Hull Kingston Rovers vs Leeds Rhinos
Round 23 kicks-off with Hull Kingston Rovers hosting the reigning champions Leeds Rhinos in a fixture which will repeat itself in the Super 8s Qualifiers.
Both teams will now have to fight to preserve their Super League status coming up against the cream of the Championship over the coming weeks.
Whilst this game is relatively meaningless in terms of top flight league position, if Leeds where to achieve a victory it would ensure they have four home matches once the league divides and, given the news that the Rhinos are the best supported team for a fourth straight year, home advantage could make all the difference.
The Rhinos, who have the worst attack in the division, come into this clash after finally finding some form against the bigger teams beating both Hull FC and Wigan Warriors. Round 22 saw the Headingley-based side hold off a late Warriors fightback to deny them the top spot as well.
Kallum Watkins opened the scoring before Josh Charnley crossed in reply leaving a half-time score 6-4 in favour of the home side.
Adam Cuthbertson extended their lead five minutes into the second-half as did Brett Ferres when he touched down. But back fought Wigan through Jack Higginson and George Williams but it was too little too late.
The Robins will be gunning for a much improved performance than the one they produced against Hull FC at the KCOM Stadium. Going down 36-12 to their cross-city rivals in a match in which they were comprehensively beaten.
Whilst the Robins secured their top flight status last time in the Middle 8 by winning all seven games the test awaiting them will be much greater with the likes of Leeds, Huddersfield Giants and Salford now competing with them.
Hull KR have left out a number of first-team players with one eye likely on the Super 8s Qualifiers which takes place after this final Super League round. Forwards Graeme Horne, Chris Clarkson and Mitch Allgood are all left out of the 19-man squad as is centre Iain Thornley.
James Green makes his return to the squad after completing his two-match ban and there is also a return for French international duo Kevin Larroyer and John Boudebza.
James Donaldson is named despite suffering concussion in their defeat to Hull FC and will have to pass all the relevant tests to be given the all-clear to partake.
Leeds make two changes to the side that overcame Wigan with Danny McGuire and Mitch Achurch coming into the mix in place of Ashton Golding and Ash Handley.
Hull Kingston Rovers: Ken Sio, Josh Mantellato, Kieran Dixon, Albert Kelly, Adam Walker, Shaun Lunt, Maurice Blair, Kevin Larroyer, James Donaldson, James Green, Dane Tilse, Ben Cockayne, John Boudebza, James Greenwood, Thomas Minns, Matty Marsh, George Lawler, Robbie Mulhern, David Thompson
Leeds Rhinos: Tom Briscoe, Kallum Watkins, Joel Moon, Ryan Hall, Danny McGuire, Rob Burrow, Keith Galloway, Adam Cuthbertson, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Carl Ablett, Liam Sutcliffe, Brett Delaney, Brad Singleton, Mitch Garbutt, Jimmy Keinhorst, Mitch Achurch, Jordan Lilley, Brett Ferres, James Segeyaro
Prediction: Leeds Rhinos by 14
Published on July 21 2016 for Rugby AM.
Salford Red Devils vs Hull FC
Hull FC will want to head into the Super 8s on top spot but must overcome the challenge of Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday night.
The Black and Whites have been the surprise package this year with their performances, coupled with some inspired signings, attributing to their lofty position. The club have already eclipsed their win and points tally from last year by a considerable margin and have seven games left to play with once the league splits.
Last time out Hull FC bounced back from a two-game losing rut by overturning their cross-city rivals Hull KR 36-12 in a thoroughly dominant performance from the league leaders.
The Red Devils themselves returned to winning ways last weekend beating Widnes Vikings 32-24 at the Select Security Stadium with an inspired Mason Caton-Brown grabbing a hat-trick.
The win means Salford have managed two more wins than the eight they managed last campaign scoring 93 points more and conceding 76 point less.
Salford have made just the solitary change seeing Justin Carney miss out through injury with Adam Walne recalled to the 19-man squad.
Lee Radford once again has dominant prop forward Frank Pritchard at his disposal after the 32-year-old missed the last few weeks with an ankle injury. Chris Green is the other party to return from injury in place of Dean Hadley and Jack Downs who lose their spots in the 19.
Hull have surprisingly resisted the urge to rest a number of their key players with the Challenge Cup semi-final with Wigan Warriors on the horizon.
Salford Red Devils: Niall Evalds, Gareth O’Brien, Mason Caton-Brown, Greg Johnson, Junior Sa’u, Josh Griffin, Josh Jones, Rob Lui, Michael Dobson, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, George Griffin, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Weller Hauraki, Adam Walne, Jordan Walne, Mark Flanagan, Sean Kenny, Logan Tomkins
Hull FC: Jamie Shaul, Mahe Fonua, Fetuli Talanoa, Leon Pryce, Marc Sneyd, Scott Taylor, Danny Houghton, Liam Watts, Gareth Ellis, Mark Minichiello, Jordan Abdull, Chris Green, Jordan Thompson, Steve Michaels, Sika Manu, Josh Bowden, Frank Pritchard, Kirk Yeaman, Danny Washbrook
Prediction: Hull FC by 10
Published on July 22 2016 for Rugby AM.
Wigan Warriors vs St Helens
The clash of the final round of Super League fixtures sees Wigan Warriors entertain the in-form St Helens at the DW Stadium.
When their season threatened to stutter after four straight defeats, Saints have battled their way to four victories on the trot beating Hull Kingston Rovers, Wakefield Wildcats, Widnes Vikings and Huddersfield Giants.
Such a run has now propelled them to joint fourth with Catalans Dragons and, whilst this will be the toughest test in the past month, Saints come into this full of confidence and will looking to carry that and their form in the Super 8s.
A dominant performance from St Helens saw them run out 34-18 winners over Huddersfield Giants to spoil the opening game of Rick Stone’s tenure at the club. Joe Greenwood, Jack Owens, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Jordan Turner, Adam Swift and Alex Walmsley all ran in a try apiece.
Their opponents Wigan will be looking to do the double over the club having beaten them 24-12 back in March with tries from Dom Manfredi, Sam Powell, Joel Tomkins and Matty Smith.
Wigan suffered their first defeat for nine games when Leeds ran out 18-16 winners at Headlingley last weekend.
Kallum Watkins opened the scoring before Josh Charnley crossed in reply leaving a half-time score 6-4 in favour of the home side. Adam Cuthbertson extended their lead five minutes into the second-half as did Brett Ferres when he touched down. But back fought Wigan through Jack Higginson and George Williams but it was too little too late.
The Warriors have been forced into changes after verdicts from the RFL disciplinary panel during the week. Josh Charnley has been handed a two-match ban meaning he will now miss this fixture and their Challenge Cup semi-final with Hull FC.
Taulima Tautai also suffered the same fate as Charnley being given a two-match ban after pleading not guilty to a Grade B dangerous contact charge. Joe Bretherton is the other player to make way in three changes made by Shaun Wane.
Coming back from suspension is captain Sean O’Loughlin, Dom Crosby and John Bateman to bolster their forward line.
Blessed with a relatively clean bill of health St Helens head coach Keiron Cunningham has named an unchanged 19-man squad.
Wigan Warriors: John Bateman, Dom Crosby, Ben Flower, Oliver Gildart, Jack Higginson, Willie Isa, Dom Manfredi, Lee Mossop, Frank Paul-Nuuausala, Sean O’Loughlin, Sam Powell, Dan Sarginson, Jake Shorrocks, Matty Smith, Kyle Shelford, Ryan Sutton, Lewis Tierney, Sam Tomkins, George Williams
St Helens: Jonny Lomax, Jordan Turner, Mark Percival, Adam Swift, Luke Walsh, Alex Walmsley, James Roby, Kyle Amor, Atelea Vea, Jon Wilkin, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Lama Tasi, Greg Richards, Luke Thompson, Joe Greenwood, Jack Owens, Shannon McDonnel, Matty Fleming, Morgan Knowles
Prediction: Wigan Warriors by 8
Published on July 22 2016 for Rugby AM.
Warrington Wolves vs Huddersfield Giants
Warrington Wolves will be looking to end the Super League season on a high when they take on Huddersfield Giants at the Haliwell Jones Stadium.
Wire could be heading into the Super 8s in second sport after Wigan failed to beat St Helens last night.
The Wolves are heading into the league split in-form with their last defeat coming against Hull FC back in June and the club have since picked up four wins and a draw. Last time out Warrington beat an injury-depleted Castleford Tigers 42-26 running in seven tries with Denny Solomona’s four tries in vain for Daryl Powell’s men.
Huddersfield Giants will be looking to record their first win under new boss Rick Stone and enter the Super 8s Qualifiers on the back of a victory. There was no happy Super League debut for the former Newcastle Knights coach as his Giants were undone by St Helens 34-18 on home soil.
A dominant performance from St Helens saw Joe Greenwood, Jack Owens, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Jordan Turner, Adam Swift and Alex Walmsley all run in a try apiece and record their fourth straight win.
Warrington head coach Tony Smith has named an unchanged 19-man squad from the one that beat Cas in the penultimate round of Super League.
Huddersfield meanwhile make two changes to their side with Jermaine McGillvary and Tom Symonds replaced by Jamie Ellis and Josh Johnson.
Gene Ormsby will face his former club after making the permanent switch from Warrington to Huddersfield recently.
Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Ryan Bailey, Daryl Clark, Ben Currie, Brad Dwyer, Rhys Evans, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, George King, Toby King, Tom Lineham, Kevin Penny, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Russell, Chris Sandow, Ashton Sims, Joe Westerman, Ben Westwood
Huddersfield Giants: Leroy Cudjoe, Aaron Murphy, Danny Brough, Jamie Ellis, Eorl Crabtree, Ryan Hinchliffe, Craig Huby, Michael Lawrence, Kyle Wood, Sam Rapira, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Connor, Josh Johnson, Kruise Leeming, Nathan Mason, Oliver Roberts, Ryan Brierley, Gene Ormsby, Sebastine Ikahihifo
Prediction: Warrington Wolves by 12
Published on July 23 2016 for Rugby AM.
Wakefield Wildcats vs Castleford Tigers
Castleford Tigers will want to enter the Super 8s with some form and travel to Belle Vue Stadium to take on Wakefield Wildcats.
In what is the final Super League fixture before the league divide Castleford Tigers have had to tough it out recently having a number of first-team players out injured and have only recorded one win in their last six games.
The Tigers couldn’t back up their 38-24 victory over Catalans Dragons as Warrington Wolves ran out convincing 42-26 winners with Denny Solomona’s four tries in vain for Cas last weekend.
Wakefield saw their two-game losing run come to an end when they beat Catalans Dragons at the Stade Gilbert Brutus 30-28.
A win for the Wildcats would cement their sixth-place finish which will be a remarkable achievement for the club given they finished rock-bottom last season. Should Cas gain the win it would see them leapfrog their opponents into sixth and see them record a league double over the club.
Chris Chester makes to changes to his side ahead of this fixture calling up youngster’s Bradley Moules and Liam Senior from the academy. The duo replace Mickael Simon, who has picked up a hamstring injury, and Scott Moore, who received a one-match ban.
The Wildcats recently announced the loan signing of Warrington Wolves forward Ben Harrison but he will have to wait for his debut having not being named.
The away side also make two changes ahead of the league split with new signing Andre Savelio set to make his debut for the club. The 21-year-old has made 42 appearances for St Helens since making his debut in 2014 and joins the Tigers on loan for the rest of the season.
Paddy Flynn also makes his return to the side with Luke Dorn and Danny Tickle, who has joined Championship side Leigh Centurions, drop out of the 19-man squad.
Wakefield Wildcats: Tinirau Arona, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, Jordan Crowther, David Fifita, Liam Finn, Craig Hall, Max Jowitt, Danny Kirmond, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Jonny Molloy, Bradley Moules, Nick Scruton, Liam Senior, Mikey Sio, Anthony Tupou, Bill Tupou, Jason Walton
Castleford Tigers: Rangi Chase, Matt Cook, Ben Crooks, Paddy Flyn, Luke Gale, Ryam Hampshire, Oliver Holmes, Tom Holmes, Will Maher, Frankie Mariano, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Junior Moors, Larne Patrick, Andre Savelio, Denny Solomona, Gadwin Springer
Prediction: Wakefield Wildcats by 8
Published on July 24 2016 for Rugby AM.
Widnes Vikings vs Catalans Dragons
Laurent Frayssinous will need to address his side’s form ahead of the Super 8s starting with an away trip against Widnes Vikings.
The French side were once really pushing for a top two finish but have slipped down the pecking order after registering successive defeats against Warrington Wolves, Hull FC, Wigan Warriors, Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Wildcats last round.
The Dragons fell short against a buoyant Wakefield in round 22 in an entertaining game for the neutral fan. The kicking of Liam Finn was the difference between the two sides with both clubs running in five tries each.
Pat Richards missed a conversion late on after Fouad Yaha had given his side a chance to share the spoils but the winger’s conversion wasn’t on target.
Widnes come into this clash occupying the last spot in the top eight on the back of two defeats and Denis Betts will know his team are in danger of slipping into a rut. They host the Dragons after losing 32-24 to Salford Red Devils in a match which saw Mason Caton-Brown bag a hat-trick.
Denis Betts has made just the single change to his 19-man squad with Rhys Hanbury replaced by Ted Chapelhow.
Catalans Dragons have been boosted by the returns of Glenn Stewart and Jodie Broughton from injury whilst Laurent Frayssinous has include Under-19s prop Lambert Belmas in the 19-man squad.
Pat Richards, who this week announced his is to retire from the game at the end of the season, along with Willie Mason and Arthur Romano drop out of the side.
Widnes Vikings: Pat Ah Van, Kevin Brown, Greg Burke, Jack Buchanan, Hep Cahill, Jay Chapelhow, Ted Chapelhow, Chris Dean, Connor Farrell, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Macgraff Leuluai, Manase Manuokafoa, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Charly Runciman, Corey Thompson, Lloyd White, Matt Whitley
Catalans Dragons: Tony Gigot, Jodie Broughton, Vincent Duport, Todd Carney, Remi Casty, Glenn Stewart, Justin Horo, Jason Baitieri, Dave Taylor, Julian Bousquet, Eloi Pelissier, Fouad Yaha, Morgan Escare, Antoni Maria, Lucas Albert, Alrix Da Costa, Romain Navarrete, Ben Garcia, Lambert Belmas
Prediction: Catalans Dragons by 10
Published on July 24 2016 for Rugby AM.