Two of the early top four clash in Super League tonight, as the Leeds Rhinos host the Widnes Vikings – with both teams putting their unbeaten records on the line at the Headingley Carnegie Stadium.
The Rhinos dropped their first points of 2014 last week, as they claimed a point in a thrilling 12-12 draw with the Huddersfield Giants. Their form – and in particular, their back division – has been nothing short of sensational this season, and they will be looking to claim a fourth victory of the season over a Vikings side who are in magnificent form themselves. Ben Jones-Bishop and Ryan Bailey have been added to the squad, whilst Brett Delaney and Carl Ablett have both shaken off injuries suffered in that draw against the Giants.
Despite having played a game less than their rivals, the Vikings are nicely poised in fourth place on the Super League ladder, and will be looking for a fourth consecutive victory in their first away game of the season. They will, however, be forced to make a number of changes tonight, as Stef Marsh, Paul Johnson and the impressive Phil Joseph dropping out of their squad due to injury. Denis Betts has been able to call upon the services of the likes of Patrick Ah Van, Cameron Phelps and Ben Kavanagh again though, to offset those injury blows.
Leeds Rhinos: Hardaker, Jones-Bishop, Watkins, Moon, Hall, McGuire, Burrow, Leuluai, Aiton, Peacock, Jones-Buchanan, Ablett, Sinfield, Ward, Delaney, Bailey, Achurch, Briscoe, Singleton.
Widnes Vikings: Ah Van, Brown, Clarke, Clough, Craven, Dean, Flynn, Galea, Gerrard, Hanbury, Isa, Kavanagh, Leuluai, Lloyd, Mellor, Owens, Phelps, Tickle, White.
Leeds Rhinos have won their last eight meetings (four home fixtures) with Widnes, with the Vikings’ last victory coming 29-14 at home on 28 June, 2003.
Leeds’ Ryan Hall (2-2-2-1) has scored tries in all four of the Rhinos’ meetings with Widnes since the Vikings’ return to Super League.
Kevin Brown needs three tries to reach a career century of touchdowns. His total of 97 has been scored as follows: 31 for Wigan (2003-2006), 51 for Huddersfield (2006-2012) and 15 for Widnes (2013-2014).
Danny Tickle is another Viking who needs three tries to reach a career century of touchdowns. His total of 97 has been scored as follows: 10 for Halifax (2000-2002), 34 for Wigan (2002-2006), 47 for Hull FC (2007-2013), 1 for Widnes (2014), 1 for England (2012) and 4 for England ‘A’ (2002-2003).
Carl Ablett needs just one appearance to reach 200 for Leeds. Ablett made his Rhinos debut off the bench in a 36-36 draw with London Broncos at Griffin Park, Brentford, on 18 July, 2004.
Kevin Sinfield needs 16 points to reach 3,500 for Leeds. Sinfield, the club’s all-time leading pointscorer, has 79 tries, 1,567 goals and 34 field goals in 468 appearances for the Rhinos since 1997.
Perhaps the toughest game of the evening to call; however, Leeds are looking in superb shape at the moment, and should just about have enough to get past the Vikings.