Tipping Super League: James v ex-Cronulla Sharks CEO Damian Irvine

After predicting five out of six in round one, editor James Gordon is back and is this week taking on former Cronulla Sharks CEO Damian Irvine.

You can get in on the act too by predicting the games in our free-to-play Tipping League – 14 of you got six out of six right last week!

Damian Irvine is the former chairman of NRL club Cronulla Sharks and achieved the ‘impossible’ by saving them financially and leaving the club as one of Sydney’s richest.

Damian is a leading advocate for British Rugby League, promoting and pushing for “homegrown” players to be developed, particularly in the “spine” positions, as the foundation of the game both on, and off the pitch in future years.

One of the UK’s leading Rugby League Experts, Irvine consults to chairman &  CEOs from Super League to League 1 on recruitment, performance and commercial matters and has overseen successful turnaround periods at EFL clubs such as Notts County and Wycombe Wanderers FC. Follow him on Twitter @damianirvine

Leeds v Hull KR (Thursday)

Damian: “Leeds win in round 1 was more dominant than the 16-12 scoreline indicates. They’re a balanced side who let themselves down against Warrington by failing to capitalise on field position and successive penalties in the first half  when they were coasting and clearly dominating. That can be put down to lacking composure early in the season but I think we will see a more ruthless edge this week against a Hull KR side that lacks strength and firepower to compete in Super League in my opinion.  Hull KR fans shouldn’t take my word for it though, your own club approaching a rival halfback one week before season kick off isn’t the greatest vote of confidence in available stocks. Tim Sheens is a fine coach and knows what is required, I fear Hull KR are quite a few weeks away from being there.”

James: “Hard to see beyond a Leeds win here, but what a fairytale it would be if Danny McGuire could lead the Rovers to their first win back in the top flight!”

James – Leeds by 10 / Damian – Leeds by 44

Huddersfield v Warrington (Thursday)

Damian: “The toughest match to run a form line through this weekend in my opinion. Both sides were well beaten by title contenders in round 1. Although Warrington showed excellent resilience to keep in the game and indeed could have drawn or won in the final minutes, it would be false hope for Wire fans to believe their display was one to praise. Ruck and line speed was a long way off standard in the first half and the kicking game failed to apply consistent pressure both in the battle for field position and when attacking the line on the fifth. Huddersfield are a well coached grafting side who are going to need luck and very high completion rates to win matches this year with their attack. Warrington to improve on their week one performance and to win a tough encounter.”

James: “Warrington’s recent record at Huddersfield isn’t great, and they’ll be up against it here too. Tyrone Roberts still looks a few weeks off being sharp enough, and it might take until he’s ticking for them to get going. It really depends which Huddersfield turns up though.”

James – Warrington by 8 / Damian – Warrington by 4

Wakefield v Salford (Friday)

Damian: “Another hard game to call this given Wakefield’s very good win in Round 1 was against a side still very much finding its feet and nowhere near its best. Salford were second rate against a rampant Wigan side and really didn’t give themselves a chance after some early signs of promise. Salford lack direction and composure at times with the ball in hand and have failed to address chronic fringe defence issues that have been consistent for the past 2 seasons, they are a club and a squad in transition and there is some excellent work being done in the front office, but cultural and recruitment changes will take a little longer and it may be too early in the season just yet for them. Wakefield look better prepared and have an edge in terms of committed players which at home should see them to a win here.”

James: “It really is quite something how Wakefield have turned themselves from perennial also rans to a team that you feel very tough to back against. They won’t have any trouble at home to Salford.”

James – Wakefield by 14 / Damian – Wakefield by 16

Wigan v Hull (Saturday)

Damian: “The match of the weekend this one with both clubs worthy of being in mentions as title winners this season. Both clubs enjoyed good wins in round one in what appeared to be an extension of pre-season friendlies as some stages. The intensity will lift a great deal for this match and I expect a very past pace for the first 15 minutes as both sides dominated their opponents last week on the back of fast play the balls and ruck speed. This will be decided by the halves, kicking games and ball security and  who handles the occasion best with both squads well out of their comfort zone by the ocean in “The Gong” . It’s a windy place to play Rugby League and with a small crowd expected it can be very lonely for wingers and fullbacks under the high ball.”

James: “Almost impossible to call as it will all be about which team adapts to the unfamiliar surroundings and the different preparation better. Wigan made a pretty impressive start last week, albeit against a weak Salford team, and look like they’re out to prove a point this year.”

James – Wigan by 7 / Damian – Hull by 4

Catalans v St Helens (Saturday)

Damian: “Catalans were belted last week by Widnes Vikings. That’s not the greatest form line by any stretch. We can give some concession to it being the first round however the errors and defensive frailties were too similar to the constant issues present over the past 2 seasons to dismiss. Widnes were well coached an a surprise for most observers however Catalans will have been expecting a stronger showing against a club they will need to finish above this season if they wish to avoid a relegation battle. St Helens were clinical in a very professional showing against a very disappointing Tigers side. There can be little else to predict here other than a strong victory to the Saints with only home advantage helping out the French side. This is a big test for St Helens in terms of where their mindset and application is this early in the season, anything other than a clinical and committed performance by them in this round 2 clash will be cause for a dressing down by the coach.”

James: “One of the biggest challenges for St Helens this season will be coping with the expectations on them, which will surely grow week on week if their win over Castleford is anything to go by. Catalans were drab at Widnes and it’s hard to see how they can possibly turn things around enough in a week to get anywhere near Justin Holbrook’s men.”

James – St Helens by 10 / Damian – St Helens by 22

Castleford v Widnes (Sunday)

Damian: “Castleford come into this first home clash for the season with plenty to improve on and a real need for a good showing to appease a very disappointed supporter base. Cas were lifeless last weekend against St Helens and lacked any kind of direction and ability to test St Helens in attack. Some injury concerns haven’t helped but the squad looks shallow and I’m not sure where a turnaround can come from in a week from that lacklustre display. On the flipside Widnes will be buoyed by what I think is the performance of the week and will improve on that for this match. Castleford WILL improve, they must, and they will need to if they wish to avoid an embarrassing round 2 defeat, however I think Widnes have improvement in them also and can pip the Tigers on their own turf.”

James: “I feared for Widnes after Castleford’s performance at St Helens on Friday, as they will be licking their wounds and wanting to put the record straight in round two. But the Vikings put in a solid performance against Catalans on Sunday without really having to stretch themselves, and Denis Betts will be fancying them to put a bit of pressure on Castleford this week.

James – Castleford by 16 / Damian – Widnes by 4

Last week’s scores – view the predictions

Game James Phil Cooper Result
Warrington v Leeds Leeds by 2 Warrington by 6 Leeds by 4
Hull v Huddersfield Hull by 14 Hull by 14 Hull by 26
Salford v Wigan Wigan by 10 Wigan by 16 Wigan by 28
St Helens v Castleford St Helens by 7 St Helens by 4 St Helens by 40
Hull KR v Wakefield Hull KR by 6 Hull KR by 8 Wakefield by 22
Widnes v Catalans Widnes by 4 Catalans by 12 Widnes by 28

James Head to Head victories: 1-0 / Total Head to Head predictions: 5-3

Don’t forget to leave your predictions for this weekend’s games over on our Tipping League.

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