Six cracking games are in store this week in the Super League. Complete with the odds from your club’s betting service, we take a glance at all of them.
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HULL FC v CATALAN DRAGONS
Hull FC will go into this a short-priced favourites following their hard-earned 12-8 win at Wakefield, but in truth they were far from convincing in awful conditions. Josh Bowden is back in the squad after missing out the Wakey clash with an ankle injury, but they will miss half-back Albert Kelly who is suspended. Jake Connor comes in to replace him. Quite how much they will continue to miss Dean Hadley (hip) remains to be seen.
Danny Washbrook (above) should get a fair reception from a large and vocal crowd as he makes his 150th appearance for Hull FC. Hull FC also received a boost this week when half-back Marc Sneyd, who has the highest kick-conversion rate in Super League, extended his contract until the end of 2019.
Catalan Dragons won 20-12 at home to Warrington thanks to a late try from Fiji international Brayden Williame, but they will be without star full-back Tony Gigot after he was suspended by the French Rugby League Federation before the start of the season. The Dragons will also be without winger Fouad Yaha, so the balance appears to be in the hosts’ favour. Not a game to put the house on, in our opinion, but we’ll side with Lee Radford’s side. He’ll make believers out of us yet.
VERDICT: HULL FC TO COVER
HUDDERSFIELD v WAKEFIELD
Huddersfield Giants were a little guilty of underestimating Salford and crashed to a 20-30 home defeat last time out. They have also been dealt a major blow with the news that forward Tom Symonds will be out for at least six weeks with a knee injury following their 28-16 opening-night win over Widnes Vikings. Sam Rapira deputised last Thursday and will do so again.
Coach Rick Stone will shuffle his pack and hopes that Dale Ferguson (groin), evergreen winger Jermaine McGillvary (above, knee) – who scored his 125th try for the club last week – and skipper Leroy Cudjoe (knee) will overcome their respective injuries to face Wakefield. The Giants were major underachievers last season and have a point to prove.
Wakefield finished in the top eight last season and put up a decent showing against last year’s Challenge Cup winners Hull FC in their 20-30 defeat at Belle Vue, conceding late on. They possibly need to be a little more savvy in the ruck but there is no question that Chris Chetser’s side have brought in some decent players in the summer.
They are being written off too early by some pundits and while they will start as underdogs here, this will be a good barometer to see exactly where exactly Wakey are. Wakefield on the handicap could be a tempting play for us, but we take the hosts to win.
VERDICT: WAKEFIELD TO COVER
LEEDS RHINOS v SALFORD
Leeds Rhinos got off the mark in Super League with a 17-14 win at Leigh Centurions last week but their attack looked tepid and they made very hard work of it. Rhinos’ gave the ball away in their own half far too often for punters’ liking and the kicking game was not all it probably should have been.
The weakness in attack put plenty of pressure in the defence but the goal-line D was outstanding, particularly at the death when Leigh looked like scoring. It was only some quick-thinking from Liam Sutcliffe, to land a late 40-20 that lifted the siege. Rhinos star Jamie Jones-Buchanan (above) has been cleared of an RFL disciplinary charge and will play on Friday.
Salford boast a similar record to Leeds, having won last weekend following defeat in the opener. The signing of Todd Carney is a huge one for Salford, although it will take him time to adapt to the style of play. Winger Justin Carney will be missing, though, after he pleaded guilty to a Grade C contact with a match official against Huddersfield. That may tip the balance.
Leeds are no good things, despite playing their first game at home. Headlingley should be rocking but it must be remembered they lost seven games at home last season. Backers will hope that Adam Cuthbertson’s early-season form can give Leeds a lift. They get the tentative vote.
VERDICT: LEEDS TO WIN
LEIGH CENTURIONS v ST HELENS
The big news out of St Helens this week was a swap move that sees Zeb Taia joining the club with Joe Greenwood heading to NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans. The 32-year-old Taia returns to Super League on a three-year deal after one season Down Under, having previously had three seasons with Catalan Dragons. It does not look a great swap, as 23-year-old Greenwood is a rising star.
What Taia does bring is big-game experience and a good offload. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook is brought in to fill the void left by Greenwood.
Head coach Keiron Cunnigham is still chasing his first trophy since taking over in 2015 and while centre Ryan Morgan and Luke Douglas have also joined from the NRL, the return of Matty Smith can’t come soon enough.
He is still in a boot and it will be a few weeks before he is fit. When he does, St Helens’ halves should be formidable. Jonny Lomax will also be an influential cog this season.
Leigh Centurions were a little unlucky against Leeds last week and they are best judged on that narrow defeat than when opening against Cass, which was never going to be an easy start for the new-boys and that 44-16 walloping should soon be behind them.
Saints would appear too powerful in this one, and a Leigh will have to wait another week or two to get off the mark. We take Saints to cover the handicap.
VERDICT: ST HELENS TO WIN AND COVER
WARRINGTON v CASTLEFORD
Daryl Powell has made just one change in his 19-man squad for the trip to Warrington, with Luke Million stepping in to replace Paul McShane, who is serving a one-match ban. Cass looked class in their opening clash with Leigh Centurions, a result put into better light when the Leeds were run so close by the Super League new-boys last week.
Warrington similarly looked very sharp in their World Club Series win over Brisbane, putting the Broncos under a lot of pressure and moving the ball crisply.
It will be intriguing to see how much The Wire left on the field and how much of a different test they will be for the Tigers, who found things coming a little too easy against Leigh.
Head coach Tony Smith has named an unchanged 19-man squad following the stunning 27-18 upset over the Broncos, which saw them congratulated in a motion tabled in the House of Commons.
They were a middle-of-the-pack outfit in our estimations at the start of the season and their loss in Perpignan to an average Catalans side gave credence to that. But last week’s win could be a catalyst for better things and beating dark horses Cass would go a long way to proving their win over the Broncos was no fluke.
VERDICT: WARRINGTON TO WIN
WIGAN WARRIORS v WIDNES VIKINGS
This pundit reckons Wigan are head and shoulders above the rest in Super League. Time should bear this out. After all, they won the Grand Final with half their squad last term and all bar Dom Manfredi will be available this season. Joe Burgess is inarguably the best winger in Super League and captain Sean O’Loughlin is fit again. It is also a major boost to have Tommy Leulaui, one of the best halves in the league, returning. His partnership with George Williams is already blossoming. With the strongest pack, they should go all the way again. Or as near as damn it.
Really, it was not a surprise that they were crowned World Champions after beating the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks 22-6. It was their fourth WWC title and Shaun Wane’s men never looked in danger at any moment.
Widnes come into this one on the back of a 28-16 home loss to Huddersfield and they now face three sides from last season’s top six. Dennis Betts’ boys already look as though they have a mountain to climb. Widnes are struggling for a decent half-back pairing at present and their weakened pack could be exposed. Often.
This one should not be close. Take Wigan to cover.
VERDICT: WIGAN TO WIN AND COVER
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