Widnes Vikings head to league leaders St Helens on Friday evening as they aim to avoid a 13th straight consecutive defeat in Super League. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the clash.
Justin Holbrook has made three changes to the side that left it late in the thriller against Wakefield last week.
Matty Smith, Jack Ashworth and Ryan Morgan- who has scored in his last three games against Widnes- drop out of the 19 man squad. They are replaced by Adam Swift, youngster Matty Costello and the returning Kyle Amor.
St Helens 19-man squad: Lomax, Makinson, Percival, Swift, Fages, Roby, Amor, Taia, Wilkin, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Douglas, Knowles, Thompson, Peyroux, Richardson, Grace, Lees, Barba, Costello.
Interim Head Coach, Francis Cummins, has made just the two changes to the Vikings following on from last week’s close defeat to Hull FC.
Ted Chapelhow and Patrick Ah Van are replaced by Stefan Marsh and Vikings co-captain Chris Houston, who returns after serving his two match ban for sarcastically applauding James Child’s decision to sin bin him against Salford.
Young winger Owen Buckley, who made a try scoring debut last week, is expected to keep his place on the wing as Widnes visit their near neighbours.
Widnes Vikings 19-man squad: Hanbury, Marsh, Inu, Runciman, Mellor, Gilmore, Dudson, Gerrard, Houston, Whitley, Craven, Olbison, Wilde, Leuluai, D. Walker, J. Chapelhow, Heremaia, Hauraki, Buckley.
HEAD TO HEAD
St Helens last met the Widnes Vikings in this year’s Dacia Magic Weekend at St James Park, the first time the two teams have competed at the showpiece event.
Despite Widnes leading at half time thanks to tries from Matt Whitley, Wellington Albert and loanee Jimmy Keinhorst, the Saints ran out eventual 38-18 winners.
Prior to that St Helens had won five of the last seven fixtures against the Vikings, although Widnes did win a tightly fought contest at the Halton Stadium, claiming a 16-14 win back in April 2017.
The last time Francis Cummins’ men were victorious against the Saints on away soil was back in 2013, when Kevin Brown orchestrated the win.
KEY BATTLE – Regan Grace v Owen Buckley
Friday night at the Totally Wicked Stadium will have two exciting wingers on show, one arguably more known to the mainstream rugby league audience than the other.
Since his debut in the 2017 Good Friday derby against Wigan, Grace hasn’t missed a single game for St Helens and for good reason as the exciting Welshman has lit up Super League with his pace, evasiveness and great finishing.
He’s truly one of the sports young starlets and will cause Widnes problems all night thanks to the expansive style of St Helens’ play which will see him have a lot of the ball.
Facing up against him will be Owen Buckley who has made a name for himself playing for Widnes’ under 19 side over the last couple of years and finally made his first-team debut last week.
Buckley’s strength lies firmly in claiming the high ball and his try against Hull FC epitomised that as he rose higher than his opposite number to score an easy try, one that he very much deserved..
Expect Widnes’ halves to go high to his corner of the pitch often in the hope of exploiting his abilities.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 6th July 2018
Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium
Referee: S. Mikalauskas
WHO WILL WIN?