sports gazette

Stobart Super League Week 4 Preview

The Dragons could put down a massive marker with a win tonight (Gerard Barrau)
Published: 24 Feb 2012

The Sports Gazette looks forward to the big clash between the Saints and the Dragons and all the rest of this weekend's Super League action.

St Helens (2nd) vs Catalans Dragons (5th): 8 00 Live on Sky Sports 1

Two unbeaten sides come together in the clash of the weekend at Saints new Langtree Park stadium. The home side secured a point with the last kick of the game last week against Hull KR whilst the Dragon’s saw off the Tigers in the south of France to maintain their perfect start to the season.

Saints have loose forward Mark Flanagan and stand-off Lee Gaskell back from injury while Ade Gardner and Josh Perry make way in the squad for Paul Clough and Tommy Makinson. Francis Meli has been in great try scoring form this season and has 4 tries in 3 games so far.

The Dragons' perfect start to the season has been all the more impressive given the massive injury list that the French side have had to put up with. Louis Anderson, Frederic Vaccari, Cyril Stacul and Eloi Pelissier are all still out, while captain Gregory Mounis returns to make his first start of the season. Leon Pryce returns to his former club on the wing for the Catalans.

Match Forecast: St Helens will be favourites for this clash, especially given home advantage, but they have stuttered through their games so far. They haven’t managed to put a good 80 minutes together yet this season and the Catalans could catch them cold especially with Mounis returning to bolster the pack. I can see this game going against the favourite’s tag, and the Catalans will be sitting top of the table by the end of the night.

Best Bet: It will be a close game and the Dragons to win by 6-10 points (11/1 Skybet) looks like excellent value for money.

Salford City Reds (11th) vs Hull FC (6th): 8 00

The Reds will be looking to build on last week’s win over the Vikings when they take on an unbeaten Hull side who just about saw off the Broncos last Sunday in a bruising encounter.

Salford are still looking for their first win at their new stadium, having lost to St Helens on their first home outing. The home side will be without Vinnie Anderson after the prop injured an elbow meaning that Ryan Boyle should make his first appearance of the season. Much will depend on the point scoring prowess of Daniel Holdsworth who scored 18 points last week in victory over the Vikings.

Last week’s win over the Broncos came at a cost for Hull as they lost Sam Moa to suspension for his high shot on Julien Renaldi and also saw Joe Westerman dislocate his shoulder as he scored the Black and Whites second try. Josh Bowden looks set to make his debut as a replacement for Moa.

Match Forecast: Salford will be desperate to get a first win at their new stadium and will have gained a lot of confidence from victory over the Vikings but Hull are a much tougher proposition, even with injury and suspension problems. Hull will extend their unbeaten start to the season here.

Best Bet: Jodie Broughton has scored in both of Hull FC’s games so far this season and he is 11/2 with Skybet to get another two tries in this game.

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats (8th) vs Bradford Bulls (12th): 7 45 Saturday Live on Sky Sports 1

Yorkshire rivals Wakefield and Bradford come together at Belle Vue with both sides desperate to get a victory to ignite their seasons. Wakefield had the weekend off last week as opponents Leeds were playing Manly for the title of the best side in the world. Bradford were on the receiving end of a hammering from the Wigan Warriors.

The Wildcats sole win this season came on the opening day of the season against the whipping boys so far the Widnes Vikings. They make one change to the squad that lost to Hull KR a fortnight ago with Motu Tony replacing second-rower Frankie Mariano in the squad.

Bradford coach Mick Potter has made three changes to the Bulls squad. Former Wakefield man Ben Jeffries replaces Luke Gale, who has an ankle injury, to make his first appearance of the season. John Bateman and Danny Addy also come into the visitor’s squad.

Match Forecast: This game could go either way as both sides are very evenly matched. Wakefield beat Bradford at Belle Vue on the last day of last season but this year it should be a different story. Bradford seem more comfortable playing away from home this season, and that will swing the game in their favour.

Best Bet: Bradford to win both halves (4/1 Bet365) could well be a winner, especially with Jarred Sammut pulling all the strings for the Bulls.

Widnes Vikings (14th) vs Leeds Rhinos (9th): 2 00 Sunday

Rock bottom Widnes take on the newly crowned World Champions at the Stobart Stadium still chasing their first points of the season.

Widnes have real injury problems going into this game after losing Ben Kavanagh (Snapped Achilles) and Anthony Watts (Torn ACL). Both men are expected to be out for at least six months although Widnes refused to blame the artificial pitch installed at the Stobart Stadium for either injury. The Vikings will welcome back Hep Cahill and Simon Finnigan from a club suspension, although the third of the suspended trio, Scott Moore, has a broken jaw and will be out for 5 weeks. New signing Shaun Briscoe will make his first appearance for the club after recovering from injury.

Leeds will be without second-rower Jamie Jones-Buchanan after a knee operation ruled him out for up to three month. Fellow forward Chris Clarkson is also out with injury. New signing Richard Moore, could make his first appearance for the club in light of these injuries, while Ian Kirke, Weller Hauraki and Jay Pitts will all be scrapping for the final spot on the Rhino’s bench.

Match Forecast: Leeds should have no problem in overcoming the Vikings, for whom this game could be the first of a series of heavy defeats this season given their early season showing.

Best Bet: Danny McGuire has great memories of playing the Vikings after scoring five tries against them in a game in 2004 and he should be licking his lips at playing the Vikings again. Leeds to win by 41+ points (12/5 Paddy Power) looks to be the best value for this game

London Broncos (13th) vs Huddersfield Giants (3rd): 2 00 Sunday

The second best attack in the league takes on the second worst defence at the Stoop on Sunday when Huddersfield make the trip down south looking to go top of the Stobart Super League table.

The home side are still looking for their first points of the season having gone down 22-14 to Hull FC week in a game that saw them lose hooker Julien Rinaldi and second-rower Shane Rodney to injury. Liam Colborn is fit again to return to the 19 man squad, while Matt Cook could make his first appearance for the club should he pass a fitness test. Dan Sarginson and Karl Temata both remained side-lined for the Broncos after their moves from the Hemel Stags.

For the Giants, centre Aaron Brown is in line to make his first appearance for the club, while Shane Lunt and Larne Patrick have both been called up by coach Nathan Brown. The Giants suffered their first reversal of the season last week against the Warrington Wolves but they are the joint top try scorers in the league and in Luke George and Leroy Cudjoe they have two players in hot try-scoring form.

Match Forecast: The Broncos have had a very tough start to the season and they are in an artificially low league position at the moment, but the Giants have won their last eight meetings against the Londoners and they will make it nine in a row here.

Best Bet: This game will see points scored especially as Huddersfield have already put 66 points past Widnes this season, while the Broncos conceded 50 against the Giants. Back the Giants to win by 21-30 points (5/1 PaddyPower) this one.

Warrington Wolves (1st) vs Hull KR (7th): 3 00 Sunday

The table toppers Warrington welcome Hull KR to the Halliwell Jones Stadium having come out on top in last week’s clash against the Huddersfield Giants. Hull KR were denied a win against St Helens when Jamie Foster scored a penalty after the hooter had gone to finish the game 36-36.

The Wolves will be without the injured back-row duo of Ben Harrison and Simon Grix who are both out with knee injuries. They are able to welcome back the trio of full back Brett Hodgson, prop Gareth Carvell and hooker Micky Higham from injury for the game against a Hull KR side they have beaten in their last three meetings.

The away side will still be haunted by that last minute penalty that cost them the points last week, but they could not have a tougher test if they want to bounce back from that disappointment. The Robins injury list is growing with Scott Murrell joining Ben Galea, Blake Green and Michael Dobson on the physio’s table. Tony Smith will be hand debuts to hooker Keal Carlile and utility player Dave Peterson as the Robins look to beat the Wolves for the first time since 2010.

Match Forecast: Hull’s performance last week proved that on their day they can compete with anyone, but it would be asking too much for them to repeat that level of performance again this week. The Wolves will have enough to win this one.

Best Bet: Both these sides have been involved in high scoring games so far this season, and don’t expect this one to be any different. Between 44-56 match points (13/8 BetFred) looks a good proposition.

Castleford Tigers (10th) vs Wigan Warriors (4th): 3 30 Sunday

This game has been totally overshadowed by the tragic death of Castleford’s coach Ian Millward’s son during the week. Millward will not be present at the game as he is on compassionate leave but in his absence the Tigers will have to be at their very best to get anything from the Warriors.

Acting coach Stuart Donlan has named an unchanged squad and his only question is whether to name James Grehan or Jonathan Walker on the substitute’s bench as the Tigers look to end of a run of only one win in five games.

Wigan too have named an unchanged side after they put 54 points past Bradford last weekend. Sam Tomkins will make his 100th appearance for the Warriors on Sunday. Jack Hughes in the centre has been a revelation deputising for the injured George Carmont and he will keep his place for the trip to the PROBIZ Coliseum.

Match Forecast: This game sees the two top try scorers in the league go head to head as Josh Charnley of Wigan and Josh Griffin of Castleford both go looking for their sixth try of the embryonic season. Expect lots of points but with most of them coming in the favour of the away side, who will make it eight matches unbeaten against the Tigers.

Best Bet: Go with Wigan to win by 16-20 points (13/2 BetVictor) in this one. As Wigan proved against Leeds, on their day they can beat anyone with ease, but the Tigers will be desperate to put in a show for Ian Millward during his most difficult of weeks, and even though it won’t be enough to see them win the game, they will keep it tighter than one could normally expect.

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