely drop goal candidates Luke Robinson and Danny Brough, thoughts turned to the Challenge Cup meeting earlier in the season which saw a controversial 17-16 win for St Helens but with nine minutes to go Leroy Cudjoe swept over a drop goal to put Huddersfield in front at 17-16.

A fortnight ago, St Helens needed just one point from four to claim top spot but with five minutes to go the dream looked to be over as Jermaine McGillvary looked to have confirmed the win for Huddersfield only to see his effort chalked off via a video review. However, it mattered not as Huddersfield held on and secured a top four finish while St Helens' fate rested on Castleford losing to Catalan. An incorrect result and slightly off with the predicting 26-18 to St Helens.

Red Devils Succeed Against Vikings

Salford hosted Widnes in a game where the Red Devils looked to end the season a high while Widnes looked to go into their first play-off campaign on the back of a win but two early tries for Salford dented the Viking's hopes.

Captain elect Harrison Hansen posted the first try inside three minute with Josh Griffin converting successfully before Junior Sa'u crossed in the 10th minute with Josh Griffin converting for a second time for 12-0.

The hosts extended their lead with two efforts in as many minutes just before the interval as Tony Puletua and Rangi Chase both registered efforts which Josh Griffin successfully converted for a 24-0 lead at half-time.

The Red Devils looked to have wrapped up the win just before the hour mark as Josh Griffin crossed for a try in the 51st minute before converting his own score and continued his perfect kicking percentage in converting Junior Sa'u's second try in the 57th minute for a 36-0 lead.

Widnes avoided a humiliating end to the regular season as Patrick Ah Van prevented a nilling with a try in the 72nd minute with Jack Owens converting successfully for a final score of 36-6. An incorrect result and prediction of 23-22 to Widnes.

Hull Extend Rhinos Losing Streak

Despite claiming the Challenge Cup last month, Leeds will go into the play-offs into a negative vain as they fell foul of a superb comeback from the resilient Airlie Birds who actually opened the scoring in the 15th minute after a try from Tom Lineham but a tough angle saw Jordan Rankin unable to convert at 4-0.

Leeds drew level before going into the interval in the lead as Carl Ablett scored a try in the 37th minute which Kevin Sinfield converted before the Leeds captain successfully kicked a drop goal for a 7-4 lead at the break.

Danny McGuire crossed for a try just five minutes into the second half and with Kevin Sinfield converting for 13-4, the Rhinos edged in front and extended their lead in the 57th minute when Ryan Hall crossed and Kevin Sinfield converted for 19-4.

Hull bounced back with two quick tries in the space of four minutes as Gareth Ellis and Fetuli Talanoa both registered efforts but with Jordan Rankin unable to convert either the Black and Whites were still seven points adrift at 19-12.

However a brace of tries in the final nine minute turned the game around as Jack Logan crossed in the 71st and 77th minutes to bring Hull level before putting them ahead with both tries successfully converted by Jordan Rankin to secure a famous 24-19 win for the Black and Whites meaning Leeds go into the play-offs in sixth and on a run of five consecutive defeats.  An incorrect result and off with the prediction of 22-12 to Leeds.

Catalan Win Shatters Tigers Dream Finish 

After St Helens failed to secure the League Leaders Shield on Friday night, Castleford knew a win against Catalan in Perpignan would see them claim the shield for the first time in their history and in a tight first 20 minutes both sides were strong in attack and defence.

However in the 23rd minute, Catalan looked to have opened the scoring as Ian Henderson breached the Castleford line but after a video review the effort was chalked off but it served as a warning as the hosts did go ahead on the half-hour as Morgan Escaré boosted his hopes of becoming the league's top try scorer with an effort which Thomas Bosc converted for 6-0.

The pacy Escaré crossed for a second try just before half-time which was given via a video review but Thomas Bosc's conversion attempt bounced back off the post meaning the Dragons took a 10-0 lead into the interval.

A rapid start to the second half saw Zeb Taia cross for the Dragons and with Thomas Bosc converting for 16-0, Castleford's table topping dreams were beginning to slip away but the Tigers responded with a try from Kirk Dixon in the 45th minute with Marc Sneyd converting for 16-6.

Two tries in three minutes were referred to the video review with Ben Pomeroy's effort chalked off in the 53rd minute before Ian Henderson's score was awarded in the 56th minute and with Thomas Bosc converting for 22-6, the Dragons were in control.

The win seemed to have been wrapped up in the 64th minute when Elliot Whitehead crossed for a try which Thomas Bosc converted successfully for 28-6, a lead that lasted until the end of the game and meant that with Castleford failing to win, St Helens has claimed the League Leaders Shield.  An incorrect result and wrong prediction of 30-24 to Castleford.

Broncos Suffer Late Bulls Fightback


Bradford travelled to London for a game that would be the last for both sides in Super League until at least 2016 should either be promoted at the first attempt and they really put on a farewell show in sharing 82 points.

Bradford made a rapid start as they posted three tries in the first 12 minutes as Luke Gale crossed twice ahead of an effort for Joe Arundel with Jamie Foster converting twice from the three attempts for 16-0.

London responded well with three tries of their own in a 15 minute period as Matt Cook, Joe Keyes and Josh Drinkwater all registered efforts with Drinkwater himself converting all three for a 18-16 lead and the Broncos extended their lead three minutes before half-time as Erjon Dollapi crossed for a try which Josh Drinkwater converted for a 24-16 lead at the interval.

Bradford fell further behind to a Nick Slyney try in the 57th minute with Josh Drinkwater's conversion increasing the lead to 30-16 before three tries in the space of 11 minutes with Brett Kearney, Jay Pitts crossing ahead of Luke Gale completing his hat-trick with Jamie Foster converting all three for a 34-30 lead.

London regained the lead with nine minutes to go as Josh Drinkwater claimed his second try of the game and successfully added a conversion for 36-34 but their hopes of ending the season on a high were dashed by two late tries from Bradford.

Luke Gale crossed for his fourth score of the afternoon before Manase Manukafoa scored in the final minute with Jamie Foster converting both to secure a 46-36 victory. An incorrect result and wrong prediction of 24-20 to London.

Robins Duo Bid Farewell In Style

The final match of the regular season saw Wakefield host Hull KR with the sides both eager to secure a ninth placed finish with the Robins also hopeful over leap-frogging their city rivals in the table.

A perfect start for the Robins saw Omari Caro score the opening try inside three minutes but a missed conversion attempt from Travis Burns meant a slim 4-0 lead which increased to 22-0 as the Robins ran in three tries in the space of 11 minutes as Macauley Hallett and Greg Eden crossed ahead of Omari Caro's second effort of the game with Craig Hall converting all three.

Macauley Hallett claimed his second try of the game with three minutes left of the first half with Omari Caro completing his hat-trick just before the half-time hooter for a 30-0 lead at the interval but Hull KR continued their scoring spree with just five minutes on the clock in the second half as Keal Carlile crossed for a try which Craig Hall converted for 36-0.

Wakefield finally got themselves on the score-sheet with a try from Dean Collis in the 56th minute which was converted by Paul Sykes for 36-6 but the Wildcats joy lasted just three minutes as Greg Eden sealed his second try of the game and with Craig Hall converted successfully, the Robins led 42-6.

Wakefield reduced the arrears with two tries in as many minutes with Chris Riley and Andy Raleigh both crossing for efforts with Paul Sykes converting both for a final score of 42-18. A correct result but wrong prediction of 30-20 to Hull KR.

Young Warriors Cruise Past Robins

After finishing third in the table, Wigan U19s played host to sixth place Hull KR U19s in the first week of the play-offs with the loser dropping out of the competition and the winner moving on to face the winners of Leeds/Hull FC.

In order to retain their title, Wigan would need to win four sudden death games beginning on Saturday and they made a good start in the 10th minute as a Liam Marshall crossed for the first try of the afternoon but a tough angle meant Nick Gregson was unable to convert at 4-0.

A nice passing set resulted in try for Macauley Davies after and with a good angle for the conversion, Nick Gregson was successful in pushing Wigan into a 10-0 lead but Hull KR responded and reduced the deficit in the 26th minute with a try from Ben Holdsworth which Connor Robinson converted easily for 10-6.

Wigan regained their 10 point lead just six minutes later as Oliver Gildart crossed for a try which was successfully converted by Jake Moore for 16-6 but the Warriors reached the 20 point mark just before the interval as a cross field kick from Jamie Doran sailed into the arms of Liam Marshall who crossed for his second try of the game. Jake Moore was unable to convert as Wigan went into the break leading 20-6.

A good start to the second half saw Wigan extend their lead as Gabriel Fell crossed for a try out wide which Jake Moore was unable to convert at 24-6 before Oliver Gildart claimed his second try of the game just after the restart with Jake Moore converting for a third time for 30-6.

The Robins gave themselves hope just before the hour mark as Connor Robinson crossed for a try but was unable to convert his own score at  30-10 but Wigan responded well as Liam Marshall completed his hat-trick in the 63rd minute with Jake Moore converting for a third time to move the score to 36-10.

Wigan wrapped up the win with seven minutes remaining as Gabriel Fell crossed for his second try of the afternoon with Jake Moore adding a successful conversion for 42-10 and Hull KR had the last say as Matty Marsh crossed for a try in the 77th minute with Connor Robinson converting for 42-16.

The game did have a strange ending as Callum Wright was sent to the sin bin for interference but with just seconds left, it failed to serve as a real punishment for Wigan as they secured a 42-16 win that sets up a home tie against Leeds on Sunday.

Wingers Star As Warriors Double Wolves

After a superb win over Leeds in the penultimate round of the regular season, Wigan played host to Warrington with the winners guaranteed a top three finish and with the Warriors looking to complete a first league double over the Wolves since 2003.

Warrington came close to a perfect start as Joel Monaghan came just metres from the Wigan try line before the ball travelled into touch and Wigan utilised the early scare to their advantage as they took the lead themselves in the seventh minute.

A clever kick from Blake Green rebounded off a Warrington defender resulting in a wiping down of the tackle count and after a powerful run from Dan Sarginson, the ball was passed out to the wing for the Joe Burgess to collect and touch down for the opening try of the evening but Matty Smith was unable to convert at 4-0.

Wigan could have scored instantly from the restart as Josh Charnley's dash put Wigan in a great position before the ball across the field and into the hands of Dan Sarginson who found Joe Burgess on the win but the pacy winger was denied a second try as he breached the touchline just a metre away from the Warrington line.

Joel Monaghan looked to level for Warrington but was denied in the corner by a superb defensive tackle by Joe Burgess who prevented a certain try for the current Super League top try scorer but the Wolves continued to pressure and their build-up paid off in the 26th minute.

After having been denied twice already, it was third time lucky for Joel Monaghan as collected the ball unmarked on the wing after a quick passing play from Warrington carved Wigan open and allowed Monaghan to cross for an easy try which Stefan Ratchford converted successfully for a 6-4 lead for the Wolves.

Warrington extended their lead just after the half-hour as a well-worked move saw Richie Myler break through the Wigan defence and cross for a try but the replay showed a knock-on had been missed by the officials in the build-up but with Stefan Ratchford converting for 12-4, Warrington were beginning to build momentum.

The momentum saw them score a third try in the space of nine minutes as a superb kick from Richie Myler saw Joel Monaghan collect and look to have touched down before crossing the dead ball line but a video review was called for by Phil Bentham and in the replays, the Wolves winger had been successful by the slimmest of margins and the try was awarded with Stefan Ratchford converted for 18-4 at the interval.

Alike last season's Grand Final, Wigan would have to overturn a 14 point deficit to secure the victory and just five minutes into the second half, the foundations were laid for a comeback as a clever pass from Dan Sarginson saw Joe Burgess collect out wide before crossing for a try which was unconverted as Matty Smith missed from a tough angle at 18-8.

Wigan looked to have reduced the deficit further in the 52nd minute as a stylish grubber kick from Anthony Gelling saw Josh Charnley collect before chipping a kick forward which he successfully re-gathered before touching down for a superb try which went to a video review before being awarded but another miss from Matty Smith left Wigan still behind at 18-12.

Tensions rose between the sides just three minutes later as Paul Wood took exception to Eddy Pettybourne's reaction to the Warrington man's tackle and the two exchanged punches which resulted in both being shown yellow cards and sent for a 10 minute trip to the sin bin.

Warrington reached the 20 point mark after Wigan gave a way a penalty just metres from their own line and Warrington elected to go for goal and with Stefan Ratchford converting the penalty goal successfully the Wolves now led 20-12 but were soon the architects of their own downfall.

A rapid passing move saw Warrington close in on the Wigan line only for a pass from Micheal Monaghan to glide into the arms of Josh Charnley who raced 80 metres down the field unchallenged to cross for a stunning try under the posts which Matty Smith converted successfully for 20-18.

Wigan completed their stunning second half fight back in the 66th minute as superb move from Blake Green saw him power over the Warrington line and look to have touched down despite pressure from a number of Wolves defenders which resulted in a video review but the try was eventually awarded and Matty Smith converted for a 24-20 lead.

The Wolves looked to have fallen further behind when a high attacking kick from Matty Bowen found Anthony Gelling who swept forward a grubber kick before collecting and zig-zagging through the Wolves defence and crossing for a try but the decision was subject to a video review and was soon chalked off due to crossing.

Warrington could have drawn level with six minutes left of the 80 when a well-worked passing set found Rhys Evans out wide but the height of the pass saw the winger fail to grasp the ball which sailed into touch and the Wolves were dealt a late blow as a challenge from Michael McIlorum floored James Laithwaite.

After a delay, the Warrington man was stretchered off and the Wolves had one final chance to secure a top three finish as a dangerous grubber kick towards Wigan's in-goal area saw a double fumble but Warrington were unable take advantage and as a result would finish fourth or fifth depending on other results. Wigan on the other hand moved up to second and would be guaranteed a home play-off tie should Castleford lose in France.