First Utility Super League Round 15 preview


We begin our round with the first televised game of the week as Wigan Warriors travel across the Pennines to take on the Huddersfield Giants. Huddersfield Giants are without Wales international forward Craig Kopczak for their home game with champions Wigan.
Winger Jodie Broughton is still missing with the injury he suffered at Magic Weekend, which also kept him out of Friday’s loss at St Helens.
Wigan captain Sean O’Loughlin is back after a month out injured, while full-back Matty Bowen also returns after missing last week’s win at Salford. With Wigan having players starting to return from long term injury, and as the business end of the season appears over the horizon, Mr Wane (Smiler to his mates) will be wanting to make certain that his young guns don’t rest on their laurels, and are fighting for their spot in the squad game in and game out.
The Giants beat Wigan in the opening game of the season at the DW Stadium, courtesy of a hat-trick of tries from winger Jermaine McGillvary.
I see this being a close fought game, with Wigan gaining revenge. Paul Anderson will be looking to see an improvement from his squad, but for me, Wigan will be at least two converted tries too good for the Giants.
Friday sees three games from the First Utility Super League take place, all kicking off at 8pm.
Your live TV game is from the Halliwell Jones as Warrington Wolves take on the Leeds Rhinos.
Warrington’s Ben Westwood begins a three-match suspension after being found guilty of making a dangerous throw against Wakefield on Sunday, whilst another second-rower, Trent Waterhouse, is out with the knee injury he suffered against St Helens at the Magic Weekend.
Super League leaders Leeds welcome Jamie Peacock back from injury. His return sees winger Ben Jones-Bishop excluded from the squad in the only change to the 19 players named for last week’s home victory over Hull FC.
Leeds are right where their legion of fans want them to be, sitting pretty at the top of the league, but Warrington at home won’t be an easy game to win. Even with influential players like Westwood missing, Tony Smith might just have a little surprise in store for his old club. For me, this is Warrington by 6.
Game two of Friday sees Widnes Vikings take on Catalan Dragons. The Dragons still don’t travel well and the Vikings are red hot at home this season. Danny Galea and Danny Craven have recovered from injuries to be named in Widnes’ 19-man squad, and Paddy Flynn starts a two-match suspension after admitting a punching offence during the loss at Castleford.
Catalan’s joint-captain Jason Baitieri replaces Antoni Maria in the only change to the squad that beat Bradford. Laurent Frayssinous will want to put his teams travel sickness behind them if they are to mount a serious challenge for the top of the league, but this won’t be the evening it begins. I see the Vikings winning this by at least 12 points, and probably by more.
Friday’s third game is St Helens v Salford. I’m beginning to fear for Salford. A squad with that much experience should not be getting pummelled into submission as easily as the Red Devils seem to be at times. If this carries on, there will be wholesale changes (again) at the end of the season. I don’t know if the fans will want to see yet more promises dashed on the rocks. To be fair to Dr Koukash, he really has put his money where his mouth is, but it’s now time for the players to start showing that they have what it takes on the field to deserve not only the shirt, but the fans respect as well.
As for St Helens, they will be confident, even with players like Willie Manu, Adam Swift, Jonny Lomax, Alex Walmsley and Mark Percival all out that they will easily overpower a Salford team who are yet to really gel as a squad on the field.
Either way, I see a Saints win, by at least 30.
Only the one game on Saturday, London Broncos v Hull FC at The Hive.
The only way Lee Radford’s season could get any worse is if his Hull side become the first to lose to London this season. On paper, FC should breeze past London, but this game isn’t played on paper. Radford will have taken heart from his side’s performance at Leeds last week, where they held the Rhinos for long periods, despite ending up on the wrong end of a 20-6 loss. After three straight losses, Radford will have left his 19 man squad under no illusions as to what he expects from them.
Two points.
His opposite number will also be on the hunt for those elusive points. With Bradford Bulls hearing against their point’s deduction due to begin next week, getting off the mark is more important than ever for the London outfit. If, as expected, Bradford get a couple of points back, London could be all but relegated in a few weeks’ time. With the club looking to establish itself in yet another new home and trying to entice fans of the sport to come and see quality rugby league, then staying in the top flight really has to be a priority. With all that said, I can only see one team of fans leaving happy, and they will be wearing the Broncos colours, but only by four points.
Into Sunday and the first game today sees Bradford v Wakefield in what many expected to be a relegation four pointer. That could still be the case depending on the outcome of the independent tribunal that sits on the 4th June.
Should Bradford regain points that will really pull Wakefield into the basement battle. With only 8 points themselves, and had Bradford not had the deduction, they would have 12 points already and be up in contention for a play-off spot.
All that said, with the Bulls being at home, I see them gaining a fourth win of the season, ahead of some good news later next week. This will be a win for Bradford by at least 12 points.
The final game of round 15 is Castleford Tigers v Hull KR. Despite recent results, Hull KR coach Craig Sandercock will be nervous about going into this one. Castleford are one of this seasons form sides, and at home are exceptional in attack. Rovers are no slouches themselves, but can at times lack a spine and solidity to their defence. Being only three points away from the top of the table will give an added expectation to this. Usually these are great matches, and as such, I wonder why this one is not on TV. With the fans at the Hose being up close and personal to the pitch, the atmosphere is usually intense and that transfers onto the pitch and the players. This will be a great match for those there, but I only see one team winning, and that’s Castleford by 16 points.
So, there you have this week’s preview. If you’d like an event previewed for your website or publication, feel free to contact me for more information.


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