A double-header of games a few miles apart today will go a long way towards determining the emerging pattern of this season’s Super League play-offs.
Hard on the heels of Wigan’s victory at Huddersfield, their two north-west neighbours are both in action this afternoon and evening. Warrington and Leeds stage a repeat of last year’s Grand Final, having also met in an epic in July, which the Wolves won 19-18.
Their captain and former Leeds prop, Adrian Morley, expects it to be as close this time. “The last game in particular was a real nail-biter,” he said. “They’ve got a few of their big players back, but we are in a healthy position injury-wise as well, so it’s all adding up to a cracking contest.”
The Rhinos’ only change is recalling the battle-hardened prop, Ryan Bailey, after a one-match suspension at the expense of the 18-year-old forward, Alex Foster.
“They are probably the form team, but we are confident, too,” said Morley, who leaves at the end of this season for his home-town club, Salford.
Like Leeds, the Wolves have stuck to fielding strong line-ups during the latter stages of the season, rather then giving front-line players a rest.
The same cannot be said of Hull KR, who go to St Helens in the sudden death semi-final this evening. They add a small army of first-choice players to the squad that lost to the London Broncos in their final regular season match last Sunday.
Most important is their scrum-half and playmaker, Michael Dobson, for whom this will be his last game in Rovers’ colours if they lose.
Saints’ season has steadily improved, giving them a fifth-placed finish, the position from which Leeds have won the last two Super Leagues. They are unchanged and have settled into a pattern of play which eluded them when they looked likely to miss out on the play-offs altogether.
There is good World Cup news from Australia for the England coach, Steve McNamara, whose possible stand-off for the tournament, Gareth Widdop, came safely through his comeback game for Melbourne.
Widdop had been ruled out by a dislocated hip, but has returned ahead of schedule to stake his claim, despite being unable to help the Storm win their play-off match against South Sydney.
- More about:
- Carnegie Challenge Cup
- Rugby League
- Salford City Reds
- Wigan Warriors