View from the terraces: Our expert fan panel preview Saturday’s games

Wigan v Hull FC

Wigan fan: Sean Lawless

Be Part of History! That is the slogan that underpins the first Super League game outside of Europe on Saturday and what a game this could be. The inaugural Kenny-Stirling Trophy is also at grabs for the winner, not quite the Challenge Cup this time. Wigan showed against Salford, particularly in the second half, a tendency to move the ball more than perhaps they did in 2017. Hull, with class all over the field and the maestro in Albert Kelly – always entertain.

 The evening game in Wollongong is likely to be played in temperatures of around 25 degrees and on a hard track. Fitness in the second game of the season is going to be crucial and the interchange period, will probably be the deciding factor in this game.

The hard track will mean that the backs have an opportunity to express themselves and influence the game and with battles such as Tomkins v Shaul and Williams v Kelly – this could be a spectacle not to miss!

Both teams looked to have similar opening games in Round 1, close affairs for the first 40 minutes with Hull and Wigan running away in the second half. The conditions on Saturday may ensure that neither side runs away with it but that the winner on Saturday will be the side that manages their possession of the football and is the most clinical with their opportunities.

 I expect Wigan to build on the fluid attacking display from last week and to make the most of the preferable conditions that they will be faced with on Saturday. The switch of Escare and Tomkins, worked well last week and I expect that to flourish even more, with another week’s training under their belt.

I am going to go for Wigan to edge it, in a game that will showcase the best of Super League.

Score prediction: Wigan 22–16 Hull FC

Hull FC fan: Sarah MacKenzie

This weekend’s fixture is an interesting one.  Typically we don’t perform too well when we play away at Wigan but despite this technically being our away game its not on home soil for either of us.  There are so many extra variables to factor into the match, namely have both teams overcome their jet lag and what effect will the heat and humidity have on the players?  We have almost a full-strength team available with only Carlos Tuimivave unavailable for selection.  I think being able to bring Watts back into the squad will just boost the pack.  Once again we will be looking to Kelly and Sneyd to direct us around the park and with Connor as an additional pivot we have plenty of options open to us for last plays.

Wigan also have a good squad available for selection and its imperative that we take control of the match as soon as it kicks off.  With O’Loughlin back in the team Wigan will have some strong leadership and we need to counter this as well as putting pressure on Williams and not allowing him to take control with his kicking.  For me two of Wigan’s real danger men are the second-row pairing of Farrell and Bateman- they are capable of doing a lot of damage.  With Minichiello and Manu, we have very strong defensive second rowers with the ability to cut open defences too.  I am expecting a tight game with some good tries being scored and defences being tight, especially in the first 20 minutes or so.
Score prediction Wigan 16-24 Hull FC

Catalans v St Helens

Catalans fan: Chris Evans

New season, same Dragons. With two decent new names on the team sheet, I was optimistic for a much improved season this time out. Sadly, that optimism has all but vanished after we saw a similar pattern to the one that had blighted recent seasons. I mentioned last week how crucial a clean bill of health was with such a thin squad. Greg Bird, absent for long spells last year, has already missed the opener and although fit for this week’s game, you have to wonder what sort of shape he is in. Sam Moa also kept with tradition as poor discipline has now ruled him out for two further games. The way the Dragons fell apart in the second half brought back memories of last season. It’s as though the self-belief drains from the side as soon as they concede.

Onto week two and the champions-elect visit Stade Gilbert Brutus. Following their performance last week, some writers seem to have awarded Saints the title already and Ben Barba the Man of Steel Trophy. It is a little early to be getting carried away, but the Saints did look slick last week, a polar opposite to the lacklustre Dragons. The one shining light last week was the dogged performance of Michael McIlorum, but far more is needed from the rest of the team. In years gone by, the home record of the Dragons was envied by most other sides, but last year this simply was not the case. Losing at home last year became a common occurrence, and that run included some big defeats to the likes of Leigh, Wakefield and Huddersfield. The home fixture last year against Saints was a close affair, but this is a very different Saints side, with very different ambitions.  This may not make for comfortable watching for the home fans.

I am hoping that the Dragons were simply rusty last week after their late start to the pre-season. However, I fear the worst.

Prediction: Dragons 6 Saints 30

St Helens fan: David Lyon –

Whilst most Saints fans felt optimistic about our prospects going into the new season, not many would have been crazy enough to predict such a margin of victory over the standout team of 2017 in Castleford.

It was about as comprehensive victory as you would expect, setting not only a marker, but a baseline standard for the season ahead. Saints fans want to be entertained, but its often said that defence wins Championships and so to only conceded 6 points in the game was just was as good.

Whilst Ben Barba and James Roby were undoubtedly our stand out players, what pleased most was the team performance as a whole. Throughout 2017 Jon Wilkin, Zeb Taia and Dominic Peyroux were much maligned but all looked completely revitalised under the tutelage of Justin Holbrook.

Catalans suffered a heavy defeat to Widnes, and so it’d be easy for people to think Saturday’s fixture in Perpignan will be a walkover… but it’s a potential banana skin for Saints, who’ve lost in 4 out of their last 5 fixtures in the south of France This Saints side appears to be made of stronger stuff though and with a week off to follow, we can’t foresee any changes to the lineup unless Ryan Morgan is unable to take his place after being forced off with a head injury last week. If that is the case, Justin Holbrook has a few different options he can consider – move Peyroux? Move Lomax to centre and bring Smith or Fages into the halves? Or bring in Spedding?

Whatever Holbrook decided to do, it’s a nice conundrum for the coach to have.

Match Prediction: Catalans 14 St Helens 32