No Respite For Warrington
They may have finally earned their first point of the Super League season but life isn’t about to get any easier for Warrington. Last week’s 22-22 draw with Hull FC stopped the stinking rot of six consecutive league defeats to open the campaign but was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the table. Now they host a Leeds side which has rather inconveniently failed to replicate its wretched 2016 form and is instead sitting smugly in second place.
Adding to Tony Smith’s woes is the absence of the seemingly always absent Kevin Brown. The man who moved from Widnes to win trophies (stop it) suffered a concussion during the Hull draw and misses out. Ex-black and whites man Tom Lineham is included in Smith’s 19-man selection now that he is available again after suspension.
Leeds have sensibly decided not to appeal the six match suspension handed down to Brett Ferres following his crusher tackle on Oliver Gildart during last week’s win over Wigan Warriors. Brad Singleton was also sentenced to miss half a dozen earlier in the season and sits out the fourth of those. Keith Galloway and Stevie Ward are on the injury list but Danny McGuire is in line to make his 400th appearance for the Rhinos.
Fans of sitting at home eating junk food and drinking beer while consuming their rugby league will be pleased to know that Sky’s televised choice looks like being an open and entertaining one. These two sides are the top offloaders in Super League while defensively they are not exactly stubborn either. The Wolves are currently conceding more than 26 points per game while despite their improved form the Rhinos are shipping in close to 20 per game. But the key difference here looks to be in attack, where only Castleford have scored more tries than Leeds and absolutely nobody has crossed for fewer than Warrington. Not even Widnes.
Widnes Try To Stay Off The Bottom
On which subject, Dennis Betts’ side could end the weekend on the bottom of the table if Warrington can secure the win over Leeds and the Vikings fail to beat a much improved Wakefield Trinity side at Belle Vue.
Chris Chester’s side will be looking upwards at the top four instead of their usual default position of worrying about relegation, and will surely see a home clash with Widnes as one of if not the most winnable game on the schedule right now. Victory will take Trinity into double figures in terms of points on the Super League table, which is around half of what they are likely to need to repeat their feat of reaching the Super 8s in 2016. Lose and they could be leapfrogged by both Leigh and Saints, though they will probably only realise that once they have overcome the embarrassment that losing at home to Widnes would bring with it at the moment.
The Vikings’ need is desperate as we have seen. Defeat could not only leave them at the foot of the table but it would also open the gap to the top eight to a worrying five points. This is the very definition of a must-win for Widnes and they do at least come in off the back of a confidence boosting 37-24 success over Leigh Centurions last time out. Patrick Ah Van, Eamonn O’Carroll, Lloyd White, Jack Buchanan, Hep Cahill, Chris Dean, Stefan Marsh, Greg Burke and MacGraff Leuleuai make up a lengthy list of absentees for the Vikings who may instead need to rely on the inexperience of 18 year-old Keenan Brand. 19 year-old Cumbrian Jordan Johnstone and 23-year old prop Sam Brooks.
It is fair to say that resources are stretched and Trinity must be fancied in this one despite the Vikings’ win last time out.