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

Huddersfield Giants v St Helens

Huddersfield Giants Fan: @GiantsFanzine

After the Hull game I said it was wrong to start panicking after one poor half of rugby. By the same token, by no means should we get complacent after one win against a poor Warrington side.

That said, we did show a massive improvement in our last game. We started with seven first-teamers out injured, lost Dickinson for the second-half after a clash of heads, and had Ollie Roberts playing at centre for 20 minutes while Gaskell was off. Despite that, we were composed, consistent and executed really well. We carried on the good attack we saw in the first half at Hull, but also improved on the defence, which was below standard the week before. This came from the work our forwards put in (Clough, Hinchcliffe, Ikahihifo, Ferguson and Smith made 160 tackles between them and only missed one). It helped that Warrington had a poor night, but you can only beat what’s in front of you.

Unfortunately, tonight St Helens will be in front of us, and they won’t roll over so easily. They’ve got a really good squad and have picked up 11 tries in their opening games, so keeping our defence tight is a must. If they get a few early tries I can’t see us coming back without one hell of a fight, but if we start strong and serve up 80 minutes of the quality we showed in round 2, we’ll make a good game of it.

We’re certainly the underdogs going into the match, with most expecting Saints to be in Grand Final contention at the end of the year, so while I’m not expecting an easy win, we have what it takes and I can’t rule out us getting the two points.

Score Prediction: Giants 23-22 Saints

St Helens Fan: Kevin Pender

The land of the Giants has been a bogey ground for Saints over the years, but the boys in the red vee travel over the Pennines buoyed by two wins from two. However, Huddersfield shouldn’t be taken lightly after a mixed start to the season – after all last year’s performance at the John Smith’s Stadium was possibly the worst seen under Justin Holbrook.

The Saints 19-man squad is missing Morgan Knowles after his ‘carton rouge’ against Catalans. A section of fans were excited at the prospect of James Bentley being called into the 19, however the spare place has gone to young prop Matty Lees. Much of the talk has been whether Lees will make the 17 or if Kyle Amor, who missed out in France, will get the nod. Either way there won’t be wholesale changes from the trip to the South of France.

As previously alluded to, Huddersfield are always a tough proposition for St Helens. Marshalled by talisman Danny Brough, the Giants have been boosted by the returning World Cup star Jermaine McGillvary. I’m sure many Saints fans will be hoping Mr McGillvary is a little rusty when it comes to finishing off any chances which come his way on Friday evening.

St. Helens cannot just focus on Brough and McGillvary though.  Any of the Huddersfield three-quarters are capable of winning the game on their own, it will be intriguing to watch the battle between Jake Mamo and Ben Barba, and the forwards can be a match for anyone on their day.

I’m expecting Huddersfield’s pack to try to dominate the Saints forwards as they did in the last meeting to attempt to give their exciting backline a platform. However, if Saints can be as clinical in attack and resolute in defence as they’ve been so far this season then they should sneak past the Giants – though the players will know they’ve been part of a tough game.

Score Prediction: Huddersfield 18-26 St Helens

Salford Red Devils v Hull Kingston Rovers

Salford Fan: Louis Hawke

After a slow start to the 2018 Super League season, Salford look to get their first win of the season against newly promoted Hull KR as they travel to the AJ Bell on the back of a home win against a poor Catalans Dragons side. Salford, on the other hand, are still winless and are looking to push on and finally get the two points on the board.

This fixture has proven to a close encounter in the last 10 meetings with Salford winning five, KR winning four and only one draw. The most memorable meeting between these two sides goes back to 1st of October 2016 when Gareth O’Brien scored that memorable drop goal to break the KR hearts and relegate them to the Championship, So Hull will be looking at gaining revenge against Salford on their home soil.

Salford make two changes heading into this fixture on Friday night. Derrell Olpherts and George Griffin both drop out as Mark Flannagan and Greg Johnson return to the 19 man squad. Hull KR are without Danny McGuire due to a knock.

This fixture will be a hard fought game for both sides but home advantage could prove quite the advantage for Salford.

Scored PredictionL Salford Red Devils 22-14 Hull KR

Hull Kingston Rovers Fan: James Deighton

It was nice to enter the record books for one of the worst Super League games in history, however a better feeling was breaking the duck and getting our first win of the season. An error-ridden performance with a lot of ironing out needed, but who remembers that team who won the league because they played pretty rugby? Or that side who were exempt from relegation because they tried really hard? Not me, as a win is a win and it’s two points on the quest to finishing 8th.

With it announced this week that our search for a new halfback is over and that Danny McGuire will miss a couple of games with a rib injury, Chris Atkin must continue his strong start to the season and lead the Robins around the park. He’ll be boosted by the return of Nick Scruton, James Greenwood and Andrew Heffernan to the squad, but will the latter make the 17 after Liam Salter’s man of the match performance? It’s a good selection headache to have along with the one upfront after Danny Tickle showed he can still ply his trade in the top division.

For the second consecutive week, the Robins face a side yet to be victorious and Tim Sheens will be looking to put Ian Watson’s men to the sword, in what is almost a must-win game for both sides. Beat your fellow eighth-place chasing rivals home and away and pick up half a dozen more wins against the top seven clubs and you’ll comfortably avoid the dreaded ‘Middle 8s’. Yes it’s early days but everyone loves a prediction and for me, finishing in 7th and 8th will be two from; Rovers, Salford, Widnes, Huddersfield, Catalans and… Castleford. Anyway that’s a topic for discussion in next week’s preview against the Tigers, so, for now, I’ll predict a close game at the AJ Bell, with a statutory Chris Atkin field goal.

Score Prediction: Salford 18-25 Hull Kingston Rovers.

Warrington Wolves v Wigan Warriors

Warrington fan: Peter Thomas

For Warrington there’s an argument that if they’re going to play Wigan then there could be no better time than right now. Following their first win of the season last weekend against Widnes, they’ll be coming up against a Wigan team that only returned home from Australia on Monday. Wire will, therefore, be hoping that the jet-lag lasts at least a week on the run-up to their meeting this Friday.

Whilst there is logic to this argument there is also some doubt. Yes, Wigan beat Hull whilst in Oz, but they also failed to put up a good showing against Souths. Some would say that playing Wigan the week after a loss is never a good thing, and it could prove true for Warrington.

We’re already in round four, and in truth Warrington haven’t really shown up in full force for any of the games. Yes they played well in patches against Leeds and they beat Widnes, but there hasn’t been a complete 80-minute performance in any of the games to be proud of.

Certainly, Price will need time, but the Wire faithful will be already be thinking “how long is enough?” The new signings are also a cause for concern; those that have played have shown promising glimpses yet have also “gone missing” in games. The bigger worry is those that have missed all three games, and indeed, Roberts who has played in only one. In the most key area of all, the halfback, Wire haven’t had their chosen combination for the last two games. Friday would, therefore, be a great time for Roberts to return and for Sitaleki Akauola to debut and at the point of writing both are in the 19 man squad. For me, that’s exciting.

So a squad who last week were on the other side of the world come to Warrington to meet a squad who are still looking to find themselves and establish their credentials. All the ingredients for a thriller I think.

Wigan have had some struggles against Warrington at times, but recent history suggests they are favourites to find a way to win. For me though, I believe another week under Price’s watchful eye, and a chance to train together again will mean that Warrington will come out on top. It’s certain to be close and Wigan may nick it (again), but I’m backing Warrington to take another positive step forward. I fear I may be wrong, possibly very wrong, but I’m hoping I’m not. After all, without hope we have got nothing.

Score prediction: Warrington 19-16 Wigan

Wigan Fan: Sean Lawless

Wigan returned from Sydney on Monday, so preparation for the game against Warrington has been very much a case of getting over the jet lag. Wigan are without Dan Sarginson (shoulder injury), Joe Burgess (dropped) and Frank-Paul Nuuausala who earlier this week left the club. Replacing them in the 19 man squad is John Bateman and two players who impressed against South Sydney, Craig Mullen and Romain Navarrete.

The game against Warrington is one that is all about the result for Wigan rather than the performance given the travels that Wigan have undertaken this week. Dan Sarginson is likely to be replaced in the side by England’s World Cup starting centre, John Bateman with Willie Isa and Romain Navarrete likely to be fighting it out for a bench spot at the Halliwell Jones.

Wigan will be looking to target Warrington’s right edge in this game, an edge that has been tested intensely in their opening three rounds; so much so, that Matty Russell has seemingly lost his place to Mitch Brown. They will be becoming up against Wigan’s golden edge, Williams, Gildart, Farrell and Marshall have been stand out performers in Wigan’s opening two games and I think that battle will ultimately decide the outcome of this game.

NRL star Tyrone Roberts is named in the squad but with Dec Patton also in the 19 man squad, there may be question marks over whether he returns to the Wire side. If he does, expect Roberts to test Sam Tomkins and Morgan Escare with plenty of high balls, just like he did to Jack Walker.

Wigan have settled into their halfback pairings much better and much quicker than Wire have been able to so far this season and I think ultimately, that will be key in this game. I am expecting a George Williams masterclass.

Score Prediction: Warrington 10–18 Wigan