Fan panel: Our experts from the terraces preview tonight’s games

Catalans v Hull FC

Catalans fan: Chris Evans

Last week was a real watershed fixture as Catalans looked to build on the win over Hull KR. Those of you who saw the game will have witnessed one of the weakest efforts in recent memory and given some of the performances last year, that is saying something.

The errors returned in abundance, but many questioned the desire in the wet and cold conditions, illustrated by the clip of Michael McIlorum looking less than eager to get back onto the pitch following his sin-binning. It was just under a year ago when Laurent Frayssinous was sacked to make way for Steve McNamara to come in and keep the Dragons in Super League.

He just about achieved that, but many now question the direction that the club is taking. Is he to blame or is there something else inside the club that is rotten? Whatever the issues, the Dragons need to be at their very best this weekend to avoid a heavy scoreline against Hull FC.

Batieri and Broughton come back into the squad and there is clearly lots of quality in the line-up. I look at the Hull squad and fear the worst. Albert Kelly is back from injury and the Hull side has a great balance of skill and strength.

Catalans had decent results against FC last season, but they were early on, before the side went into freefall. A freefall which looks set to continue into 2018. I can see a very one-sided match with serious questions being asked about the future of the coach.

Score prediction: Hull FC 36-4 Catalans

Hull KR v St Helens

Hull KR Fan: James Deighton

Last Thursday’s thumping of the Huddersfield Giants was exactly what Tim Sheens’ side needed. A clinical performance managed by the blossoming halfback partnership of Danny McGuire and Chris Atkin and finished off well fashionably by Adam Quinlan, Ryan Shaw and Andrew Heffernan earned the Robins their first away win of the season. However, it was once again the young front-rower, Robbie Mulhern, who stole the headlines with his powerhouse of a performance and 90 metre try assist. The former Leeds Rhino is only getting better and showing everyone why he should’ve been named in the England Knights squad a few weeks ago.
Onto this week’s game and a trio of Robins will front up against their former club St Helens. Adam Quinlan, Mose Masoe and Tommy Lee will all face the Red Vee for the first time since their respective departures looking to keep KCOM Craven Park a ‘bogey ground’ for Justin Holbrook’s men. Notorious strugglers in East Hull and seeking revenge after their first defeat of the season last week, Saints surely have no better motivation to maintain top of the ladder. Losing Alex Walmsley for the season with a fractured neck, is a massive blow and I wish arguably the best front-rower in the league a speedy recover, but this will also give motivation for Saints to win trophies for him. 
Since 2007, 22 games have been played between the two red and white sides, with the men from Merseyside winning 12, Hull KR 9 and spoils being shared once. My favourite victory was back in 2008, when a two-point victory was secured thanks to an ‘after the hooter’ touchline conversion by Jamie Lyon was waved away by the touch judges. With only ever two Super League victories at Craven Park for St Helens, the Rovers will be hoping the hoodoo continues and on the back of a fantastic performance last week I expect Ryan Shaw’s kicking to be the difference.
Score prediction: Rovers 24-22 Saints

Leeds v Castleford

Leeds Fan: Tom Gilfeather

After the fantastic result against the previously invincible St Helens, the Rhinos welcome Castleford Tigers to Elland Road for ‘The Clash’. Hopefully, there will be a bumper crowd and potentially a Super League record for this Grand Final rematch. We were excellent at taking our limited number of chances against Saints last week and will have to be again this week I feel. Even though Brad Dwyer, who has been impressive for us this season so far, looks like he could return we’re still missing a good chunk of our first choice team for another game. However, we can clearly draw resolve on the fact we’ve beaten both Hull FC and Saints in tight games in spite of these injury woes.

Tom Briscoe impressed me massively last Friday and got involved a lot all over the park; as did the big efforts of Mullaly and Singleton. Mullaly’s jinking and wriggling style is very hard for defences to handle and he’s maturing into a great player for Leeds. Our younger players, especially Oledzki were outstanding and really stood up. The potential return of Dwyer will be key to making sure Parcell (who has been hands down in our top three players this season) can have a rest before going into the busy Easter period too. It’s a shame Ash Golding didn’t get much of a game and probably won’t feature against Cas, but Jack Walker was great when he came on both in attack and defence.

This is a big game for both teams. Though we beat Cas in both the 2014 Challenge Cup Final and of course the 2017 Grand Final, they are correct to sing of their impressive run against us in regular season games. Equally, there is nothing that the Tigers would like to do more than to spoil Leeds’ party in front of a big Elland Road audience as revenge for last year. Though they are clearly not as dominant as in 2017, Castleford’s season has started in a disjointed matter at best as they’ve only played 4 games and yet to have the chance to put a real run of form together. Form will go out of the window I expect, however as this big derby game will be all about passion and who turns up on the day.

Score prediction: Leeds 28-24 Castleford

Castleford fan: Mike Preston

It’s a real struggle coming up with consistent reviews when we can’t get on the pitch, another frustrating week has passed where we haven’t fulfilled a fixture. So I will look ahead.

We play Leeds at Elland Road which will be a new experience for us all. It’s going to have a magic weekend style feel to it at a neutral ground although Leeds are considered the home team. The pitch is pretty big so hopefully if the ground is firm it could suit our style of play.

Leeds undoubtedly impressed last week against a St Helens team that looked to be a real force. Their defence is always pretty solid and they just grind out that victory, even more impressive with the players missing through injury.

We also have players missing through injury and suspension. It’s a great opportunity for squad players to take their chance. It could be tough to have a consistent performance with new players coming into the 17 and another week off but I think it’ll be a great battle. I hope Gadwin Springer gets some game time and takes his chance. Alex Foster will also get a great opportunity against his former team on the left edge with Jesse Sene-Lefao and Oliver Holmes out injured and suspended respectively.

Score prediction: Leeds 14-16 Castleford

Warrington v Wakefield

Warrington fan: Peter Thomas

We’re all waiting for summer rugby to actually start, but even the passing of the spring equinox and with the changing of the clocks about due it still feels like the middle of winter…

…Need convincing, just ask the two teams about last week…Warrington went to the south of France, and I was there too, and found nothing but heavy, nasty, persistent rain; as for Wakefield, well their game was abandoned mid-match for snow. What is going on, please summer just hurry up!

Back home and Warrington this week confirmed some great news with the signing of Josh Charnley. Returning to rugby league, Charnley has often proven to be a thorn in the side of Wire, so at least he won’t be breaking primrose and blue hearts anymore. Quite how his return pans out will only be seen with time, but it’s a mighty positive step forward and statement of intent for the team and I for one am very happy indeed – most Wire fans seem to agree too. Named in the squad, Charnley could debut this Friday.

Back to France and playing in typical Warrington like weather, the Wire were the first team to ever nil Catalan at home in the Super League era. They looked as good as they have all season, strong defensively and potent going forward. That said, Catalan were a weak opponent, but you can only beat the team in front of you, and the Wire did so easily. The handling was as slick as the ball, and there felt like there was a noticeable reduction in their penalty count, even with the sin-bins!

Wakefield come to the Halliwell Jones on Friday after an abandoned game and a loss against Wigan, so probably a little out of sorts. Before that however, they went 4 straight wins to start the year, so they’re a top-level opponent. Warrington will do well to win the game but I believe they will.

Home advantage, competition for places now being intensified, and Price starting to mould the team as he wants should be enough to edge a close one. Have Warrington turned the corner, or are they stuck on a roundabout? I think it’s the former and hence my backing of Wire to win.

Score Prediction: Warrington 23-18 Wakefield

Wakefield fan: Callum Wood

Saturday night saw both Trinity and Widnes defeated by the horrendous conditions, and I am not even able to talk about the 25 minutes what were played because I couldn’t even see what was happening. Now the weather has changed, we look to Friday’s game against the Wolves, a daunting place for Trinity given results in the past.

But how times have changed, we will be the favourites going into this game but with a huge boost to Warrington’s pack and after a big win over the Dragons, Warrington won’t be a walk in the park.

Tyler Randell will be the player to watch, if he performs then he will cause many problems for the wolves and feel he can contribute a lot of his skill to get a victory on Friday night and with only playing one game this season, he has already caught my eye!

It will be exciting to see which Wakefield winger will be put up against Josh Charnley and both teams will know how dangerous both wingers will be and how much they can do to make their team win.

It will be great to get back to winning ways on Friday night but Trinity know it will be tough playing away and needing the two points to keep their strong position in the Super League table.

Score prediction: Warrington 16-28 Wakefield

Huddersfield v Wigan

Giants fan: @GiantsFanzine

Last week, Huddersfield welcomed Hull KR and the Sky cameras and produced their worst Super League performance since the nilling at Leigh just over a year ago.

Once again, a strong start with little in the way of tries, followed by a total meltdown. The exact same story as the other three losses this year. With Mamo a last-minute withdrawal, Stone made the bizarre choice to move Rankin to fullback and Gaskell to six. Rankin is a far better halfback than Gaskell, and Gaskell is the better fullback, although why we had to put either one of them there when Darnell McIntosh was in the 19 is beyond me.

The Brough/Rankin halfback partnership is by far the best we’ve got and should be deployed at the DW alongside a fullback who can organise our defence. Mamo and Roberts miss out to injury while Lawrence and Walne will hopefully be back to full fitness. I’d like to hope these two can bring something to our game, but so far our forwards haven’t been the problem. They’re making the yards and the tackles, but our 1-7 are struggling to turn that into an attacking threat.

Our tactic of refusing to pass to the wingers is confusing at best, off the back of McGillvary’s incredible form for England you’d think actually letting him get the ball near the line would be a given. Wigan sit second in the table with a game in hand and are in great form, so they will undoubtedly be the heavy favourites.

But I’m reminded of the Challenge Cup game against Swinton game last year, when we suffered an embarrassing home defeat after just two wins all season. The following week, we played second-placed Leeds at Headingley and pulled out a huge performance that turned our season around. We’ve got the two wins, poor form and an embarrassing home loss, so we’re on track to repeat that feat. All we need now is a miraculous win against second-placed Wigan, at their own ground. Are we capable of pulling it off? Sure. Will we? I’m not getting my hopes up.

Scored prediction: Wigan 24-10 Giants