Chances Running Out For Dragons As Leigh Fight To Avoid Wooden Spoon
After mixing it with the top sides for much of 2016 Catalans Dragons were heavily fancied to challenge for the top four in 2017. Yet it has somehow not worked out that way, with Laurent Frayssinous sacked after a run of five consecutive defeats culminating in an 18-10 loss to Huddersfield Giants at the Magic Weekend. New recruits have not had the impact that had been hoped and expected of them, while the likes of Glenn Stewart, Dave Taylor and Eloi Pelissier have been badly missed.
Two of those three are now with Leigh Centurions, the Dragons next opponents as they look to keep alive their very slim hopes of making the Super 8s at the end of the regular season. The Dragons are currently 10th, four point adrift of eighth place Wigan Warriors with just four games to play before the split. An undignified scrap for their Super League life looks on the cards throughout August before new coach Steve McNamara gets the chance to stamp his mark on the side and perhaps launch a challenge for honours in 2018. He has already overseen his first bit of business, with halfback Richie Myler joining Leeds Rhinos after two years in the south of France.
Leigh fans won’t be all that surprised to see their side back in the Middle 8 Qualifiers but they will be keen to see their side get off the bottom of the table. Currently they sit a point behind Widnes Vikings after losing 36-10 at the Select Security Stadium last time out, but a win in Perpignan would see them move ahead of Denis Betts’ side ahead of their farcically rearranged visit to Wigan this weekend. Not that it is all that likely. As poor as the Dragons have been at times this year Leigh have only won once away from home in the league in 2017. That was against top four mainstays Hull FC, and with a recent tonking of Wigan also on the CV coach Neil Jukes may argue that there is more to be optimistic about for the Centurions than the table would suggest.
It was perhaps mildly surprising to see Wakefield challenging among the top side in the early part of the season, but now that we are getting to that time of year when the whips really start cracking their presence in the top five is an even greater upset. They will make the Super 8s for the second consecutive year having been the easy-beats of 2015 and, who knows, with a bit of luck and a fair wind Chris Chester’s side could yet be in the shake-up for Grand Final places come September.
Standing in their way this week are the not very immovable object that is Warrington. It’s been an annus horribilis for Tony Smith’s side who, like Catalans, see their chances of reaching the Super 8s slim down with every passing week. They entered last chance saloon some time ago and are currently propped up in a stool in a corner, drunk, refusing to leave. Kurt Gidley’s decision to announce his retirement at the end of this season won’t have helped lift spirits although Smith could include new signing Peta Hiku, a versatile New Zealand international back who has joined from Penrith Panthers. There is no sign of other recent recruit Ben Pomeroy as yet, although Stefan Ratchford returns to the squad following his suspension.
Trinity will be looking to bounce back from a painful 40-18 stuffing by Hull FC last weekend but are in reasonable form overall having won six in a row before back-to-back defeats at home to Leeds and at the home of the black and whites. They are well capable of another winning run which could catapult them back into the top four and see them making a still surprising appearance in the final four. And what better opponent than a beleaguered Warrington against whom to start such a run?