TotalRL’s expert fan panel preview Friday night’s Super League action

Warrington v St Helens

Warrington fan – Peter Thomas

There are games that take place every season that you look out for when the fixtures are announced and then there are games that fill you with a sense of dread. This Friday’s clash with St Helens ticks both boxes for me and being wholly honest, I’m concerned.

Saints are more than local rivals, they’re a team you long to beat. At the start of this season I, somewhat begrudgingly I must add, picked them to win the Grand Final, and so far it seems that I have made a very good choice indeed. Whereas Warrington’s season has struggled to get going, Saints are on fire and sit on top of the table.

Warrington have played five and won only two, with a scrappy win over Widnes and a more complete victory over (a tired) Wigan. Their losses to Leeds, Huddersfield and last week against Hull thought have highlighted some key problems.

Their defence is tighter than last year, especially out on the flanks, but Warrington should not measure themselves against the team of 2017, as they massively underachieved. Currently the problem is scoring enough points and moreover getting points on the board at crucial times. Even in the Wigan game they were

guilty of this and even gave Wigan a sniff of a chance. Wire need to kill games off and to get a more varied and penetrative kicking game at the end of sets. High bomb has followed high bomb, with little to show for it to date. The last thing Warrington want to do against an in form Saints is to give players such as Barber space.

Whilst at this stage in the season it’s far too early to panic, a loss against Saints will mean going two from six, and that’s not great. (Dec) Patton has now been suspended for five games (which seems a lot) and Brown may still be concussed (though he is in the squad) meaning potentially another game gone without the first-choice halves combination. (Ben) Currie remains out and (Bryson) Goodwin may not have fully recovered from his trip to Hull, though the latter may feature still. Yes we look tough in the forwards (unfortunately new signing (Sitaleki) Akaoula misses through suspension), but our backs are not yet firing. Not something you want when the Saints are coming to town.

I believe that we are capable of what would be an unexpected victory, but I find it difficult to look past the visitors when it comes to a predicted score – even without captain Jon Wilkin. At this stage of the season, with the form going into the game I think that they’ll prove too strong. I just hope I’m wrong

Prediction: Warrington 12-22 Saints

Widnes v Huddersfield

Huddersfield fan – @GiantsFanzine

I won’t dwell too much on the Wakefield game as it’s nothing that hasn’t been said after the other two losses. We started strong, kept the pressure on, didn’t score, and then gave it all up. Of our opening five games, this is the one we should be most confident about.

Hull, Warrington, Saints and Wakefield is no easy start to the season, and while Widnes are doing better than expected – and indeed better than the Giants – we have a squad capable of getting a good win. Alex Mellor, Tyler Dickinson and Bruno (Michael Lawrence) return this week, but with Bruno touch and go in his return from injury, I don’t expect him to play on the infamous iPitch: instead, I see Mellor taking (Tom) Symonds’ place on the bench.

In the backs we’re missing Jordan Turner after a concussion check last week, so expect Sam Wood to make his 2018 debut. He was one of our best players in pre-season and has a big future ahead. Personally I’d stick him on the right (where, last year, he played less than half his games but scored four of a total five tries) and move (Lee) Gaskell to the left. Despite the disappointing score, our backs did improve last week, with (Jake) Mamo and Jerry (McGillvary) getting 260m between them: with any luck, they’ll be back to their best and scoring tries tonight.

Widnes have had an up-and-down season so far; they shocked Leeds two weeks ago and almost looked set to repeat that effort against Wigan, before “doing a Huddersfield” and letting the lead slip in the second half. Whichever team can hold their nerve for the longest and get close to an 80-minute performance will take home the points.

Prediction: Widnes 18-22 Giants