St Helens vs Hull F.C. preview

SQUAD NEWS

St Helens

St Helens have named an unchanged side ahead of their clash with Hull F.C. at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Justin Holbrook’s men have lost just once in their opening nine games so they will be hoping to carry on their fantastic start on Friday night.

Saints 19-man Squad: 1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith, 9. James Roby, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 18. Danny Richardson, 19. Regan Grace, 20. Matty Lees, 23. Ben Barba.

Hull F.C.

Hull F.C. are welcoming back a few big names for this game with Sika Manu, Carlos Tuimavave, Danny Houghton and Jamie Shaul all expected to return to the team.

The Black and Whites have turned around their fortune around in recent weeks and look to be getting back to their best; they’ve won their last three games and will be looking to make it four against the Saints.

Hull FC 19-man Squad: 1. Jamie Shaul, 3. Carlos Tuimavave, 4. Josh Griffin, 5. Fetuli Talanoa, 6. Albert Kelly, 7. Marc Sneyd, 8. Scott Taylor, 9. Danny Houghton, 12. Mark Minichiello, 13. Josh Bowden, 14. Jake Connor, 15. Chris Green, 17. Danny Washbrook, 20. Brad Fash, 21. Sika Manu, 22. Jez Litten, 23. Mickey Paea, 24. Jack Logan, 26. Jordan Lane.

HEAD TO HEAD

The last time these two sides met, a Marc Sneyd penalty was the only difference. The half back kicked a penalty from 50 yards to snatch the points for the Yorkshire-men.

Both of these sides have won their last three games which is a massive achievement over the tough Easter period.

Sometimes the week after Easter can see performance levels drop due to fatigue, but this game still promises to be a classic, given that both sides have class and depth all over the field.

KEY BATTLE- James Roby V Danny Houghton

Danny Houghton and James Roby are two of the best hookers in the English game. Hull F.C. are a different team when Houghton is playing compared to when he’s not, his efficiency in defence helps the forwards around him recover and it takes a bit of pressure off them.

On the other side, James Roby is a smart hooker and he will exploit any weakness in the defensive line and make teams pay. He makes shooting out of dummy half look easy and with Ben Barba supporting him, Hull F.C. need to make sure they slow down the play the ball as much as they can to not allow the number 9 any momentum.

THE IMPORTANT DETAILS

Date: 6th April 2017

Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium

Kick-off: 19:45pm

Referee: Robert Hicks

Wigan Warriors 44 – 6 Hull KR Review

Wigan Warriors bounced back from their Good Friday derby defeat with a hammering of struggling side Hull KR on Monday afternoon.

MATCH DETAILS

Wigan Warriors eased past Hull KR in a one sided Easter Monday affair as Liam Marshall ran riot at the DW Stadium, with the young winger racing in for four of his side’s eight tries.

From the first minute the hosts dominated proceedings, but they had to wait 25 minutes to break the deadlock with Sam Tomkins scooting over from close range.

The floodgates then opened as Liam Farrell hit a fantastic line to extend the home sides lead.

Things went from bad to worse for the Robins before half-time as George Williams managed to find Marshall with a cut-out ball before returning the ball to Williams on the inside who dove over.

The Warriors still had time for two more tries before the half time hooter, as Marshall grabbed another try through a perfectly weighted Tomkins kick.

Farrell then grabbed his second off a Williams grubber kick just to the left of the posts.

Rovers finally got themselves on the scoreboard through an individual play by Chris Atkin, as the England Knights man chased down his own kick and fought to get the ball down over the line.

That was as good as it got for the away team though, as slick hands on Wigan’s left edge and a Sam Tomkins chip into the in goal area saw Marshall pounce to collect his second.

The left edge struck again as a penalty restart saw Williams throw another brilliant cut-out ball for Marshall to score spectacularly in the corner to complete his hat-trick.

He had a fourth soon after, as Wigan kicked deep for the wide man to chase down and pile more misery on the visitors.

On the full-time whistle Tomkins knocked over a penalty goal to finish off the rout and end the Warriors’ Easter schedule with a victory, to stay within touching distance of league leaders St Helens.

Hull KR remain second bottom with just two wins from their opening nine games.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

Gabe Hamlin debut

Gabe Hamlin left the field to a round of applause following his impressive debut. The former South Sydney Rabbitohs youngster didn’t look out of place down the middle of the pitch and proved he is definitely one for the future.

The 20 year old looks like he could be a fantastic find from down under if he can build on his debut performance, giving Shaun Wane a selection headache.

Field Position

Hull KR struggled to work their way into the final third of the half during the first 40, as the Wigan pack dominated proceedings. They struggled to complete and when they did the Rovers halves were forced finish their sets with a kick from inside their own half on a number of occasions.

Combine that with their lowly league position and their inability to get any points from Easter, Tim Sheens will be worried about the increasing probability of a bottom four finish.

Man Of The Match- Sam Tomkins Wigan Warriors

It may seem harsh to deny Marshall this award following a four-try display, however the all-round performance of Tomkins was one of the most important factors leading to Wigan’s win. The fullback was dangerous with the ball in hand and with the boot, as he shone in attack to edge closer to his best.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

Wigan Warriors Head Coach Shaun Wane

“There was some really good performances, I’m really pleased with that today. I like what Romain (Navarrete) and Gabe (Hamlin) gave me. Easter Monday is a difficult game because the players are still a bit sore from Friday but I thought our attitude was outstanding.”

Hull KR Head Coach Tim Sheens

“We were too indisciplined and we kept piggy backing them out of their own half. With the little ball we did have, we lost possession early in the tackle count too often and we didn’t find touch with a penalty.

“Those are the things you just can’t do at this level and we are burning ourselves in terms of energy. You can’t keep tackling a team of Wigan’s quality and as the fatigue set in we made more errors. People were trying to solve things on their own rather than working as a unit and we need to sort that out.“

THE RESULT

Wigan Warriors 44

Tries: Tomkins (25), Farrell (30, 39), Williams (33), Marshall (36, 50, 68, 76)

Goals: Tomkins 6/9

Drop Goals: n/a

Hull KR 6

Tries: Atkin (45)

Goals: Shaw 1/1

Drop Goals: n/a

SQUADS

Wigan Warriors: 1. Sam Tomkins; 2. Tom Davies, 3. Dan Sarginson, 4, Oliver Gildart, 22, Liam Marshall; 6. George Williams, 34, Josh Woods; 10. Ben Flower, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 25. Romain Navarette; 19. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 14. John Bateman. Subs: 11. Joel Tomkins, 15. Ryan Sutton, 23. Josh Ganson, 30. Gabe Hamlin.

Hull KR: 1. Adam Quinlan; 5. Ryan Shaw, 3. Thomas Minns, 22. Liam Salter, 36. Justin Carney; 24. Chris Atkin, 20. Matty Marsh; 14. Lee Jewitt, 19. Tommy Lee, 10. Mose Masoe; 11. Maurice Blair, 12. James Greenwood, 17. Chris Clarkson. Subs: 8. Nick Scruton, 15. James Donaldson, 23. Josh Johnson, 28. Will Dagger.

Referee: Ben Thaler

St Helens 21-18 Wigan

A late Joel Tomkins try wasn’t enough to inspire a Wigan Warriors comeback as St Helens grabbed their seventh win in eight games to stay on top of the Super League table with a 21-18 triumph at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

The Warriors were hit with a blow pre-game as Sam Tomkins was ruled out through illness, handing an opportunity to Morgan Escaré at full back.

The Frenchman opened Wigan’s scoring account through a penalty in the fourth minute but this was the only time the Warriors would score in the first half as Saints touched down through Ben Barba and Zeb Taia.

Jon Wilkin offloaded to Luke Thompson who gave the ball to Barba, before the full back ran round Escarè to put the Saints infront.

Five minutes before half time, the Merseysiders crossed again as James Roby scooted from dummy half and sent Zeb Taia crashing over the line with three Wigan defenders.

Wigan opened the scoring in the second half as Joel Tomkins scored after George Williams’ delightful inside ball.

The away team edged themselves in front as a loose Sean O’loughlin pass found Willie Isa who scooped it up to get his name on the scoreboard.

Danny Richardson levelled the scores with a penalty to leave an exciting finish to the game.

Regan Grace put the Saints back in front with five minutes to go as a play which started on their own fourty saw several sets of hands touch the ball as Ryan Morgan found a gap on the right edge. The next tackle saw the ball shipped across to the left hand side allowing the young Welshman to score in the corner.

Danny Richardson then extended the lead to seven points with a drop goal, before Joel Tomkins grabbed a late consolation try, albeit in vein.

WHAT WE’VE LEARNED

Ben Barba early favourite for Man of Steel?

Once again, Ben Barba shone to help Saints win. Saints fans should be extremely grateful that they’re able to witness such a talent pull on the red vee even if it is for just one year. If the full back isn’t the favourite for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award then who is?

Tomkins loss a huge blow

The late withdrawal of Sam Tomkins must’ve had an effect on Wigan’s game plan. Escaré is extremely talented in his own right but Tomkins offers that something a little bit extra in a big game such as this.

Escaré concussion

Wigan can hold their heads up high considering how well they dealt with the disruption Escaré’s concussion caused.

Losing both full backs would’ve caused major readjustments and the Warriors did well to deal with them and go in front.

Game management cost Wigan

Going into the final minute, Wigan should’ve turned down the kick at goal. This was a major mistake as who knows what could’ve happened if Wigan were able to throw the ball around at the death instead of letting the clock run down.

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

Wigan Warriors boss Shaun Wane “I can’t put into words how bad I feel at the moment. The players are devastated- this is a very important game in our calendar but we’re a tight group.

“We’ve played well this year and did some good things today. In the cold light of day, when I watch that back, with the disruption we had during the game, I’ll be ok with it.”

Saints coach Justin Holbrook: “For us to come through and win, it was great.

“Some people pointed out we hadn’t won one in eight years so to win today was great for the players, club, the fans and town. I was very proud to watch the boys win today.”

THE RESULT

ST HELENS 21

Tries: Barba, Taia, Grace

Goals: Richardson (4)

Drop Goals:  Richardson

WIGAN 18

Tries: Tomkins (2), Isa

Goals: Williams (3)

Drop Goals: n/a

SQUADS

ST HELENS: 23. Ben Barba; 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4. Mark Percival, 19. Regan Grace; 1. Jonny Lomax, 18. Danny Richardson; 10. Kyle Amor, 9. James Roby, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dom Peyroux, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin.

Subs: 6. Theo Fages, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14. Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles.

WIGAN: 20. Morgan Escare; 2. Tom Davies, 14. John Bateman, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess; 6. George Williams, 7. Sam Powell; 8. Tony Clubb, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Ben Flower, 19. Willie Isa, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean OíLoughlin.

Subs: 11. Joel Tomkins, 15. Ryan Sutton, 17. Taulima Tautai, 34. Josh Woods.

St Helens vs Wigan Preview

Good Friday sees St Helens lock horns with Wigan Warriors at the Totally Wicked Stadium.

Squad News

The Saints have made one change to their squad with Ryan Morgan replacing the injured Adam Swift.

The table toppers come into the game full of confidence after defeating Hull KR 30-6 at Craven Park. Only Leeds Rhinos have been able to dethrone them this season so the home team will be looking to find another two points tomorrow.

St Helens Squad – 1. Jonny Lomax, 2. Tommy Makinson, 3. Ryan Morgan, 4 Mark Percival, 6. Theo Fages, 7. Matty Smith, 9. James Roby, 10, Kyle Amor, 11. Zeb Taia, 12. Jon Wilkin, 13. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 14, Luke Douglas, 15. Morgan Knowles, 16. Luke Thompson, 17. Dominic Peyroux, 18. Danny Richardson, 19. Regan Grace, 20. Matty Lees, 23. Ben Barba.

Wigan Warriors

Romain Navarette and Josh Woods come into the squad in the place of Morgan Escaré and Gabe Hamlin.

The Warriors eased past Huddersfield Giants 48-10 in their last outing. Shaun Wane’s men have just the one L on their record which came away from home against Warrington. They’ve beaten Salford, Hull FC, Widnes, Wakefield and Huddersfield to be positioned second in the league.

Wigan Warriors Squad

1. Sam Tomkins, 2. Tom Davies, 4. Oliver Gildart, 5. Joe Burgess, 6. George Williams, 7. Sam Powell, 8. Tony Clubb, 9. Thomas Leuluai, 10. Ben Flower, 11. Joel Tomkins, 12. Liam Farrell, 13. Sean O’Loughlin, 14. John Bateman, 15. Ryan Sutton, 17. Taulima Tautai, 19. Willie Isa, 22. Liam Marshall, 25. Romain Navarrete, 34. Josh Woods.

Head to Head

Wigan ran out 26 – 16 winners when these two sides last met in the Super 8s last year. Oliver Gildart scored a brace to help the away side to a win the week after their Challenge Cup Final loss.

The last five meetings have seen Wigan win three and saints win two games.

This fixture always has that something a little bit ‘extra’ about it so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few handbags if the tensions rise and it could get very physical.

Key Battle – Ben Barba v Sam Tomkins

Two of the biggest names in the league will square off opposite each other as Saints Ben Barba and Wigan’s Sam Tomkins will both be playing at full back for their sides.

Barba has torn teams to pieces on many occasions this season and scored two tries at Hull KR last week. Currently leading the try scoring charts, Barba uses his lightning pace and power to breeze past defenders.

Sam Tomkins of old has returned as of late. The former New Zealand Warriors man has added a new dimension to the Wigan squad which has helped them score some fantastic tries this season through Tomkins assists.

The Important Details

Date: 30th March

Venue: Totally Wicked Stadium

Kick off: 3:15pm

Referee: Robert Hicks

The Season So Far

We’re seven rounds into the Super League season, most teams have only played six games due to the weather but here’s what I have thought of the season so far.

1st – St Helens

It’s great to see the Saints returning to their best with Ben Barba running the show for them at the back. If he carries on ruining defences like he has been then he has to be a contender for the Man Of Steel award. The Merseyside outfit have suffered in recent years but it finally seems like the good times will be coming back as long as no disasters happen.

2nd – Wigan Warriors

Many people thought Wigan would struggle this season due to the loss of Micky McIlorum and having to rely on a relatively young side but they’ve looked strong in every game they’ve played, even the 16-10 loss at the Halliwell Jones Stadium. The only reason I worry about Wigan is that I think the Australia trip could come back to haunt them in the long run when fatigue starts to kick in. Whilst the trip was successful, I think it could bite them.

3rd – Wakefield Wildcats

Wakefield have proved the doubters wrong once again with scintillating attacking rugby. Tom Johnstone earned himself a call up to the England squad with some fantastic finishes this season. If the Wildcats can hold off any offers for the youngster they really have a star of the future on their hands.

4th – Leeds Rhinos

Brian McDermott’s team have looked very impressive this season with just one loss to Widnes. They have class all over the park and their youngsters are really starting to blossom. I believe we could be seeing the start of a new era at Leeds, the two new stands and multiple future stars really make for exciting times at Headingley.

5th – Warrington Wolves

Warrington are the only team to have played all seven games and they’ve had some mixed results. Their opening fixture against Leeds showed much promise and the signing of Bryson Goodwin could be the difference for success if he stays injury free. The acquisition of Josh Charley should leave the Primrose and Blue fans watering at the mouth to see him in action. It shouldn’t take him too long to adapt back to Rugby League.

6th – Castleford Tigers

The Tigers have been hit hard with cancelled games this season and have only taken to the field four times. They seem to have got their heads together after a disastrous opening night against St Helens and have beaten Widnes, Hull FC and Salford. Daryl Powell leaving the England set up can only mean good things for the club and it shows he has confidence that he can get another chance at the national team job through success at Wheldon Road. The backlog of fixtures could hurt them towards the end of the regular season as they will have to squeeze in two games against Wigan and Hull KR so a cup run may be off the cards if they’re to aim for Old Trafford.

7th – Widnes Vikings

Widnes have shown glimpses of the talent in the team in their wins against Catalans and Leeds, in fact even in defeat at Castleford they looked strong. Their loss to Wigan was a big psychological blow as they should’ve held onto the lead and their recent loss to Huddersfield wasn’t very impressive at all. Considering the teams budget, they’re doing ok but I can’t see them escaping the middle 8s come July.

8th – Hull KR

The newly promoted Robins were most people’s pre season favourites to finish bottom due to many people feeling they lack the ability within the squad to compete week in, week out. So far they’ve performed well in four out of the six games they’ve played, they’ve beaten the Catalan Dragons and Huddersfield Giants comfortably, scared the Rhinos at Headingley and controversially lost to the Dragons away from home. The other two performances were below par and I’m sure Tim Sheens will use the space on the salary cap to make sure those results are few and far between.

9th – Hull FC

We cross the river to West Hull to look at the Black and Whites, the Challenge Cup holders lost Mahe Fonua and Gareth Ellis in the off season which are big blows. They’ve suffered injuries to Houghton, Kelly and their new signings Paea and Faraimo which haven’t helped. Many weren’t surprised to see Liam Watts be allowed to leave the club to join Castleford Tigers due to disciplinary issues. Despite only winning twice, the Airlie Birds will come good once their star players are back and they should be pushing for the top four if they don’t leave it too late.

10th – Salford Red Devils

Many people anticipated Salford would struggle after the money tap was halted with Marwan Koukash’s departure. The only success the Red Devil’s have had this season has come against the two Hull teams with convincing victories against both. The fact that the Gareth O’Brien was allowed to leave to join Toronto Wolfpack is worrying for the fans as Ian Watson stated that they wouldn’t be bullied into selling players. The middle 8’s beckons for the club unfortunately.

11th – Huddersfield Giants

After Jermaine McGillvary turned heads at the World Cup, many people expected him to light up the league with Huddersfield this season if he found that form. Neither the player or the club has found a spark this year and their recent loss to Hull KR at home made a lot of people question what is going on behind the scenes. The team is full of international standard played but they don’t seem to have clicked this year.

12th – Catalan Dragons

After they escaped relegation in the Million Pound Game, many thought it would be a wake up call for the French outfit. But how wrong could they be. The Dragons have only won once this season, in a match many people thought they shouldn’t have won due to McIlorum deliberately throwing the ball at a player to earn a penalty to win. Steve McNamara must be playing with borrowed time and if things don’t change soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the first to get the sack.

Unpredictability of Super League

After watching the Saints versus Leeds match I just had to sit back and think to myself, what a competitive league we have.

This weekend has already seen three underdogs all defeat the fixtures favourites, Hull KR handed Huddersfield a good hiding, Salford wiped the floor with a woeful Hull team and an injury hit Leeds team ended the unbeaten run of Ben Barba’s St Helens.

If just one of these results had happened we would’ve been shocked, but to have all three, what a round for the league. With three games still to play we have Hull KR sat looking down on their ‘big brother’ rivals from across the river, Warrington and their big names struggling for the second season in a row, Widnes proving doubters wrong again, Wakefield are placed right up there despite having the smallest budget in the league, what an amazing league we have.

Being a betting man can certainly not be fun this season with anyone being able to beat anyone. Hull KR had a 12 point head start against Huddersfield which now looks ridiculous.

There aren’t many leagues in the world where the majority of games are hard to call. The Premier League has a top six which are light years ahead of the travelling pack. The NFL has the Patriots who have dominated the past ten years. Our little old Super League seems to be one of the last remaining leagues with a level playing field for most of the clubs since we have a salary cap in place.

The unpredictability of the league excites me this year as we could potentially have the seventh different league leaders shield winner in the past 7 years. I for one can’t wait to see how the rest of the year unfolds.

Time for a new video ref system?

Leeds Rhinos battling Hull FC has produced some fantastic contests over the years, so I was left feeling rather disappointed that the game was overshadowed by the man in the middle yet again.

Robert Hicks is now one of the most experienced officials in the British game and whether you like him or not, he’s one of the best we have. Despite this, I can’t help feeling that we are becoming too reliant on the video referee for televised games and it is causing inconsistencies for non-televised games.

The first half lasted almost an hour, mainly due to several decisions sent upstairs by Hicks, this shouldn’t be happening as it can push away casual fans if there are too many stoppages. Rugby League is known for being hard hitting, fast paced and an all-round entertaining game, but whenever a try is scored teams can’t celebrate because they’re unsure if they have been awarded the try or not. The system really needs reviewing as we can’t carry on having the referee not having to be assertive during live matches but then must decide on the spot for a non-televised match.

Cricket operate the best review system as each team can review the umpire’s decision and if the decision is overturned then they get their review back. Why can’t we have something similar? It seems to be very rare that the decision is overturned so this would possibly shorten the length of halves by ten minutes keeping people interested.

If the RFL can’t afford to have video referees at every Super League game then this would make sense as it means the referees would have to make their mind up on the spot in every game they officiate, not just non-televised games when they can’t shy away from making a decision.

The product we have to offer has so much potential, but we just aren’t utilising it to the best of our ability.

One positive I can find from our match review system is that it is much better than the VAR nonsense going on in football at the minute. One reason video referees do work to an extent in Rugby League is because it can add excitement to games if it is used when needed, everyone watching the big screen hoping that their team have grounded the ball and T-R-Y will appear. But VAR in football just leaves confusion as no one who is watching knows what’s happening apart from the referee.

Hopefully when the new RFL chief executive is announced we will see some changes to keep the game moving forward and bringing in those TV ratings.