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Super League Elimination Play-off preview: Warrington Wolves vs Widnes Vikings

Date: Saturday 20th September
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 2.45pm

Teams

Warrington Wolves 19 man squad:

Roy Asotasi, Ryan Atkins, Chris Bridge, Ben Currie, Anthony England, Ben Evans, Rhys Evans, Ben Harrison, Micky Higham, Chris Hill, James Laithwaite, Joel Monaghan, Michael Monaghan, Richie Myler, Gareth O’Brien, Gene Ormsby, Stefan Ratchford, Matthew Russell, Trent Waterhouse

Widnes Vikings 19 man squad:

Patrick Ah Van, Kevin Brown, Hep Cahill, Liam Carberry, Chris Dean, Jon Clarke, Paddy Flynn, Danny Galea, Alex Gerrard, Rhys Hanbury, Willie Isa, Phil Joseph, Macgraff Leuluai, Joe Mellor, Eamon O’Carroll, Jack Owens, Cameron Phelps, Danny Tickle, Lloyd White

Form

Warrington Wolves

Round 27 – Wigan Warrions (A), L 24-20
Round 26 – St Helens (A), W 12-39
Round 25 – Huddersfield Giants (H), D 24-24
Round 24 – Castleford Tigers (H), W 48-10
Round 23 – Catalan Dragons (A), W 24-26

Widnes Vikings

Round 27 – Salford Red Devils (A), L 36-6
Round 26 – Bradford Bulls (A), W 12-32
Round 25 – Wigan Warriors (H), W 24-10
Round 24 – Huddersfield Giants (A), L 28-14
Round 23 – Hull KR (H), W 28-10

Preview

This weekend sees the start of the Super League play-offs and the first game in the Saturday double header is a huge derby as last year’s finalists Warrington Wolves face neighbours and play-off debutants Widnes Vikings.

It is fifth verses eight at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Saturday in the early kick-off of the two games which will be live on Sky.

They have shared victories this season with the home side coming out on top on both occasions with home advantage being in the favour of the Wolves this time, however derby games can go either way and the Vikings will look to their victory in Warrington last year for inspiration.

Warrington have the edge with their experienced squad, most of which appeared in last years’ grand final defeat to Wigan Warriors, but it will be a former Wolves player in the shape of John Clarke who will be plotting their downfall.

Clarke could be playing his final game although he would love nothing more than to extend his career for at least another week with victory over his former employers.

Both teams were represented in the recent Dream Team with Chris Hill making his second appearance in the team and Kevin Brown making his and the Vikings’ first appearance in the team of the year.

The form guide suggests a tight contest as both sides have nearly identical form with three wins in the last five and a defeat in their final league game of the season.

Warrington were beaten in a classic at the DW by Wigan as they edged the visitors out 24-20 and a far from full strength Widnes were beaten away to Salford who signed their season off with a comfortable 36-6 win.

We have seen over the years though that form goes out the window come play-off time as all the teams involved are ready for knockout rugby league and these teams will see each other as an obstacle in-between themselves and a place at Old Trafford.

Expect a heated affair between two bitter rivals who would love nothing more than to end each other’s play-off dreams at the first hurdle.

Key Battles

Matty Russell vs Rhys Hanbury

We have two exciting fullbacks going head to head in this match in the shape of Matty Russell and Rhys Hanbury. Between them they have bags of pace and will be looking for gaps in the defence to unleash that pace and find the try line. If one does the other will have the task of stopping them so it will be good to see who will come out on top in this match-up.

Stefan Ratchford vs Kevin Brown

Stefan Ratchford is Mr Versatility and can play pretty much any position in the backs but will be at his best if he is in the halves orchestrating the play. He will guide this Warrington team across the park and is also a strong runner so he will be a threat at all times. Kevin will be buzzing off the back of his deserved selection in the Super League Dream Team and will be looking to prove his worth in this game. When Widnes score there is a high possibility this man has had a hand in it with his brilliant attacking vision so look out for his famous cut-out ball to the winger which seems to work every time.

Joel Monaghan vs Paddy Flynn

Joel was somehow left out of the Super League Dream Team despite being the competition’s top try scorer and he will be looking to continue his prolific season. He is always on the end of Warrington’s best moves and they will look to him at every chance they can with his outstanding finishing ability making him their target man. Paddy Flynn has progressed greatly since making his first Super League appearance and after being left out for a lot of last season he has cemented his place in the Vikings starting line-up. He is strong in defence and has pace in his locker so Warrington must be wary of Joel’s opposite man.  The two will be looking to outwit one and other and whoever comes out on top in defence and keeps their opposite number from scoring could be on the winning side.

Previous Meetings This Season

Widnes won the last meeting between these two sides in Round 21 in front of their home fans with a great 28-14 victory which helped ease the pain of the 44-6 hammering they suffered at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Round 9. It is one win each with this one being a crucial decider.

Prediction

Warrington have all the experience in this one and that should see them through, however expect Widnes to give it their all and push them close. Warrington by 10

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