Widnes and Hull FC open the week’s action tonight, with both clubs looking for their first victory of the Super 8s.
The two teams lost to Catalans and Castleford respectively last week but have a chance to respond as the SKY cameras head to the Select Security Stadium.
The Vikings head into the match with an injury crisis, with Rhys Hanbury and Chris Dean joining an extensive injury list that already includes the likes of Setaimata Sa and Chris Bridge.
As for Hull, their squad of players know that victory is vitally important in their quest to do the treble, while another poor performance could put their spot for the Challenge Cup final in jeopardy.
As ever, there will be key players in every team’s plans for the night, so here are the three key battles that could well decide the match.
Patrick Ah Van v Fetuli Talanoa
Last week, Castleford clinically exploited Hull FC in the wide areas with both Fetuli Talanoa and Mahe Fonua absent in Lee Radford’s backline.
Both will return tonight, but Talanoa’s influence will be particularly important when Widnes pose questions in the same areas of the field that Hull didn’t have an answer to last week.
Arguably the biggest threat to Hull is that of Patrick Ah Van, who has scored five tries in as many games. The powerful winger has been a real outlet for the Vikings recently, and they will no doubt look to make the most of the 28-year-old’s form, especially considering the frailties that were on show at the KCOM last week.
Talanoa, although offensively brilliant, will be relied upon to shore up the defence tonight.
Lloyd White v Danny Houghton
Houghton is one of the leading contenders for Man of Steel this year, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.
With 1,038 tackles to his name this season, over 100 more than his nearest competitor Sam Powell, Houghton continues to be Super League’s best defender. But going forward he has scored seven times, assisted 16 others and made over 1,000 metres too.
So the challenge for Lloyd White is to simply match his influence, and, if possible, nullify his opposite number. It’s an unenviable task, but White was a standout start at the beginning of this season, and he has the chance to reassert himself against Houghton.
Kevin Brown v Marc Sneyd
It goes without saying that this contest will be massively important for the two teams.
Both players rely on their forward pack to get them in good positions, but even when following a poor set, these two often pull their team out of tricky situations with their superb kicking game.
Who can do that the best tonight will undoubtedly play a big part in deciding the game. With 18 assists each this season, they’ll be keen to assert themselves as one of the competition’s best playmakers in front of a national audience.