Will Warrington Finally Get Going?
If you base your opinion solely on results – and let’s be honest little else matters when all is said and done – then it has been a horror start to the season for Warrington Wolves. After beating Brisbane Broncos in such fine style in the World Club Series Tony Smith’s side remain winless in Super League.
In mitigation the fixture list has not been kind with early pace-setters Castleford Tigers and Wigan Warriors already having tasted victory over Wire along with Catalans Dragons. Yet the loss at Salford will be a cause of most alarm to Smith whose side sit bottom of the early season table, the only side in the competition still without a single point to their name.
Now they visit Leigh Sports Village to take on a Centurions side which will be rather more pleased with its start to the season having already secured wins over St Helens and Huddersfield Giants. Though there were heavy defeats against the Tigers and Warriors Neil Jukes’ side can also take encouragement from a narrow loss to Leeds Rhinos in mid-February. They’ve shown enough to suggest that they may not struggle as badly as some predicted and might also consider that they are facing Warrington at a good time, such is the depth of their current slump.
Handling errors have been a problem for both sides, with Leigh having made more than any other Super League side so far (64) and Warrington third on that list with 56. In fairness Leigh have played a game more than all but three other Super League sides thanks to their earlier involvement in the Challenge Cup but it’s clear that both sides have an expansive approach which could lead either to an entertaining point-fest come Thursday night (March 16) or a painful, error-strewn plod.
Warrington’s need is desperate. Another loss could see them fall 10 points behind Castleford and Wigan should they win against Salford and Huddersfield respectively. For that reason they must finally get their season up and running in this one.
Hull FC Are Well Placed But Must Improve
Lee Radford’s Hull FC side have made a solid start to the season, sitting third in the table with three wins from four outings. Yet they haven’t gone about it in a totally convincing manner. Last week’s 24-14 home success over Saints was a scrappy affair considering it was a contest between to of last season’s top four sides and it is possible that a team with a bit more ambition and better discipline could have returned from East Yorkshire with the points.
Yet maybe the ability to win when not playing at your best is a characteristic of a potential champion side. Hull welcome Widnes Vikings to the KCom this weekend and will hope to play with a little more fluency. If they do, they should be too strong for a Widnes side which had been competing well in 2017 before it ran into a red-hot Castleford Tigers outfit last Sunday (March 12). Dennis Betts side lost 34-0 on their own midden against Daryl Powell’s in-form side but before that had lost narrowly to Wigan and Huddersfield while earning a hard-fought point in Perpignan.
FC are likely to be without Jansin Turgut who has been charged after introducing Alex Walmsley to his elbow on Friday night (March 10) while Liam Watts continues to serve a suspension for a dangerous throw in defeat at home to Catalans Dragons on February 23. Watts’ absence in particular will not help their offload game. A team normally noted for it’s ability to play open rugby league currently find itself with the fewest successful offloads of all Super League sides with just 33. Happily for them, they have been solid defensively conceding fewer points (46) than any other Super League team and missing fewer tackles (67).
That last stat will concern Widnes who are in dire need of some go-forward. They have made the fewest metres in Super League so far with just 4027 while also managing the fewest tackle busts (67) and clean breaks (11). For those reasons, expect Hull FC to continue their recent good run of form with a third consecutive league victory.