Easter Weekend Super League Preview
The Easter weekend means only one thing for SuperLeague fans and that is derby day. Sports Gazette casts an eye over the weekends Easter treat of fixtures and offers up some tips for a bit of extra Easter Egg money.
Warrington Wolves (3rd) vs Widnes Vikings (14th): Thursday 8pm Live on Sky Sports 3/HD3
The Wolves will be looking to pile the misery on local rivals Widnes following their defeat against St Helens last week. The Vikings for their troubles have the leakiest defence in SuperLeague and shipped 76 points alone last weekend in the south of France.
The home side will rest experienced forwards Michael Monaghan and Adrian Morley for their first league derby against Widnes for seven seasons. Academy players Brad Dwyer and Ben Currie come in to the squad.
The Vikings, who prop up the table, have conceded 416 points in just 9 games have lost another two players to injury this week, as full back Shaun Briscoe (groin) and Steve Pickersgill (ankle) are both out. Cameron Phelps will replace Briscoe and the side propping up the table also welcome back Patrick Ah Van and Hep Cahill from suspension.
Match Forecast: Denis Betts Vikings have had a tough start to their season and they can expect no favours from their high flying neighbours here. Their shock win over the Warriors aside they have been poor this season and expect a heavy Warrington victory here.
Best Bet: Ryan Adkins already has 8 tries this season and needs 3 more to go top of the try scorers list this season. Against a overworked defence an Adkins hat-trick (9/1 Skybet) is good value.
London Broncos (11th) vs Catalan Dragons (5th): Thursday 8pm
On a weekend where Hull FC make the 6 mile trip to Craven Park, Leeds travel 12 miles to Bradford and St Helens go 8 miles to Wigan, the Dragons face the small 623 mile trip to the Stoop to play the London Broncos.
The Broncos are unchanged following their morale boosting 36-0 victory over Wakefield last time out. David Howells is the only injured Bronco at the moment as he still has not recovered from his broken thumb.
The Dragons come off their crushing of the Vikings last week and are looking for the win which could move them top of the table overnight. Steve Menzies returns from a leg injury while Greg Mounis and Ben Fisher also return at the expense of the rested trio of David Ferriol, Eloi Pelissier and Jason Baitieri.
Match Forecast: Both these sides will be high on confidence but this is a game that the Dragons should really win. The Broncos have been disappointing so far this season against the Super League big boys and this run looks set to continue.
Best Bet: Look at the Dragons to secure a comfortable 11-15 point win (7/1 BetFred) as theykeep well in the hunt for a playoff place.
Hull FC (2nd) vs Hull KR (10th): Friday 12 15pm Live on Sky Sports 2/HD2
Hull KR go into this game looking for a repeat of last season’s 17-10 victory when they take on their injury ravaged cross city rivals. For their part Hull FC could go top of the table with a victory at the KC Stadium.
The away side have been boosted by the news that captain Ben Galea and Blake Green have both come through this week’s training and are hopeful of being fit. Craig Hall is also in contention.
Despite their lofty league position Hull FC’s squad is looking more and more threadbare as the season goes on. Such are the problems facing the visitors that second row Lee Radford has been drafted into the match day squad even though he retired at the end of last season. Radford replaces Eamon O’Carroll who is out with a knee injury. O’Carroll joins Chris Green, Mark O’Meley, Joe Westerman, Aaron Heremaia, Mike Burnett and Sam Moa on the absentees register. The Black and Whites will be able to welcome back Wade McKinnon and Kirk Yeaman while Jay Pitts has joined on loan from Leeds.
Match Forecast: It is a cliché but the form book can be ignored in a local derby. Despite their lowly league position expect the home side to triumph here as they take advantage of their weakened local rivals.
Best Bet: Hull KR to win by 11-20 points (15/2 Ladbrokes) looks a good bet as the Craven Park team take advantage of their weakened rivals.
St Helens (7th) vs Wigan Warriors (4th): Friday 2 45pm Live on Sky Sports 2/HD2
This fixture has over the years become the standout match on Good Friday and this year will be no exception. There is no love lost between these two bitter rivals and with both sides is good form this match promises to have some fireworks.
Under the interim coaching team of Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham St Helens have hit a rich vein of form and last week comfortably beat the Warrington Wolves 28-16. This victory came at a cost though as former man-of-steel Paul Wellens and front rower Adam Laffranchi both picked up suspensions ruling them out of the game.
The Warriors will be without four key players as they look to avenge last year’s playoff semi-final defeat. Lee Mossop, Stuart Fielden, Ben Flower and Epalahame Lauaki will all be missing with Jeff Lima, Paul Prescott and Welsh international Gil Dudson looking set to replace them.
Match Forecast: St Helens are in outstanding form and have beaten both Leeds and Warrington under the new coaching duo and don’t bet against them adding Wigan to that growing list of scalps.
Best Bet: In front of a fervent Langtree Park crowd back St Helens to be leading at half time/full time (5/4 Bet365)
Huddersfield Giants (1st) vs Salford City Reds (8th): 3pm
League leaders Huddersfield will be hoping to ensure there are no slip ups when they take on this season’s surprise package at the Galpharm.
The Giants have a full squad to choose from as they look to follow up last week’s victory over the Leeds Rhinos. Captain Kevin Brown and second-rower Dale Ferguson are both available for selection again as they return from injury.
Salford are also able to welcome back winger Jodie Broughton who missed the last five weeks with a double Hernia, while forward Shannon MacPherson returns following two weeks out with knee ligament damage.
Match Forecast: The Reds lost last time out against Wigan and this looks like another tough proposition. The Giants have lost only once at home this season and this run will continue following this game.
Best Bet: Huddersfield to win by 13+ points (1/2 Stan James) looks like a certainty.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats (12th) vs Castleford Tigers (13th): Friday 7 30pm
Two of the most impotent attacks in Super League face up to each other at Belle Vue as third from bottom Wakefield take on second from bottom Castleford in a crunch battle.
The Wildcats will hand a home debut to Paul Sykes while centre Dean Collis is also fit again. Forward Paul Johnson is the Wildcats one absentee through injury. The Wildcats will be hoping that Ben Cockayne can continue his fine try scoring form this season as he looks to add to his seven tries already this year.
The Tigers have recalled Adam Milner and Jordan Thompson in place of James Grehan and Ryan Hudson who both failed to make the match day squad last time out for their victory last time out over Hull KR.
Match Forecast: This is a tough game to call as both sides have struggled this season. Home side may just be the decisive factor especially as the Tigers have lost their last three away from home.
Best Bet: In a match involving two of the weakest attacks in the league don’t be surprised if there aren’t too many points. Total points between 46-58 (7/4 Stan James) won’t be far off.
Bradford Bulls (9th) vs Leeds Rhinos (6th): Friday 8pm
The build-up to this game has been less about the rugby and more about Bradford’s desperate struggle to stay in existence. The Bulls have spent this week trying desperately to raise £500,000 to ensure that the game against the Rhinos is not their last as a club.
On the field the Bulls are looking for their first win in three following defeats to Salford and Hull FC. They will be minus the injured Jason Crookes and the suspended Jason Bateman. In their place will come second rower Tom Olbison and the fit again half-back Ben Jeffries.
For the Rhinos Ryan Bailey has completed his three match ban and his return, alongside that of Danny McGuire, will boost a Leeds side looking to bounce back from a defeat last time out against the Giants. The defending champions are still without Rob Burrow and Richard Moore who are both set to be side-lined for another few weeks.
Match Forecast: Given all the off the field troubles at Bradford this week the players will be glad just to let the rugby make the headlines. The Leeds Rhinos are a massive test for an inconsistent Bradford side and I can see the Rhinos being just too strong.
Best Bet: Bradford have played well against the big boys so far this season especially at home, so expect a tight low scoring contest. Under 44 match points (7/4 Stan James) could well be smart money.