It’s Round 22 of Super League action this weekend, with two games being shown live on Sky Sports and a further one via OurLeague, with tonight’s basement battle the standout match-up of the weekend.
Huddersfield Giants v Salford Red Devils (Friday, 7.45pm)
The Giants played in Super League’s only game last weekend, beaten by St Helens at the Totally Wicked Stadium in a re-arranged Round 1 clash.
Much to the dismay of boss Ian Watson, Joe Greenwood was sent off early on in that game for a reaction to a high shot. He wasn’t banned subsequently by the Match Review Panel though, and is in the squad for Salford’s visit to West Yorkshire this evening.
Accordingly, Luke Yates is the only change to the squad from that Saints game. He’s recovered from an ankle injury to replace winger Ashton Golding, who picked up a knock of his own last time out.
It’s a similar story for Salford, who for the first time in a long time have their first-choice spine all fit and available.
With Shane Wright and Alex Gerrard the only long-term absentees, Paul Rowley makes just one change from their own defeat to St Helens last time out. Rhys Williams drops out as Adam Sidlow returns to the fold.
Huddersfield: Milner, Hill, McQueen, Marsters, Connor, Ashworth, Bibby, Greenwood, Naiqama, Cudjoe, English, Peats, Russell, Wilson, Halsall, Hewitt, Ikahihifo, Lolohea, Fages, Pryce, Yates
Salford: Brierley, Sio, Watkins, Lafai, Burgess, Croft, Sneyd, Ormondroyd, Ackers, Vuniyayawa, Dixon, Stone, Partington, Atkin, Addy, Sidlow, Bourouh, Hellewell, Greenwood, Cross, Singleton.
Prediction: Huddersfield have been going well lately, even troubling Saints last time out for a period of the game with a man less. Salford on the other hand head into tonight on the back of seven straight losses. I think it’ll be tight, but on home territory the Giants get my tip, by 4.
St Helens v Hull KR (Friday, 8pm)
The big news for Paul Wellens this week is that he’ll be without Matty Lees. The prop was hit with a two-game ban for his high hit in the incident which led to Huddersfield’s Greenwood being sent off last Sunday, despite no action being taken by referee Ben Thaler against the Saints man at the time.
After a failed hearing, and a failed appeal against the outcome, Lees remains unavailable. He’s replaced in the squad for Hull KR’s visit by youngster Wesley Bruines, who is yet to make a senior appearance for the club. Elsewhere, James Bell returns from a suspension of his own.
Visitors KR meanwhile are reeling from a gut-wrenching Challenge Cup final defeat to Leigh Leopards, which went all the way to golden point extra time.
Willie Peters makes just one change to his squad from their Wembley, also suspension-enforced, with Elliot Minchella banned for the late hit on Ben Reynolds which saw him sin-binned under the arch. Jack Walker replaces him in the 21.
St Helens: Welsby, Makinson, Percival, Bennison, Lomax, Dodd, Roby, Mata’utia, Batchelor, Knowles, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Bell, Norman, Davies, Royle, Baxter, Ritson, Foster, Delaney, Bruines, Mbye
Hull KR: Ryan, Opacic, Kenny-Dowall, Hall, Parcell, King, Linnett, Litten, Kennedy, Batchelor, Matty Storton, Keinhorst, Lewis, Milnes, Hadley, Senior, Johnson, Luckley, Aydin, Walker, Schneider
Prediction: Saints have won their last three, but have made hard work of it. KR are in desperate need of points to ensure they remain in the top six come the end of the season. I think the hosts will have enough to go four in a row, but only just. Paul Wellens’ side by 6.
Wakefield Trinity v Castleford Tigers (Friday, 8pm, Sky Sports Arena)
For the two sides involved in tonight’s televised game, the stakes couldn’t be higher. With just six games remaining, they’re locked level and separated only by points difference. It looks likely to be the game that decides who remains a Super League club next year, and if there was ever a ‘four-pointer’ in rugby league comparable to a ‘six-pointer’ in football, this is it.
Hosts Wakefield have picked up all eight of their points so far at home. They’re boosted by Josh Griffin’s inclusion in the squad, available to play for the first time after signing last month having completed a lengthy ban. He looks likely to make a second debut for the club.
Hugo Salabio and Jai Whitbread are also back in the squad, with Samisoni Langi the most notable name to drop out. He was stretchered off last time out against Hull FC, though boss Mark Applegarth confirmed the injury wasn’t as bad as first thought. Lee Kershaw and youngster Harry Bowes are the other pair to miss out.
As for Cas, Danny Ward was appointed nine days ago, and has had to quickly pick a squad capable of completing a vital double over their relegation rivals having come out on top when the pair met back in April at the Jungle.
Jordan Turner has made a quicker recovery from a thumb injury than originally expected, and is back amongst the squad, while Blake Austin could make his Tigers debut. Off-contract at the end of the season, he has joined on loan from Leeds Rhinos until the end of the season.
Will Tate and Alex Sutcliffe – who has been sent out on loan to Championship side Halifax Panthers – are the two to drop out.
Wakefield: Jowitt, Lyne, Lineham, Lino, Battye, Hood, Whitbread, Ashurst, Pitts, Kay, Bowden, Atoni, Proctor, Eseh, Dagger, Senior, Gale, Croft, Fifita, Salabio, Griffin
Castleford: Eden, Turner, Widdop, Miller, Lawler, Griffin, Edwards, Mellor, Westerman, Massey, Broadbent, Matagi, Wallis, Hall, Watts, Johnstone, Foster, Tsikrikas, Tasipale, Horne, Austin
Prediction: There’s probably never been a bigger game than this one in Super League history not to involve the teams at the top of the ladder. The Tigers will be hoping and praying for a ‘new manager bounce’ but I can’t see past Wakefield at home, especially with how good they’ve been at Belle Vue recently. Trinity by 8, for me.
Wigan Warriors v Hull FC (Friday, 8pm)
Getting a comfortable win against a heavily-rotated pre-Challenge Cup final Hull KR side last time out, Wigan have made just one change to their squad ahead of Hull’s visit to the DW Stadium.
Sam Powell makes his return from injury, replacing Kaide Ellis, who picked up a one-match ban for ‘Grade B Dangerous Contact’ in that victory against the Robins. Liam Byrne will make his 100th Warriors appearance this evening on his birthday.
Visitors FC meanwhile make two changes to their squad from a win against Wakefield a fortnight ago, and like Wigan, one of those is suspension-enforced.
Tony Smith is without forward Brad Fash, who picked up a one-match ban for ‘Other Contrary Behaviour’ last time out. He’s joined on the sidelines by Jamie Shaul while Tex Hoy (hamstring) and Mitieli Vulikijapani (knee) are long-term absentees.
Liam Sutcliffe comes back in having recovered from a finger injury, while academy product and back-rower Zach Jebson also returns.
Wigan: Field, French, King, Wardle, Marshall, Cust, Smith, Powell, Byrne, Farrell, Smithies, Pearce-Paul, Shorrocks, Mago, Thornley, O’Neill, Miski, Hill, Nsemba, Hampshire, Dupree
Hull FC: Swift, Tuimavave, Sutcliffe, McIntosh, Trueman, Clifford, Sao, Houghton, Satae, Savelio, Lane, Lovodua, Cator, Scott, Brown, Litten, Barron, Gardiner, Taylor, Dwyer, Jebson.
Prediction: FC haven’t won away against Wigan since 2019, and I just can’t see that changing tonight. I’ll go for Matt Peet’s side by 16.
Leigh Leopards v Catalans Dragons (Saturday, 3pm, Sky Sports Arena & Sky Sports Main Event)
Leigh return home to the ‘Leopards’ Den’ for the first time in seven weeks. Last time out there they beat Hull KR in Super League action. Most recently, they beat the same team at Wembley to earn a first Challenge Cup triumph in 52 years.
The only change to the squad for their homecoming from the one chosen under the arch last weekend is the inclusion of recent signing Oliver Gildart. He wasn’t available for selection against KR, who he will join in 2024, due to missing the registration cut-off date. Accordingly, the Leopards had a 20-man squad in the capital, with Gildart taking it back up to a full complement of 21 this week.
Steve McNamara’s Dragons will look to spoil that homecoming with a third victory against the Leythers in 2023, having previously won two meetings on home soil over in Perpignan.
They are boosted with a treble return for Saturday’s televised clash with Arthur Mourgue, Mike McMeeken and Matthieu Laguerre all back in the squad. They replace Matt Ikuvalu, Bastien Scimone and Tanguy Zenon respectively.
Though nailed on already, it’s worth noting that Catalans could mathematically seal their top six place this weekend.
Leigh: Hardaker, Briscoe, Chamberlain, Charnley, Mellor, Lam, Amone, Ipape, Mulhern, Wardle, Hughes, Asiata, Nakubuwai, Reynolds, Holmes, O’Brien, Davis, O’Donnell, Wilde, Seumanufagai, Gildart
Catalans: Mourgue, Davies, Keighran, Laguerre, Yaha, May, Pearce, McMeeken, McIlorum, Bousquet, Whitley, Seguier, Garcia, Da Costa, Goudemand, Navarrete, Chan, Romano, Johnstone, Ma’u, Tomkins
Prediction: Leigh have enjoyed a phenomenal season to date, capped off with last weekend’s trophy glory. They’re now entering probably the toughest period of the year, and I think a table topping Catalans side will be too much to contend with on the back of that high. My tip for this one is the Dragons by 14.
Leeds Rhinos v Warrington Wolves (Sunday, 3pm, OurLeague)
Rounding off the weekend, Leeds have been boosted by the return of Harry Newman from a 12-week lay-off with a hamstring injury.
David Fusitu’a is also back having completed his return to play protocols following a concussion, but the Rhinos have been hit by two big injuries, one definitely season-ending and one likely to be. Justin Sangare and Richie Myler both have problems with their feet.
The French international won’t play any further part in 2023, while star man Myler is more than likely to be on the sidelines for the duration. That pair are joined on the sidelines by Zane Tetevano, who remains out of action following a stroke earlier this year. Morgan Gannon meanwhile won’t be involved this week, but isn’t far away from a return.
In the opposing dugout, interim boss Gary Chambers told us that Sam Burgess is already having an impact on things at Warrington earlier this week. Between them, they’ve opted to drop Sam Kasiano and Greg Minikin from the 21-man squad.
The pair are replaced by Matty Ashton, making his return from a shoulder injury, and James Harrison. The former Featherstone Rovers man has missed the last few weeks with a finger injury.
Leeds: Fusitu’a, Newman, Macdonald, Handley, Sezer, Oledzki, Bentley, Martin, Smith, O’Connor, Lisone, Olpherts, T Holroyd, McDonnell, Hooley, Walters, Roberts, Donaldson, Johnson, Sinfield, Ruan
Warrington: Ashton, Bullock, Clark, Crowther, Currie, Drinkwater, Dudson, Dufty, Harrison, Hayes, A Holroyd, Mata’utia, Mikaele, Nicholson, Philbin, Ratchford, Thewlis, Vaughan, Walker, Williams, Wrench
Prediction: Both sides head into this one in poor form, and neither will be in the play-offs come the end of the year if performances don’t improve quickly. It’s a tough one to call, but I’ll go Warrington by 8, which could well be way off the mark.