Warrington Wolves vs Catalans Dragons
Last time out
Warrington made a great start to their qualifiers campaign with an emphatic second half comeback that saw last year’s grand finalists run away fourteen point winners. Jack Hughes opened the scoring for the visitors but it wasn’t long before the home side replied through Jack Buchanan. Despite being under the cloud of Rangi Chase’s drugs ban Widnes started the first half very well, adding a second try to go 12-6 in front just 10 minutes before half time. In fact, it came from their other stand off, Joe Mellor went under the sticks after running an inside support line off Lloyd White, who subsequently slotted the corresponding conversion.
Widnes continued to put pressure on Warrington at the start of the second half and were rewarded with a 47th minute penalty that stretched their lead to 8 points. Warrington rallied and Tom Lineham scored two minutes later with a sublime finish in the corner. Widnes’ defence held firm for the next ten minutes but and it looked as though they might just get the much needed win before Warrington scored three unanswered tries, two conversions and a penalty goal in the last 18 minutes of the game. At the final whistle you could only feel as though it was a missed opportunity for Widnes Vikings and a bullet dodged for the Wolves. Regardless, it looks as though the two sides won’t have too much trouble staying up and will no doubt relish playing inferior championship sides.
Catalans just got over the line last time out when they hosted London Broncos at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. The Broncos broke the deadlock early on before Catlans replied soon after to level the scores. Catalans began to build pressure and after countless impressive defensive efforts on their own line, London went up the other end and capitalised of a Catalans error to score first phase of a scrum 30m out from the Dragons’ line. It was, in fact, the Broncos’ very own ‘Dragon’ who crossed to put the Championship side back in the lead.
The Broncos struggled to hold on to their lead and defended repeat sets own their own line before eventually letting Brayden Williame cross on the stroke of half time. Luke Walsh slotted the conversion and put the home side into the lead and it took a long while before Jarod Sammut could level the scores with two points of his own from a second half penalty. Walsh knocked over a penalty of his own just five minutes later before Louis Anderson all but put the game to bed with a try in the 67th minute.
Walsh kept his 100% record off the tee for the day and added the extras to put the Catalans side 20-12 up with just over ten minutes to play. Broncos rallied hard to mount a comeback effort and after building pressure in the closing stages, Mark Ioane took a quick tap to barge over as the final hooter went and Sammut converted but it was too little to late for the boys from London, going down 20-18 to the Super League side.
This one will be settled in the pack. Last time out Catalans were pretty much matched up front by a London pack that is not exactly known for being able to grind into teams. By contrast, Warrington had the edge over the Widnes pack for good part of their game last week and will look to build on the performance with home support behind them this time.
On paper this Catalans pack should be a real force to be reckoned but they really have a massive disappointment this year. Once again I find myself hoping they’ll put in a good shift and tear apart a team in emphatic fashion, and no doubt, they’ll disappoint again this time round – they’ll even have their away mentality with them for this one. Warrington, on the other hand, have had a rather underwhelming season too but should be able to get on top of the French side. It’ll go the Wolves’ way without doubt, but a clash between Hill/Sims and Moa/Casty is mouth-watering and who knows, Benny Westwood might even crack in with a vintage performance on his 400th appearance for Warrington.
Realistically last week Catalans should have put London to the sword, especially when considering the Broncos came with a game plan that should have played into the Dragons’ hands. Warrington most probably did better than they should of when winning away at Widnes, playing on a pitch that no-one likes to play on and doing it in good fashion. Warrington will need their pack to get them on the front foot and there’s no doubt the ill-disciplined Catalans side will help them throughout. I can’t see the French side doing much in this on but the must win nature of the games may bring out the best in them, on form though, it’ll be a convincing Warrington win. Warrington by 10+.
Warrington: Atkins, Brown, Clark, Cooper, Dwyer, Hiku, Hill, Hughes, Jullien, G. King, Lineham, Patton, Philbin, Ratchford, Russell, Savelio, Sims, Smith, Westwood.
Catalans: Inu, Wiliame, Yaha, Walsh, Myler, Moa, Aiton, Casty, Anderson, Horo, Bird, Bousquet, Garcia, Baitieri, Duport, Albert, Margalet, Navarrete, Tierney.
Leigh Centurions vs Hull KR
Last time out
A late Hull KR comeback clinched a much-needed win for the Robins to avenge their defeat to Halifax last week. Kieran Moss secured a quick-fire double in the first ten minutes of the game to put Hull eight points in the lead. It wasn’t long before Halifax replied though, with Ben Heaton Crossing in the 10th minute and after Steve Tyrer added the extras Fax only trailed by two. Hull extended their lead soon after as Matty Marsh dummied and sliced through the Halifax defence to score. Jamie Ellis added the extras and the eight-point lead was restored. Halifax, however, scored two tries in the second part of the first half with Ben Heaton finishing off two well-worked moves to complete his hat trick and put his side into the lead at half time.
Halifax continued their one-man crusade with Heaton crossing once more for Halifax to lead 22-14 with just under half an hour to play. Halifax couldn’t replicate their performance the week prior and conceded two Hull tries in the closing stages from Lawler and Scruton respectively. Jamie Ellis converted both to make the ultimate difference between the two sides as Hull maintained their 100% home record against Halifax. The robins would have expected to do a bit better in this one and will be disappointed with their current form going into games with Super League opposition.
Featherstone hosted Leigh Centurions in the first qualifiers clash between a Super League and Championship side. Unfortunately for the home side the gap in class was clear from the off with Leigh scoring two tries in quick succession within the first 10 minutes of the game. Featherstone replied, however, with a try from former Super League stalwart Darrell Griffin. After cutting the Centurions’ lead to 6 with a conversion from Ian Hardman, Featherstone soon leaked more points with Brown crossing for Leigh in the middle part of the first half to put Leigh ten points clear at half time.
Leigh maintained pressure through the second half and scored three unanswered tries in the first minute of the second half despite Featherstone looking threatening on numerous occasions. Misi Taulapapa got a try back for the visitors with fourteen minutes to play but it was too little too late, as the Leigh Centurions halted any chance of a comeback with a great finish from Greg McNally just five minutes from time. Leigh walked away from their old rivals with a 38-12 win and two invaluable competition points to put them a step closer to safety.
Higham vs Lunt. Both seasoned pros in the Super League in the 30s age bracket, they bring invaluable experience and direction to their sides when they most need it. The last time the two sides met in the Challenge Cup Lunt was influential in his side getting the better of Leigh, however, Micky Higham missed the game and could be the key component for the Centurions to reverse the form of two months ago. Lunt will want to express himself again against Super League standard players and will no doubt have a big hand in his side’s performance this time round.
Leigh will reverse the Challenge Cup form and get the win to put themselves one step closer to safety. Leigh probably weren’t all at the races last time the two sides met and are in a bit of a purple patch at the moment. The Robins, on the other hand, just got over the line against Halifax last time out after seeming to struggle in the middle part of the game. Leigh will be strong up front, and all though they’ll have to contend with Mose Masoe, they should have an edge in the pack. Leigh are generally the classier side, and with a strong home advantage, this will be a massive missed opportunity if they don’t come up with the goods. Leigh by 12.
Leigh: Maria, Vea, Reynolds, Paterson, Mortimer, Tickle, Stewart, Richards, McNally, Hansen, Drinkwater, Burr, Hood, Fleming, Dawson, Higham, Brown, Langi, Hopkins.
Hull KR: Minns, Shaw, Ellis, Scruton, Lunt, Clarkson, Blair, Greenwood, Addy, Lawler, Marsh, Mulhern, Heffernan, Moss, Kavanagh, Carney, Jewitt, Atkin, Masoe.
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