Preview by Seb Sternik
Chris Chester has named an unchanged side as Wakefield Trinity prepare to face Widnes Vikings. The West Yorkshire side are currently 6th in the Super League after winning four of their opening seven games. Widnes, on the other hand, are 11th and picked up their first win of the season last week following a successful trip to Leigh. Despite Trinity’s advantage in the table, it is Widnes who have done better in this fixture in recent times, winning 5 of the last 6 between the two sides.
LAST TIME OUT
Last time these two sides met, it was in the Super 8s where the Vikings ran in seven tries to earn a comprehensive 40-8 victory over Wakefield.
Pat Ah Van crossed twice while Rhys Hanbury, Matty Whitley, Corey Thompson, Stef Marsh and Lloyd White also stamped their names onto the scoresheet. This was an important victory for the Vikings who, a week earlier, suffered a 38-0 defeat at the hands of Hull FC. This time however, it was them dishing out the walloping.
Wakefield fought hard to get into the Super 8s and it seemed like they lost their motivation once in it. They went on to lose all of their remaining games and finished the season in 8th. Widnes, meanwhile, earned their highest Super League finish to date, 7th.
Since that last fixture, many things have changed. Wakefield’s ability to penetrate defences is certainly one of them. Ben Jones Bishop has been on fire recently and Widnes will need to find a way to stop him if they are to have a good defensive outing. Another offensive danger that Dennis Betts side will need to consider is Tom Johnstone. The winger is frightfully good and is often touted as the next big thing in Rugby League. Should Widnes contain his flair they will certainly give themselves a good shot at picking up some vital points at the Beaumont Legal stadium.
Widnes will be looking to capitalise on the return of Joe Mellor. The skipper comes into the side in good time as the Vikings search for a good run of form. The scrum-half has been dearly missed by Widnes who have only managed to pick up one victory from seven in his absence.
Danny Craven will also be the man to watch following his hat-trick against Leigh last week. The 25-year-old could reach a career milestone of 250 points if he manages to pick up 5 more on Friday against Wakefield.
Trinity will be considered the favourites ahead of this game. They are the ones with home advantage and momentum heading into Friday. Despite this, some key returns for Widnes could perhaps inspire the visitors to pick up only their second win of the season.
Joe Mellor is not the only return for the Vikings. Alex Gerrard also makes a comeback as Stefan Marsh, Greg Burke and MacGraff Leuluai all miss the trip to West Yorkshire. Keanan Brand could make his debut after the young centre was also selected for the squad.
Wakefield, on the other hand, have made no changes as Chris Chester’s side look to win their fifth game in six.
Wakefield Trinity 19-man squad: 1. Scott Grix 2. Tom Johnstone 3. Bill Tupou 5. Ben Jones-Bishop 6. Jacob Miller 7. Liam Finn 9. Kyle Wood 10. Mitch Allgood 11. Matty Ashurst 12. Danny Kirmond 14. Sam Williams 15. David Fifita 16. Tinirau Arona 17. Craig Huby 18. Joe Arundel 23. Keegan Hirst 25. Anthony Walker 27. James Batchelor 32. Dean Hadley
Widnes Vikings 19-man squad: 26. Tom Armstrong 36. Keanan Brand 3. Chris Bridge 24. Sam Brooks 23. Jay Chapelhow 22. Ted Chapelhow 32. Danny Craven 15. Gil Dudson 16. Alex Gerrard 7. Tom Gilmore 1. Rhys Hanbury 11. Chris Houston 31. Jordan Johnstone 20. Manase Manuokafoa 6. Joe Mellor 25. Tom Olbison 4. Charly Runciman 2. Corey Thompson 12. Matt Whitley.