Widnes Vikings vs Hull FC


The first fixture of round five sees Hull FC travel to the Select Security Stadium to take on high-flying Widnes Vikings in front of the Sky cameras.

The Vikings lost their top spot momentarily after Warrington Wolves’ last gasp win over Salford Red Devils but returned to the summit after beating Hull Kingston Rovers 30-16.

Joe Mellor inspired the side running in a brace of tries whilst Corey Thompson continued his good run of form scoring a further two – extending his lead at the top of the try scoring charts.

Hull FC will be bitterly disappointed they didn’t take something out of their game against Wigan Warriors. It’s the second time in as many weeks that Hull have let a winning lead slip out of their grasp and Lee Radford will be hoping he can buck that trend sooner rather than later.

The Black and Whites managed to claw back a fourteen point deficit against the Warriors just before the hour mark and were ahead 24-20 before Josh Charnley’s try levelled up the game. The two sides traded drop-goals before Liam Watts’ attempted offload went straight to a Wigan man seeing Matty Smith slot the match-winning drop-goal over with seconds remaining to win 26-25.

If the Airlie Birds are to realise their top six ambitions they must be picking up two points against the likes of Widnes despite their lofty position. However, Widnes have other ideas and a riding high on confidence having recorded their fourth win of the campaign meaning this is anything but a straightforward game.

Widnes head coach Denis Betts has made two changes to his 19-man squad with Patrick Ah Van and Alex Gerrard available replacing Tom Gilmore and Connor Farrell who has a knee injury.

Lee Radford has chosen not to aggravate a knee injury picked up by Leon Pryce and chosen to name Jordan Abdull, who could be in line for a first appearance of the season.

Former NRL enforcer Frank Pritchard is also named in the squad having sat out last week’s defeat to the Warriors through injury.

Widnes Vikings: Patrick Ah Van, Chris Bridge, Kevin Brown, Hep Cahill, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Alex Gerrard, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Macgraff Leuluai, Manase Manuokafoa, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Eamon O’Carroll, Charly Runciman, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley

Hull FC: Jordan Abdull, Josh Bowden, Gareth Ellis, Chris Green, Danny Houghton, Jack Logan, Sika Manu, Steve Michaels, Mark Minichiello, Curtis Naughton, Frank Pritchard, Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd, Fetuli Talanoa, Scott Taylor, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Danny Washbrook, Liam Watts

Prediction: Hull FC by 4

Published on March 9 2016 for Rugby AM.

St Helens vs Wakefield Wildcats


Wakefield Wildcats travel to Langtree Park tonight to take on St Helens under the temporary stewardship of Stuart Dickens.

News began to surface midweek about the possibly departure of Brian Smith and this was confirmed by Wakefield in a short statement which confirmed that Smith had resigned as with immediate effect.

Saints have the chance to record their third consecutive victory when they entertain the Wildcats having beaten Hull Kingston Rovers 31-22 in round three. St Helens then picked up another two points with a narrow 28-22 victory over in-form Castleford Tigers with Matty Dawson scoring a brace as they fought back twice from behind to end the Tigers’ unbeaten start to the season.

Their opponents, Wakefield endured a stuttering performance against Catalans Dragons and ultimately lost 42-28 on home soil. Despite, what on paper looks a comfortable to win for the French side, the Wildcats did wrestle back a disastrous opening which saw them trail 26-0 after 28 minutes.

The Wildcats then pegged the Dragons back to just a four point advantage before second-half tries from Richie Myler and two from Tony Gigot ensured they headed back to the Stade Gilbert Brutus with the two points with a full-time score of 42-28.

Jack Ashworth has been called into the side for the first time this season by Keiron Cunningham replacing Theo Fages. Travis Burns is available for selection following the completion of a one match ban for punching but doesn’t make the 19.

Temporary coach Dickens has made just one change which sees Anthony Walker replacing Chris Annakin in his first game in charge.

St Helens: Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Adam Swift, Luke Walsh, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson, Dominique Peyroux, Joe Greenwood, Matty Dawson, Shannon McDonnell, Jack Ashworth, Morgan Knowles

Wakefield Wildcats: Scott Anderson, Tinirau Arona, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, Anthony England, Liam Finn, Craig Hall, Stuart Howarth, Ben Jones-Bishop, Tom Johnstone, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Jonny Molloy, Nick Scruton, Mickael Simon, Mickey Sio, Anthony Tupou, Jason Walton, Anthony Walker

Prediction: St Helens by 18

Published on March 11 2016 for Rugby AM.

Wigan Warriors vs Leeds Rhinos


The game of the round pits the unbeaten Wigan Warriors against the reigning champions Leeds Rhinos at the DW Stadium in a repeat of last season’s Grand Final.

The match is the first time to two clubs have come face-to-face since the 2015 show piece which saw Leeds Rhinos reign supreme after a 22-20 victory over the Warriors at Old Trafford.

Coming into this clash the Warriors have begun the season in a steady fashion registering victories over Catalans Dragons, Huddersfield Giants, Salford Red Devils and Hull FC more recently.

Whilst they have picked up maximum points in their fixtures this season Shaun Wane will be looking for more convincing wins with their highest win margin being six points.

For Leeds their early season form has been a shadow of their former selves through a culmination of crippling injuries and the loss of key figures in the off-season.

A run of defeats against Warrington Wolves, Widnes Vikings and Catalans Dragons were ended when the Rhinos finally recorded a victory over Huddersfield Giants winning 20-16.

In terms of team news Shaun Wane has made just the single change seeing Joe Bretherton replace Lewis Tierney in a largely unchanged squad.

But Leeds have had mixed fortunes on the casualty front, whilst the club welcome back Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Beau Falloon they have lost Joel Moon and Brett Delaney to hamstring injuries.

Jones-Buchanan is in line for his first appearance of the season since he suffered a serious leg injury in their Challenge Cup win over St Helens. Hooker Beau Falloon is also in contention to make his Leeds Rhinos debut following his move from Gold Coast Titans and Handley has recovered sufficiently enough from a blow to his kneecap.

Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Joe Bretherton, Gregg Burke, Josh Charnley, Tony Clubb, Liam Farrell, Ben Flower, Anthony Gelling, Oliver Gildart, Nick Gregson, Dom Manfredi, Lee Mossop, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Matty Smith, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, George Williams

Leeds Rhinos: Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins, Ryan Hall, Rob Burrow, Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Liam Sutcliffe, Brad Singleton. Jimmy Keinhorst, Mitch Achurch, Anthony Mullally, Josh Walters, Ash Handley, Jordan Baldwinson, Jordan Lilley, Brett Ferres

Prediction: Wigan Warriors by 10

Published on March 11 2016 for Rugby AM.

Catalans Dragons vs Warrington Wolves


Warrington Wolves head to the Stade Gilbert Brutus to take on Catalans Dragons hoping to maintain their unbeaten start to Super League.

The Wolves played out the game of the season in round four with Super League’s Player of the Month, Chris Sandow’s long-range drop-goal on the hooter enough to secure the two points in a 31-30 win over Salford Red Devils.

The win over the Red Devils along with victories against Leeds Rhinos, Hull Kingston Rovers and Wakefield Wildcats see the club in second place behind Widnes Vikings.

The Wolves have Kurt Gidley available after missing the previous outing through concussion and is named in the 19-man squad but sadly Gary Wheeler’s injury troubles have come back to haunt him picking up an Achilles injury last week.

Their opponents Catalans Dragons are themselves on a two game winning run so will have no fears going into this clash especially on home soil where they are notoriously hard to beat.

Last time out they took a step in the right direction to address their away form by beating Wakefield Wildcats 42-28 but head coach Laurent Frayssinous will be disappointed his side let Wakefield back into the game having established a commanding 26-0 lead.

Frayssinous has made just one change bringing back into the fray Morgan Escare in place of Alrix Da Costa with a relatively full strength squad to pick from.

Catalans Dragons: Tony Gigot, Jodie Broughton, Krisnan Inu, Vincent Duport, Pat Richards, Todd Carney, Richie Myler, Louis Anderson, Remi Casty, Glenn Stewart, Justin Horo, Jason Baitieri, Dave Taylor, Julian Bousquet, Eloi Pelissier, Greg Mounis, Thomas Bosc, Morgan Escare, Willie Mason

Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Jordan Cox, Ben Currie, Mitchell Dodds, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Kevin Penny, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Russell, Chris Sandow, Ashton Simms, Joe Westerman

Prediction: Catalans Dragons by 10

Published on March 11 2016 for Rugby AM.

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