Castleford Tigers vs Leeds Rhinos


Castleford Tigers will be eager to atone for their recent run of form when Leeds Rhinos travel to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle tonight kicking off the Easter programme.

The Tigers come into this fixture on the back of three straight defeats against St Helens, Salford Red Devils and more recently Warrington Wolves.

The latter of them losses was a 56-12 humbling at the Halliwell Jones Stadium which prompted head coach Daryl Powell to publicly apologised after his side leaked 38 points during an appalling first-half display.

Speaking going into this local derby Powell highlighted the importance of the fans: “one of the motivations while I’ve been here is to do the people that support us proud.”

Powell has made two changes to his 19-man squad with Lee Jewitt and Ben Roberts returning with the half-back in particular being sorely missed over the last few weeks.

The duo replace Frankie Mariano and Matt Cook who is serving the first of a two-match ban for a Grade B dangerous contact charge against Warrington. The Tigers also have Michael Shenton, Oliver Holmes, Junior Moors and Luke Dorn unavailable due to injury.

Their opponents Leeds Rhinos recorded only their second win of the season last week with the 30-18 victory over St Helens thanks to tries from Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Adam Cuthbertson, Liam Sutclife, Carl Ablett and Ash Handley.

The side have been boosted by the return of Danny McGuire, who is hoping to overcome the calf strain he suffered last week, making his return to action. Jimmy Keinhorst has also been named in the squad as is Ryan Hall but he is almost certainly due to miss out with Tom Briscoe returning to the fold after a six-week lay-off.

Castleford Tigers: Ryan Boyle, Ben Crooks, Luke Gale, Ryan Hampshire, Jy Hitchcox, Lee Jewitt, Andy Lynch, Will Maher, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Jooel Monaghan, Ben Roberts, Denny Solomona, Gadwin Springer, Jake Webster

Leeds Rhinos: Zak Hardaker, Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Jimmy Keinhorst, Anthony Mullally, Josh Walters, Ash Handley, Brett Ferres

Prediction: Leeds Rhinos by 10

Published on March 24 2016 for Rugby AM.

Hull KR vs Hull FC


Hull Kingston Rovers host their cross-city rivals Hull FC in the 227th Hull derby on the back of collecting their first two points of the season.

The Robins, finally ended their six game winless run with a 44-30 win over Salford Red Devils in what was James Webster’s first home game in charge. KR took a commanding 30-6 lead into the half-time break after tries from Maurice Blair, Iain Thornley, Graeme Horne, Ken Sio and James Greenwood.

An early second-half brace from George Griffin caused nerves to grow amongst the Red and White fans and those fears intensified when Greg Johnson scored in the corner. Ryan Shaw eased the concerns before Craig Kopczak and Matty Marsh traded tries late on as the Robins claimed the valuable two points.

For Lee Radford’s Hull FC they also come into this fiercely contested clash on the back of a win as they bounced back from their defeat 46-6 loss at Widnes Vikings with a 22-4 triumph over Wakefield Wildcats.

Radford is able to call upon close-season signing Mahe Fonua after having minor surgery on a knee injury sustained in their round one win over Salford Red Devils. The inclusion of the 23-year-old means there is no place for Jack Logan in the squad.

James Webster has named half-back Albert Kelly in the 19-man squad along with Graeme Horne and James Greenwood who are both fit after knocks in their win last round but there is no place in the side for Shaun Lunt.

The first Super League derby between the two sides back in 2007 saw Lee Radford and James Webster captain the two club, now the former players are managing their respective sides in what should be a bruising encounter.

Hull Kingston Rovers: Mitch Allgood, Maurice Blair, John Boudebza, Chris Clarkson, Ben Cockayne, Kieran Dixon, James Green, James Greenwood, Graeme Horne, Albert Kelly, George Lawler, Josh Mantellato, Matty Marsh, Robbie Mulhern, Ryan Shaw, Ken Sio, Iain Thornley, Dane Tilse, Adam Walker.

Hull FC: Josh Bowden, Gareth Ellis, Mahe Fonua, Chris Green, Danny Houghton, Steve Michaels, Mark Minichiello, Curtis Naughton, Feka Paleaaesina, Frank Pritchard, Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Jansin Turgut, Danny Washbrook, Liam Watts, Kirk Yeaman.

Prediction: Hull FC by 8

Published on March 25 2016 for Rugby AM.

Warrington Wolves vs Widnes Vikings


Warrington Wolves vs Widnes Vikings stakes a strong claim to be the game of the round with both teams riding high at the top of the table.

Separated on goal difference, not many would have predicted this would be a top of the table clash seven rounds in but both teams are up there on their own merit both recording six wins this campaign.

Warrington, the only team left in the competition to have a 100% win record, come into this Cheshire derby in a rich vein of form. Their 56-12 thrashing of Castleford Tigers in round six only backs up their credentials to be a real force this year.

With a relatively injury-free squad to pick from Tony Smith has made just one change which sees Ben Westwood return in place of the injured hooker Brad Dwyer.

Vikings head coach Denis Betts says his side “fear nobody” in the wake of their 18-12 win over Wigan Warriors at the DW Stadium which ended their staggering 21-month unbeaten home record.

Widnes had to overturn an 8-0 half-time deficit after tries from Liam Farrell and Josh Charnley but Matty Smith failed to kick any of the conversions which was to prove costly. Matt Whitley and Charnley exchanged tries as the game came to life but again Smith missed the conversion. Further Vikings tries from Stefan Marsh and Rhys Hanbury along with a penalty gave the visitors a 18-12 victory.

It took Widnes till round fifteen last season to record six victories which is a measure of how much the side has improved. That said Widnes will have to be without the services of two key figures in their rise up the table.

Kevin Brown and Charly Runciman, who signed a two-year extension this week, are missing from the 19-man squad as is forward Hep Cahill who pulled up in training.

Patrick Ah Van returns to the fold whilst Sam Brookes and Ed Chamberlain are included in the 19-man ranks.

Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Daryl Clark, Jordan Cox, Ben Currie, 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 Sims, Joe Westerman, Ben Westwood

Widnes Vikings: Patrick Ah Van, Sam Brooks, Ed Chamberlain, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Alex Gerrard, Tom Gilmore, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Macgraff Leuluai, Manase Manuokafoa, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Eamon O’Carroll, Setaimata Sa, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley

Prediction: Warrington Wolves by 14

Published on March 25 2016 for Rugby AM.

Salford Red Devils vs Catalans Dragons


Catalans Dragons could climb above Salford Red Devils when the two sides face off at the AJ Bell Stadium hoping for consecutive away wins.

The French side, notorious for their poor away form, have already equalled the amount of away wins they managed for the entirety of last season and hope to go one better when they take on the Red Devils.

Their most recent away success was the 46-26 win over Huddersfield Giants a game which they were 20-12 down at half-time but a second-half hat-trick from Jodie Broughton along tries from Julian Bousquet and Richie Myler ensured the win.

Looking to stop the Laurent Frayssinous’ men are Salford Red Devils, who themselves, will want to address their performance in their 44-30 away defeat against Hull Kingstone Rovers, particularly their first-half showing which saw the Robins race into a 30-6 half-time lead.

Although the club fought back in the second-half giving Rovers a 24-point advantage was always going to be a tall order despite their form of late.

Red Devils head coach Ian Watson has named an unchanged squad from the one that faced Hull KR last Sunday with half-back Rob Lui still unavailable through injury.

Catalans Dragons have been forced into changes with the three-game suspension handed to Krisnan Inu, who was found guilty of a Grade D dangerous throw on Eorl Crabtree. Justin Horo, who has recovered from injury, along with Morgan Escare replace Inu and Antoni Maria.

Salford Red Devils: Justin Carney, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, Mark Flanagan, Carl Forster, George Griffin, Josh Griffin, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Phil Joseph, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Tommy Lee, Ben Murdoch Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Junio Sa’u, Matt Sarsfield, Logan Tomkins, Adam Walne

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

Prediction: Catalans Dragons by 12

Published on March 25 2016 for Rugby AM.

Wakefield Wildcats vs Huddersfield Giants


The bottom two sides of Super League go head-to-head on Friday as Wakefield Wildcats host Huddersfield Giants with both sides desperate for wins at the start of the Easter schedule.

In what will be Wakefield’s first home game since the appointment of Chris Chester as their new head coach, the club head into this clash on the back of four consecutive defeats – more recently the 22-4 loss at the KC Stadium.

Two tries from Mark Minichiello along with scores from Curtis Naughton and Carlos Tuimavave were too much for the Wildcats in the first game under Chester.

The home side have received a welcomed boost to their ranks with skipper Danny Kirmond and Scott Moore named in the 19-man squad, both returning after a lengthy time spent on the sidelines.

Reece Lyne and Ben Jones-Bishop also come into the squad in four changes from their defeat last week with Scott Anderson, Anthony England, Anthony Walker and Andy Yates losing their places.

Huddersfield Giants will have been disappointed with their 46-26 home defeat against Catalans Dragons. The Giants had led at half-time 20-12 advantage but squandered that in the second with former player Jodie Broughton scoring a second-half hat-trick to haunt his former employees.

Having been unable to field a regular team all season through a combination of injuries and suspensions, Paul Anderson will be delighted to have secured the signature of highly sought after half-back Ryan Brierley from Leigh Centurions on a four-and-a-half year contract. The prolific try scorer has gone straight into the squad and is in line for a Good Friday debut against the Wildcats.

Elsewhere the return of Craig Huby, who will play his first game of the season, after suffering a broken hand in pre-season has bolstered the forward ranks. Jared Simpson could also be in line for his first appearance of the season at full-back having been named in the 19.

Joe Wardle has been banned for two matches for a Grade C tackle on Remi Casty which saw him sent off. Wardle, along with Jordan Tansey (ineligible) and Eorl Crabtree, who is injured, are the trio departing the squad.

Wakefield Wildcats: Chris Annakin, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, Liam Finn, Ashley Gibson, Craig Hall, Stuart Howarth, Tom Johnstone, Ben Jone-Bishop, Max Jowitt, Danny Kirmond, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Jon Molloy, Scott Moore, Nick Scruton, Mickael Simon, Michael Sio, Anthony Tupou

Huddersfield Giants: Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Ryan Hinchliffe, Craig Huby, Michael Lawrence, Larne Patrick, Kyle Wood, Sam Rapira, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Connor, Josh Johnson, Kruise Leeming, Nathan Mason, Oliver Roberts, Jamie Foster, Ryan Brierley

Prediction: Huddersfield Giants by 16

Published on March 25 2016 for Rugby AM.

St Helens vs Wigan Warriors


St Helens host Wigan Warriors in front of a sold-out Langtree Park with both teams wanting to prove a point on the back of defeats.

Keiron Cunningham saw his side lose 30-18 against Leeds Rhinos but will have been bitterly disappointed with the start they made to the game. Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Adam Cuthbertson and Liam Sutcliffe scored early tries as the Rhinos raced into a 16-0 advantage.

Saints’ showed spirit and fought their way back to lead 18-16 at one stage but fatigue got the better of them as they lost out on the two points.

Cunningham has made just the one change to the side that lost last week with Theo Fages replacing Atelea Vea who suffered a calf injury last time out.

The Lance Hohaia’s revelations midweek about the Ben Flower incident and the treatment he got from the club came once again into the spotlight and that which will no doubt add a bit of extra spice to the clash.

Shaun Wane will be reeling from his first home defeat for 21 months when Widnes took the spoils in a 18-12 win at the DW Stadium. He will expect a response from his troops coming into this historic derby matchup.

Making a return to first-team action is Joel Tomkins, who suffered a knee injury in pre-season, and he replaces Liam Farrell who has a shoulder injury. George Williams is also unavailable due to a back injury with full-back Lewis Tierney returning to the 19.

St Helens: Tommy Makinson, Jordan Turner, Travis Burns, Luke Walsh, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Andre Savelio, Luke Thompson, Dominique Peyroux, Theo Fages, Joe Greenwood, Matty Dawson, Jack Owens, Shannon McDonnell.

Wigan Warriors: Josh Charnley, Anthony Gelling, Dan Sarginson, Dominic Manfredi, Matty Smith, Ben Flower, Joel Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin, John Bateman, Tony Clubb, Sam Powell, Lee Mosop, Taulima Tautai, Oliver Gildart, Ryan Sutton, Lewis Tierney, Greg Burke, Nick Gregson, Joe Bretherton.

Prediction: Wigan Warriors by 10

Published on March 25 2016 for Rugby AM.


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