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Castleford Tigers vs Widnes Vikings

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Widnes face a trip to the Mend-A-Hose Jungle to take on Castleford Tigers hoping to get their season back on track.

Their campaign threatened to be derailed after a torrid run of form which saw them slip from the top spot to eighth after an eight game losing run which ended with the 24-20 victory over Huddersfield Giants.

The Vikings couldn’t back up said result and returned to losing ways at the hands of arguably the most dangerous side in the competition at the moment – Hull FC.

The first-half was a tight affair with the Black and Whites edging a 6-4 half-time lead but came out in the second and ran riot running in four tries to complete a 30-10 victory maintaining their place at the top.

Next up for Denis Bett’s side is a difficult fixture at the home of the Castleford Tigers who are notoriously difficult to beat on their own soil.

The Tigers, who received a tremendous boost mid-week with the news that half-back Luke Gale has committed his future to the club until the end of the 2021 season, come into this match having beaten Huddersfield Giants 30-22 at the John Smith Stadium last round.

Gale proved his worth in that victory scoring a try and kicking five goals as he led his team to their first win at Huddersfield since June 2009. Cas crossed in the first-half through Denny Solomona, Jake Webster and Gale with Jermaine McGilvary and Leroy Cudjoe in reply as the two teams went into the break 16-10.

Solomona and Webster both completed their braces early in the second-half but had to withstand a fightback after Ryan Brierley and Jake Connor crossed but they were merely consolation efforts.

Widnes will be looking to gain revenge over the Tigers after they beat them 34-23 earlier in the season coming back from 18-0 defecit in the process.

Team News

Daryl Powell makes just the one change from the side that took beat the Giants with Larne Patrick coming back into the mix in place of Ryan Hampshire.

For Widnes they make two changes with Patrick Ah Van and Aaron Heremaia come back into the 19 with Stefan Marsh and Brad Walker missing out.

Castleford Tigers: Matt Cook, Ben Crooks, Luke Dorn, Paddy Flynn, Luke Gale, Lee Jewitt, Will Maher, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Junior Moors, Joel Monaghan, Larne Patrick, Gadwin Springer, Denny Solomona, Danny Tickle, Jake Webster.

Widnes Vikings: Pat Ah Van, Chris Bridge, Kevin Brown, Jack Buchanan, Hep Cahill, Jay Chapelhow, Chris Dean, Gil Dudson, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Macgraff Leuluai, Manase Manuokafoa, Joe Mellor, Charly Runciman, Setaimata Sa, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley.

Prediction: Castleford Tigers by 8

Published on June 8 2016 for Rugby AM.

Leeds Rhinos vs Salford Red Devils

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Leeds Rhinos will be eager to halt their seven game losing run when they host Salford Red Devils on Friday night at Headingley.

The reigning Super League champions have endured an abysmal season so far picking up just three wins out of their 17 fixtures with their last victory coming against Hull FC on 15 March and look certain to be involved in the Super 8s.

The Rhinos took on Catalans Dragons in the last round but again suffered a 24-12 loss in an all too similar tale this campaign as the French outfit moved up to third in the standings.

Already without six players from the side that took on Warrington in round sixteen, Leeds saw another player injured, this time Keith Galloway, who had to leave the field after a collision with Willie Mason with a mere minute on the clock.

Despite the setback Brett Ferres gave the home side the lead but Justin Horo, Fouad Yaha and Jason Baitieri quickly put Catalans in the driving seat going into the second-half.

Josh Walters touched down to give the home side a glimmer of hope but that was extinguished with Eloi Pelissier’s last-gasp try.

A turbulent week for Leeds was compounded when news broke that Zak Hardaker had been transfer listed citing a desire to test himself in the NRL with a number of clubs already expressing an interest in the England international.

Salford meanwhile travel to Headingley having been unlucky not get something out of the game against Wigan Warriors last weekend. A Josh Charnley hat-trick saw the Cherry and Whites claim the two points in a 23-20 win at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Wigan held an 11-10 lead at the break after a Ryan Sutton and the first of Charnley’s scores cancelled out Michael Dobson’s brace. Matty Smith slotted a drop-goal over to edge Wigan ahead just before the interval and Charnley scored twice to extend the Warriors advantage to 23-10 in the second forty.

Whilst Josh Jones and Daniel Vidot crossed for Salford they couldn’t quite find enough as their two game winning run came to an end.

The Red Devils could leapfrog Hull Kingston Rovers into 9th providing the Robins are beaten by Wigan Warriors – a fixture which also takes place on Friday night.

Team News

Rob Burrow is set for a return to the Rhinos team having missed their last game with a calf injury but has been included in the 19-man squad by Brian McDermott. Brad Singleton, who has served his one game suspension for punching, comes straight back into the fold and there is an inclusion for Keith Galloway despite being injured last week.

For the Red Devils they name an unchanged team from the one that narrowly were beaten by Wigan.

Leeds Rhinos: Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Keith Galloway, Beau Falloon, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Mitch Achurch, Anthony Mullally, Josh Walters, Ash Handley, Jordan Lilley, Brett Ferres, Luke Briscoe.

Salford Red Devils: Jake Bibby, Justin Carney, Michael Dobson, Mark Flanagan, George Griffin, Weller Hauraki, Josh Jones, Phil Joseph, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Rob Lui, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Junior Sa’u, Logan Tomkins, Daniel Vidot, Jordan Walne, Adam Walne.

Prediction: Salford Red Devils by 10

Published on June 8 2016 for Rugby AM.

Warrington Wolves vs Hull FC

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A top of the table clash at the Halliwell Jones Stadium sees Warrington Wolves host Hull FC in what promises to be a titanic match up.

If Wire were to achieve victory it would see them climb to the top of Super League by virtue of having a superior points difference over Hull but should the Black and Whites gain the two points it would see them extend their advantage to four points with five games to go.

What promises to be an explosive encounter sees both teams come into this clash in good form with Warrington on the back of consecutive wins whilst Hull haven’t tasted defeat in seven matches.

Hull recorded a 30-10 win over the Vikings last weekend but the first-half was a tight affair with the Black and Whites edging a 6-4 half-time lead but came out in the second and ran riot running in four tries in a ten minute period to complete a 30-10 victory maintaining their place at the top.

Warrington travelled to Langtree Park and registered a 26-4 win over St Helens, a game which Wire thoroughly deserved to win to maintain their pursuit of the summit.

Trailing 26-0 after tries from Ben Currie, Chris Sandow, Ryan Atkins, Stefan Ratchford and Rhys Evans, Saints were sparred the embarrassment of being nilled at home for the first time in the league for 36 years when Jonny Lomax scored six minutes from the final whistle.

The battle between the forward packs will no doubt be a key area but the match up of the half-backs will be pivotal. Marc Sneyd who has enjoyed a stellar season so far comes up against Chris Sandow, who returned from injury recently but prior to his spell on the sidelines won back-to-back Player of the Month awards.

Two of the most underrated hookers in the competition also come head-to-head with Danny Houghton facing off against Daryl Clark and the statistics back up their impressive seasons.

Already Houghton has amassed 756 tackles, a league high, whilst also seeing his side profit from his 12 try assists. Clark has made 1670 metres from his role and made 12 clean breaks scoring five tries in the process.

Team News

Tony Smith makes two changes welcoming back Ashton Sims from his one match suspension and Joe Philbin at the expense of Kevin Penny and Toby King.

Hull FC have also made two changes seeing Chris Green and Steve Michaels retain his place after being a late inclusion for Curtis Naughton. Leon Pryce is the other player to make way and Lee Radford may have Frank Pritchard at his disposal again after not featuring recently.

Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Ryan Bailey, Daryl Clark, Jordan Cox, Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Gene Ormsby, Kevin Penny, Stefan Ratchford, Chris Sandow, Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman, Sam Wilde.

Hull FC: Josh Bowden, Gareth Ellis, Mahe Fonua, Chris Green, Dean Hadley, Danny Houghton, Sika Manu, Steve Michaels, Mark Minichiello, Frank Pritchard, Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd, Fetuli Talanoa, Scott Taylor, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Danny Washbrook, Liam Watts, Kirk Yeaman.

Prediction: Warrington Wolves by 6

Published on June 8 2016 for Rugby AM.

Catalans Dragons vs St Helens

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St Helens make the trip to the Stade Gilbert Brutus to take on Catalans Dragons with their season hitting somewhat of a blip.

Keiron Cunningham has seen his side stall in recent weeks losing three fixtures on the bounce winning just once in the last five games in all competitions.

Saints know they need to address their recent form but a difficult test awaits them in the South of France however with Catalans missing eight players through injury so an upset may well be on the cards.

Their performance last time out saw St Helens trailing 26-0 against Warrington after tries from Ben Currie, Chris Sandow, Ryan Atkins, Stefan Ratchford and Rhys Evans, but were sparred the embarrassment of being nilled at home for the first time in the league for 36 years when Jonny Lomax scored six minutes from the final whistle.

For Catalans they are still in the hunt for the number one spot but could find themselves four points behind Hull FC and two behind Wigan Warriors should they both win on Friday night. That added pressure, coupled with their ever-growing injuries, have seen the club turn to their younger players to step up to the plate.

Since their Magic Weekend defeat against Wakefield Wildcats they club have bounced back and recorded back-to-back wins over Hull Kingston Rovers and more recently the 24-12 away win over Leeds Rhinos.

Brett Ferres gave the home side the lead but Justin Horo, Fouad Yaha and Jason Baitieri quickly put Catalans in the driving seat going into the second-half.

Josh Walters touched down to give the home side a glimmer of hope but that was extinguished with Eloi Pelissier’s last-gasp try.

The Dragons face a season defining few weeks coming up against Hull FC in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals before taking on Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle.

Team News

Laurent Frayssinous has lost two more of his troops to injury with Willie Mason and Vincent Duport joining Paul Aiton, Louis Anderson, Greg Mounis, Richie Myler, Krisnan Inu and Olivier Elima in the treatment room.

Dave Taylor has recovered sufficiently to take his place in the 19-man squad whilst youngster Jordan Sigismeau is in line for his first appearance of the season.

For St Helens they make two changes with Keiron Cunningham bringing back both Mark Percival and Shannon McDonnell into his side in place of Jack Ashworth and Calvin Wellington.

Catalans Dragons: Tony Gigot, Jodie Broughton, Pat Richards, Todd Carney, Remi Casty, Glenn Stewart, Justin Horo, Jason Baitieri, Dave Taylor, Julian Bousquet, Eloi Pelissier, Thomas Bosc, Fouad Yaha, Morgan Escare, Antoni Maria, Thibaud Margalet, Jordan Sigismeau, Lucas Albert, Romain Navarrete

St Helens: Jonny Lomax, Jordan Turner, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson, Theo Fages, Joe Greenwood, Matty Dawson, Jack Owens, Shannon McDonnell, Morgan Knowles

Prediction: Catalans Dragons by 8

Published on June 11 2016 for Rugby AM.

Huddersfield Giants vs Wakefield Wildcats

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Wakefield Wildcats take on Huddersfield Giants in the final match of round eighteen with both sides losing back-to-back fixtures.

Huddersfield fell short at home to Castleford Tigers losing 30-22 in match they missed Danny Brough in. Luke Gale proved his worth in the half-back department scoring a try and kicking five goals as he led his team to their first win at Huddersfield since June 2009.

Cas crossed in the first-half through Denny Solomona, Jake Webster and Gale with Jermaine McGilvary and Leroy Cudjoe in reply as the two teams went into the break 16-10.

Solomona and Webster both completed their braces early in the second-half but had to withstand a fightback after Ryan Brierley and Jake Connor crossed but they were merely consolation efforts.

Wakefield were hammered 54-16 by Hull Kingston Rovers so both teams have a point to prove going into this match. Such a poor performance from the Wildcats could either breed further disappointment or could see them come out firing wanting to right their wrongs.

Team News

Huddersfield make two changes with Kruise Leeming and Tyler Dickinson coming into the mix in place of Scott Grix and Sebastine Ikahihifo. The latter, a recent signing from NRL club New Zealand Warriors, has been sidlined for two months with a broken jaw which he initially thought was toothache.

Wakefield head coach Chris Chester makes three changes from the one that tasted defeat last round, seeing the returns of captain Danny Kirmond from suspension along with Ben Jones-Bishop and Andy Yates.

Mickael Simon and Anthony Tupou picked up knocks against Hull KR so miss out along with Jonny Molloy and new signing David Fifita will have to wait for his debut.

Huddersfield Giants: Jermaine McGillvary, Leroy Cudjoe, Joe Wardle, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Jamie Ellis, Eorl Crabtree, Ryan Hinchliffe, Michael Lawrence, Kyle Wood, Sam Rapira, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Connor, Josh Johnson, Kruise Leeming, Nathan Mason, Oliver Roberts, Tyler Dickinson, Ryan Brierley.

Wakefield Wildcats: Scott Anderson, Chris Annakin, Tinirau Arona, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, Anthony England, Liam Finn, Craig Hall, Stuart Howarth, Tom Johnstone, Ben Jones-Bishop, Max Jowitt, Danny Kirmond, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Nick Scruton, Mikey Sio, Bill Tupou, Andy Yates.

Prediction: Huddersfield Giants by 10

Published on June 11 2016 for Rugby AM.

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