Six key battles this weekend: Free-scoring McGillvary, magnificent Makinson, Delightful Drinkwater

Super League round 17 gets underway this week and we have some great contests to look forward to.

Sika Manu v Josh Jones

With Sika Manu off-contract at the end of 2019, we could easily see the former Tonga international coming up against the man brought in to replace him in the side next season.

Jones signed for Hull FC two weeks ago after the black-and-whites fought off competition from other interested parties. The 26-year-old is in the prime of his career and could be a real coup for Lee Radford’s side next season.

However, he will still give his all for Salford until the end of the season. The Red Devils could finish the weekend in the top five if other results go their way, but in what will likely be a physical battle, Jones will have to be on top form if he is to get the better of Manu, six years his senior.

Reece Lyne v Kallum Watkins

In a season disrupted by injuries to the Wakefield backline, Reece Lyne has been a much-needed ever-present for Chris Chester’s side.

The 26-year-old has been in top form this year, and if he keeps up such a high level of performance, the centre could be a dark horse for the 2019 Super League Dream Team.

This weekend he comes up against Kallum Watkins, who will be keen to impress in the week Leeds announced he would be leaving at the end of the season.

He will need to put himself in the shop window, with clubs in both England and Australia sure to be circling. A battle with one of this year’s most consistent centres may be the best way to prove some of his doubters wrong as he continues to get back to full fitness following last year’s injury woes.

Greg Eden v Jermaine McGillvary

Photo courtesy of Richard Long

They are undoubtedly two of the best wingers in the competition, and this week’s clash between Castleford and Huddersfield will see Greg Eden go head-t0-head with fellow free-scoring winger Jermaine McGillvary.

Despite having an indifferent 2019 up to now, Eden has still managed to bag 12 tries in 16 games, including two in his last two matches. Nevertheless, his Giants counterpart has notched 14 tries this campaign, including six in his last three games.

With two red-hot wingers facing off in the cauldron of a full-blooded Yorkshire derby, it will be intriguing to see which grabs the headlines by the time the game is over.

Tony Gigot v Jack Johnson

Given their poor record on the road at the beginning of the campaign, few would have predicted that Catalans would be sitting third in the Betfred Super League table with over half of the season played. A major reason for their good showing in 2019 is the return to form of Tony Gigot.

Having tried his hand at centre in recent months, Gigot has now switched to his preferred position of full-back in recent months and is certainly enjoying a sustained spell of high-quality performances.

Catalans can end the day two points behind Warrington by close of play on Sunday, and Steve Price’s side may need to call upon Jack Johnson at full-back, given the absence of Stefan Ratchford and the suspensions handed to Tom Lineham and Jake Mamo.

Johnson, who was ruled out for the majority of 2019 after suffering a horror injury last March, only made his return to Wolves action against Castleford at the beginning of May, having also featured five times on dual-registration at Championship side Rochdale.

Coming up against a robust Catalans outfit littered with tough-running forwards and intricate backs like Gigot really will be the first major test of Johnson’s fitness, should he get the nod to start.

Rhys Williams v Tommy Makinson

If Rhys Williams wants to establish himself as one of the top wingers in Super League, he needs to look no further than Tommy Makinson, who has been setting the competition alight this year.

Having scored 25 tries in 32 games during the Broncos’ promotion campaign of 2018, Welsh international Williams has slowly begun to replicate that form in the top-flight. He already has nine tries to his name and is closing in on 100 tries in London colours.

This weekend, the former Warrington man is handed the ultimate test as Makinson and co head to the Capital. The 27-year-old currently leads the way in terms of tackle busts for a winger [57] and metres made across the whole competition [2151m].

He demonstrated his finished prowess once again in Saints’ Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Wakefield, and will be confident of helping his side maintain a six-point cushion at the top of the table with victory at Trailfinders Sports Ground.

Josh Drinkwater v George Williams

With both men having their futures publicised so heavily in recent months, it will be intriguing to see who steps into the limelight out of Josh Drinkwater and George Williams.

Drinkwater arrived at Hull KR in the off-season after his departure from Catalans, where he established himself as one of the most sought-after halves in the competition. Nevertheless, he is only on a one-year deal, and clubs both home and abroad will surely be getting ready to pounce, should the Australian decide to leave KCOM Craven Park.

He scored twice in last week’s Challenge Cup loss to Warrington and has picked up 10 assists so far this year, just one short of Williams’ 2019 tally for the Warriors.

After speculation surrounding his future and an underwhelming start to the season performance-wise, Williams had really hit his stride, picking up eight tries.

With the likes of Luke Gale, Gareth Widdop, Jonny Lomax, Jackson Hastings and even Blake Austin all vying for a spot in the halves for the end-of-season Great Britain tour, the England international knows he cannot afford to slack if he is to make sure of a place.

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