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Superleague Round 21 Preview
A gap seems to have opened up between the top six teams and those below who remain desperate to squeeze their way into the play-offs ? or avoid relegation at all costs. Either way teams at the top and bottom of the ladder will be desperate for wins this week to sort out the Superleague pecking order. Game on!
Now sharing the bottom of the table, Wigan will be keen to get well clear of it here with a win. But it will be a tough ask against a gutsy Salford side that went down only narrowly against Hull last week. Wigan have hit some good form winning their last four in a row, overlooking imports Pat Richards and David Vaealiki for spots in their line-up along the way. Salford await news about their bid for a new stadium any week now, but will be without the injured Ian Sibbit for the rest season, while Andrew Dunneman misses this game with a foot injury. Should be a good close contest, hard to split these sides at the moment.
Catalans also now share the bottom of the table, but are immune to relegation given their status as an expansion club. This won?t stop them competing as pride dictates that the new team not rely upon its special conditions just yet. Bradford lost narrowly in the final stages to Leeds last weekend, and will be looking for a win here at home to make amends. Lesley Vainikolo?s return from injury couldn?t come at a better time for the Bulls, with injured winger Karl Pryce joining Marcus Bai on the sidelines. Catalans will be without Julien Rinaldi, but Thomas Bosc, Remi Casty and Mark Hughes return to the squad. Expect the Bulls to be too strong for Catalans here.
Friday: St Helens v Harlequins RL
Competition leaders St Helens will be on their guard against a Harlequins side that sent Tony Rea out a winner last week and currently sit just out of the action in seventh place. Willie Talau and Lee Gilmour are expected back for the Saints, but Paul Sculthorpe and Francis Meli remain sidelined, with an injury doubt over Sean Long. New Harlequins coach Brian McDermott has injury troubles of his own with Solomon Haumone, Danny Williams and Karl Temata all unavailable, but the return of Thomas Leuluai and Luke Dorn as well as the loan of Warrington?s Paul Noone could help to ease his mind. St Helens to win here, as long as they?re switched on.
The Hull winning streak may be at risk as they host a Warrington outfit fresh off a win over Huddersfield last week. Hull have gone 12 games without a loss, and appear to be at full strength for this match at the KC. Warrington however are without Chris Bridge, Logan Swann, Paul Rauhihi, Mark Gleeson, Jon Clarke, and Ben Harrison all through injury. Hull will have their eyes on a top two position if one of the leaders slips up, and even though fifth place Warrington are more than capable of competing it?s hard to argue with a winning streak like this, Hull to win at home.
Sunday: Huddersfield Giants v Wakefield Trinity Wildcats
Two teams in real relegation danger battle it out here for a vital two points that might lift them out of trouble for the time being. Both teams were dominated in the first halves of their games last week and will be looking for a positive start to this match to build their momentum. Huddersfield have now lost four games in a row, and Wakefield their last three. Wakefield have secured the services of Huddersfield centre James Evens for the rest of the season along with French half Maxime Greseque to help in their quest to avoid relegation, but neither have been named in their squad for this match. This one will be close, but home ground advantage may be enough to get Huddersfield home here.
Castleford also find themselves in seventh position with the possibility of pushing for a play-off spot, but the competition is so even that only three points separates them from potential relegation. The Tigers will be without Waine Pryce who broke his leg in two places in their loss to Harlequins last week, but could welcome back half Andy Kain who has been out of action for a few months. Leeds welcome back Matt Diskin after some knee surgery, but will continue to play newest recruit Jamie Thackray in their Academy (U21) side. Kevin Sinfield is hoping to be fit for the Rhinos after hurting his leg last week against Bradford, and with first place only two points away, Leeds should register the win here to keep the pressure on St Helens.