Preview by Jack Harbidge

Featherstone travel to Headingley looking to remain the only Championship club in the Challenge Cup. Leeds Rhinos head into the game with only 1 loss in their last 16 games at home off the back of a well-deserved away win against a high-flying Wakefield side.

LAST TIME OUT

Leeds staged a second half come back to edge Wakefield out of their Round 18 Super League clash. Wakefield started the stronger of the two teams, with Mason Caton-Brown opening the scoring just 4 minutes in with an 80m effort. Kyle Wood followed up a few minutes after off the back of a well worked structure down the left edge to put the home side 10-0 up. Leeds replied off the back of quick hands down their left edge, with Stevie Ward crossing untouched. Soon after, the visitors put together a well worked move for Tom Briscoe to cross in the corner and reduce the deficit to 2 points.

Leeds remained in the ascendency after the half time break and crossed with yet another quick-fire double to go into the lead with 20 to play. Wakefield replied late in the game through Jamie Jones-Bishop, and with Liam Finn converting, they trailed by 2 with less than 10 minutes to play. Leeds’ defence repelled the Wakefield attack for the remained of the game, earning a hard-fought victory against an in-form Wakefield outfit.

Similarly, Featherstone staged a second half comeback to run away 24 point victors against Bradford in their Round 17 Championship clash. The two sides traded blows for the first half, with only a conversion putting Bradford into the lead going into the half time sheds. Featherstone came out firing in the second half, however, scoring just 3 minutes after the break. Jack Hardcastle chimed in with a double that was part of 4 Featherstone tries in the second half, and with Morgan Knowles’ faultless boot, Featherstone amassed 26 unanswered points to secure victory just a week after a hard-earned draw with Hull KR.

KEY BATTLES

Generally, the main issue that Championship teams face when taking on Super League opposition is the gulf in power and strength between the two packs. Leeds come into this without Jamie Jones-Buchanan (suspension) and Brett Delaney in their forward pack, while Featherstone are without Jack Ormondroyd (Cup tied) and Jordan Baldwinson, who has been recalled by Leeds and named in their 19-man squad. Brad Tagg looks as though he will come into the pack to fill the void, however, the Featherstone pack remains considerably weakened with Andy Bostock also out injured. For Featherstone to mount a challenge in this one, they’ll need to avoid being drawn purely into a battle with the much-improved Leeds back. Whether that will mean throwing the ball about, or challenging the Rhinos pack up front initially, they are going to have to be innovative if they are to challenge the strong Leeds outfit.

PREDICTION

Featherstone shouldn’t get a look-in in this one, with the Leeds side stronger in every position across the park. The weakened Featherstone pack won’t be able to contain the much-improved Leeds pack and as a result Featherstone will most likely struggle to get any ball on the front foot to attack from. If Leeds turn up as they have done on a weekly basis this year, it’s going to be a tough day at the office for the Rovers. Leeds not only have the pack to give them great attacking platform, but they also have a scintillating backs division that have a lot of points in them.

Leeds Rhinos by 24

SQUAD NEWS

Leeds Rhinos will be without suspended forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan. Who was given a one-game suspension by the RFL. Rhinos have recalled Jordan Baldwinson from Featherstone to replace him, while Rob Burrow is out with injury.

Cory Aston returns for Rovers and could play against his parent club. Brad Tagg has also been recalled but Chris Ulugia (ankle), Andy Bostock (arm) and Scott Turner (ankle) remain out.

SQUADS

Leeds Rhinos: Golding, Briscoe, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Galloway, Parcell, Cuthbertson, Ablett, Ward, Sutcliffe, Singleton, Garbutt, Ferres, Mullally, Handley, Baldwinson.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Duckworth, Taulapapa, Briggs, Thackeray, Griffin, Carlile, Knowles, Davies, Moore, Mariano, Tagg, Cooper, Wildie, Johnson, Lockwood, Walton, Hardcastle, Aston.

MATCH DETAILS

Referee: Chris Kendall

Venue: Headingley Stadium, Leeds

Date/Time: Friday 16th June 2017 – 20:00pm GMT