Two game weekend should test the old mental capabilities.

This weekend, Andrewrileysportsjournalist hits up two very different games of rugby league. Here, he previews both games.

Well, it’s been a while since I felt well enough to not only attend back to back games, but to preview them AND match report both will be a stiff test of how my mental health is coping. Let’s start with the previews though. The simple bit.

First up on Friday night is Salford Devils and Castleford Tigers in the “Super 8’s” at the AJ Bell stadium.

Super League Super 5's
Super League Super 8’s

The last time the Tigers visited the home of the Devils, it was a tight, cagey affair, with Salford coming from behind to win the game 13-12, with Gareth O’Brien kicking the all important one pointer to seal a win that would be the first of five in a row for the Devils.

That run set Salford up for their best finish in a regular season since 1980.

Ian Watson has named a very strong side for Friday night.

Kris Brining is back after a spell on the sidelines, and Ryan Lannon also returns for a game that could have a very big say in the Devils charge for a Grand Final spot.

Michael Dobson is still not 100% after the knock he picked up in the Challenge cup game against Wigan, and Josh Wood and Kris Welham also miss out.

Salford fans will be pleased to see Tyrone McCarthy and Manu Vatuvei both take the field at home for the first time.

Jake Bibby, Kriss Brining, Todd Carney, Niall Evalds, George Griffin, Weller Hauraki, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Graig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Tyrone McCarthy, Daniel Murray, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Logan Tomkins, Adam Walne, Manu Vatuvei.

Tigers coach Daryl Powell has also named his 19 man squad

Matt Cook, Alex Foster, Luke Gale, Zak Hardaker, Jy Hitchcox, Oliver Holmes, Tom Holmes,   Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington,  Adam Milner, Greg Minikin, Joel Monaghan, Ben Roberts, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Michael Shenton, Gadwin Springer,       Jake Webster.

Prediction? The Tigers are licking their wounds after losing to St. Helens at home last week, and will want to wrap up the league leaders shield sooner rather than later. My bet is Castleford by 8 to 12 points, but Salford will be looking to halt a slump.

Super 8's The Qualifiers
Super 8’s The Qualifiers

Slightly further down the league, Leigh Centurions take on Hull Kingston Rovers in the “Qualifiers”, with one team looking to retain top flight status whilst the other looks to return to where it, and it’s fans, feel it belongs.

Both sides got off to winning ways in round one, Leigh away at Featherstone Rovers in front of the Sky cameras, and Hull at home to Halifax, who surprised some by beating the Robins in the final round of the regular season.

Head coaches Tim Sheens and Neil Jukes will be looking for more of the same commitment from their respective charges in front of the Sky Cameras at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon.

Both coaches announced their squads for the afternoon kick off on Sky Sports.

Leigh Centurions (from) 1 Mitch Brown, 29 Lachlan Burr, 5 Matty Dawson, 7 Josh Drinkwater, 31 Matty Fleming, 13 Harrison Hansen, 9 Micky Higham (Captain), 21 Liam Hood, 23 Sam Hopkins, 34 Samisoni Langi, 18 Gregg McNally, 16 Antoni Maria, 33 Daniel Mortimer, 11 Cory Paterson, 20 Ben Reynolds, 35 Greg Richards, 12 Glenn Stewart, 15 Danny Tickle, 17 Atelea Vea.

Hull Kingston Rovers (from) 3 Thomas Minns, 5 Ryan Shaw, 7 Jamie Ellis, 8 Nick Scruton, 9 Shaun Lunt, 10 Chris Clarkson, 11 Maurice Blair, 12 James Greenwood, 13 Danny Addy, 19 George Lawler, 20 Matty Marsh, 21 Robbie Mulhern, 22 Andrew Heffernan, 32 Kieren Moss, 33 Ben Kavanagh, 36 Justin Carney, 37 Lee Jewitt, 38 Chris Atkin, 39 Mose Masoe.

When the two clubs met in the Qualifiers last season, Leigh took a giant step towards automatic promotion, coming from behind to beat the then Super League side on their own patch, 18-25.

Tries from Hopkins, Dixon, Dawson and Drinkwater sealing the win, with Ridyard not only kicking four from four, but also adding a drop goal for good measure.

This season however, the teams met in the earlier rounds of the Challenge Cup, Rovers this time running out 10-23 winners at Leigh sports village.

Can lightning strike twice?

The best way to find out is to actually be there, and the ticket office at Leigh will be open until 8pm tonight (Thursday) and you can also buy online.

If you cant be there, then the game is live on Sky sports Main Event.

Advertisements

Super 8’s and Qualifiers fixtures released

It’s that time of the season again, the Super 8’s and Qualifiers are here to brighten up the end of the season chase for silverware.

The Super 8s fixtures for 2017 have now been released.

The Kingstone Press Championship Shield fixtures have been delayed due to operational issues. Round 1 fixtures will now be announced on Thursday July 27 and the remaining fixtures by Monday July 31 at the latest, with rumours swirling on social media it is because the RFL had already set out the schedule to include Toulouse in the Qualifiers, and the shock defeat of Hull KR by Halifax throwing a spanner in the works.

In the Betfred Super League Super 8s, Castleford Tigers currently sit ten points clear at the top of the table and need just three victories to secure the League Leaders’ shield, something of an oddity, given that we are now playing a different competition in all but name.

Should the League leaders shield be awarded after 23 rounds?

I think so…

Three teams that played in the 2016 Qualifiers, Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants and Salford Red Devils all make the top eight and with only six points difference between eighth place and third place, it’s all to play for as the countdown to the Betfred Super League Grand Final on Saturday, October 7 at Old Trafford begins.

In The Qualifiers Super 8s, last year’s Grand Finalists Warrington Wolves will battle to retain their Super League status alongside Catalans Dragons, Widnes Vikings and Leigh Centurions, as Hull Kingston Rovers, London Broncos, Halifax RLFC and Featherstone Rovers will be hoping to gain promotion.

Super League Super 5's
Super League Super 8’s

Betfred Super League Super 8s – Round by Round

Round Date Home Away KO Time (Local Time)
1 Thursday, August 3 Castleford Tigers St Helens 8.00pm Sky Sports
1 Friday, August 4 Huddersfield Giants Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
1 Friday, August 4 Hull FC Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
1 Friday, August 4 Leeds Rhinos Wigan Warriors 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Thursday, August 10 Wakefield Trinity Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Friday, August 11 Salford Red Devils Castleford Tigers 8.00pm Sky Sports
2 Friday, August 11 St Helens Hull FC 8.00pm
2 Friday, August 11 Wigan Warriors Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
3 Thursday, August 17 Castleford Tigers Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm Sky Sports
3 Friday, August 18 Hull FC Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
3 Friday, August 18 Leeds Rhinos St Helens 8.00pm Sky Sports
3 Friday, August 18 Wigan Warriors Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
4 Thursday, August 31 Leeds Rhinos Hull FC 8.00pm Sky Sports
4 Friday, September 1 Huddersfield Giants Castleford Tigers 8.00pm
4 Friday, September 1 Salford Red Devils Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
4 Friday, September 1 St Helens Wigan Warriors 8.00pm Sky Sports
5 Friday, September 8 Castleford Tigers Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm
5 Friday, September 8 Hull FC Wigan Warriors 8.00pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Salford Red Devils Huddersfield Giants 1.30pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Wakefield Trinity St Helens 7.00pm
6 Thursday, September 14 Hull FC Wakefield Trinity 8.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 Leeds Rhinos Salford Red Devils 8.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 St Helens Huddersfield Giants 8.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Wigan Warriors Castleford Tigers 3.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 Castleford Tigers Hull FC 8.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 Huddersfield Giants Leeds Rhinos 8.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Salford Red Devils St Helens 3.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Wakefield Trinity Wigan Warriors 7.00pm

Below the Super 8’s, we have The Qualifiers, and the race to stake a place at the sports top table for 2018 and avoid the drop to the Championship will make for some of the hottest competition on any screen this year.

There are some big names down here, with Warrington Wolves, Catalans Dragons, Widnes Vikings all hoping to avoid the dreaded “Million Pound Game” whilst Hull Kingston Rovers and London Broncos want to cement their place back in Super League.

Super 8's The Qualifiers
Super 8’s The Qualifiers

The Qualifiers Super 8s – Round by Round

Round Date Home Away KO Time (Local Time)
1 Friday, August 4 Widnes Vikings Warrington Wolves 8.00pm
1 Saturday, August 5 Catalans Dragons London Broncos 6.15pm Sky Sports
1 Saturday, August 5 Featherstone Rovers Leigh Centurions 3.15pm Sky Sports
1 Sunday, August 6 Hull KR Halifax RLFC 3.00pm
2 Saturday, August 12 Leigh Centurions Hull KR 3.15pm Sky Sports
2 Saturday, August 12 Warrington Wolves Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
2 Sunday, August 13 Halifax RLFC Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
2 Sunday, August 13 London Broncos Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm
3 Saturday, August 19 Catalans Dragons Leigh Centurions 6.15pm Sky Sports
3 Saturday, August 19 Warrington Wolves Halifax RLFC 3.15pm Sky Sports
3 Sunday, August 20 Hull KR London Broncos 3.00pm
3 Sunday, August 20 Widnes Vikings Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm
4 Saturday, September 2 London Broncos Warrington Wolves 8.00pm Sky Sports
4 Sunday, September 3 Featherstone Rovers Hull KR 3.00pm
4 Sunday, September 3 Halifax RLFC Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
4 Sunday, September 3 Leigh Centurions Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
5 Saturday, September 9 Catalans Dragons Featherstone Rovers 6.15pm Sky Sports
5 Saturday, September 9 Warrington Wolves Leigh Centurions 3.00pm
5 Sunday, September 10 Hull KR Widnes Vikings 3.00pm
5 Sunday, September 10 London Broncos Halifax RLFC 3.00pm
6 Friday, September 15 Leigh Centurions Halifax RLFC 8.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Featherstone Rovers Warrington Wolves 3.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Hull KR Catalans Dragons 3.00pm
6 Sunday, September 17 Widnes Vikings London Broncos 3.00pm
7 Friday, September 22 London Broncos Leigh Centurions 8.00pm
7 Saturday, September 23 Catalans Dragons Widnes Vikings 6.15pm Sky Sports
7 Saturday, September 23 Warrington Wolves Hull KR 3.00pm
7 Sunday, September 24 Halifax RLFC Featherstone Rovers 3.00pm

 

* Games to be shown live on Sky Sports for rounds 5,6 and 7 are still to be selected.

 

More Devils pen new deals as name change row rumbles on

Mark Flanagan, Greg Johnson and Logan Tomkins have become the latest members of the 2017 Salford Devils squad to commit to new deals, as the club continues to go from strength to strength on the field.

Off the field however, chaos still clouds the rumored name change, with owner Marwan Koukash still refusing to rule out a change to Manchester.

With attendances still in the lower 3000 range, even when discounted entry is offered, it’s not hard to see why the Owner  who has pumped millions into the club since he took over is worried.

With the club taking on last seasons Challenge cup winners Hull FC tomorrow, Marwan told one fan on twitter that the club had sold LESS than 60 tickets for the game.

The shame is that the team on the field are playing the most attractive brand of rugby this side of the Pennines.

Ian Watson has assembled one of the most exciting squads that ANY Salford fan will have seen in the modern era, and he couldn’t have done that without Marwan Koukash backing him.

Yet a couple of weeks ago, post match, waiting for a taxi, there was one fan who had clearly had a few too many, stood outside of the ground, screaming for the owner to come and physically fight him over the possible name change!

I understand his passion, but offering the owner out to a fight? How childish…

Salford have never in my memory attracted 8K to games on a regular basis. Even my club, Hull KR, fluctuate between 6 and 8K in the Championship, but they are in a town where they are not competing with two top flight football teams and all the other things that cities like Manchester and Salford have to offer families.

OK, the football season is over, but (should we ever get it) once the weather is nice, you are an hour away from the seaside, the lakes and sundry other attractions.

Sadly, rugby league in the UK will never compete with football, and even to some respect, cricket. the fan base is traditionally based along a narrow corridor, something that is gradually changing with the introduction of Toulouse, Catalan and Toronto, as well as the growth of the sport in London and Coventry.

Salford needs Marwan, but Marwan doesn’t need Salford.

Remember that, next time you want to stand outside of the ground and fight him.

If he walks, the club will disappear, if not overnight, then within 5 years.

And nobody wants to see that…

 

 

 

Salford Devils v Catalan Dragons preview

Press Conference,

Beware the team with a new coach…

After the Catalan Dragons parted company with head coach Laurent Frayssinous after the Dacia Magic Weekend defeat to Huddersfield Giants, 10-18, Salford coach Ian Watson will point to the defeat of Challenge cup holders Hull FC by St. Helens in front of their new head coach Justin Holbrook as a pointer as to what a change of leadership can do to a team.

Hardly anyone went to St James’ park on Saturday expecting Saints to beat FC, let alone beat them to nil, but that’s what makes sport so special, the unknown.

When Catalan appear at the AJ Bell stadium on Friday night, the Devils will want to right the 38-6 scoreline from April that brought to an end the Devils unbeaten run of six games.

Given that was the last time a Salford fan tasted defeat, club CEO Ian Blease would be hoping that the offer to season ticket holders to “Bring a mate for £10” will help boost the meagre (but loud) crowds the team are playing in front of.

Fans will also hope to catch a glimpse of new signing James Hasson, who arrived last week from Parramatta Eels.

As well as being an Irish international, Hasson made 40 appearances for Manly Sea-Eagles and was part of their squad that reached the NRL Grand Final in 2013.

Head Coach Ian Watson is confident that he can make a positive contribution to the Red Devils this season, he told the clubs website;

“James is a player that adds some real competitiveness to our squad. We’ve had some injuries to our middles with Adam Walne and George Griffin, and James is exactly the kind of player that can step into that role. His NRL experience with Manly and Parramatta will be invaluable.

James is a tough, no nonsense player who runs hard and direct lines but also has the ability to play a good offload game. His defence is first rate and he is a good fit for our style of play.

His attitude and desire to come on board with us has been superb, and I’m sure he will slot straight into the playing group over the coming weeks.” 

Man of the moment Ben Murdoch-Masila will be wanting to add to his growing reputation as one of the players of the season, and some peoples outside bet for the Steve Prescott “Man of Steel” award.

His 10 tries so far this campaign are part of the reason the club sit in second place as we get just over the 1/2 way point of the season.

Salford are not a one man side…

They have a real strength across the board, and a team spirit that is second to none in  my opinion.

It will be a close, tight affair, and I think, sadly, that Catalan might just nick this one as well…

 

Safety First!

Salford Devils v Leigh

ANOTHER weekend of action across the sporting globe has passed, here I take a look at a fascinating sporting Easter weekend.

Over in Bahrain, the F1 circus rolled into the desert, and didn’t disappoint as Max Verstappen was the first casualty of a couple of laps of mayhem, as his brakes failed, under the double yellow flags that followed, Carlos Sainz Jr. pitted, and then Canadian driver Lance Stroll turned in to the first corner, and right into Sainz, boom…

Out came the safety car.

Lewis Hamilton was then penalised for slowing down Daniel Ricciardo on the entry to the pit lane, and picked up a five second penalty, before the whole race carried on.

In all the chaos, Sebastian Vettel took the lead, and despite a valiant effort from the Brit, it was the German who took the chequered flag at the end of 57 laps.

with a 6 second gap to second place Hamilton…

In the Premier League, another twist in the chase for the title as leaders Chelsea slipped up at Manchester United, losing 2-0, whilst second place Tottenham Hotspur romped to a 4-0 win at home to Bournemouth.

Meanwhile, the race to replace whichever teams are relegated carried on apace in the EFL Championship, with Brighton now five points clear of Newcastle United, and confirmed as promoted after Derby drew with Huddersfield, whilst the playoff places could well go down to the last day of the season.

In what is called the toughest race on earth, armed forces veteran Duncan Slater became the first double amputee to ever complete the Marathon des Sables. Duncan lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2009 after his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

The gruelling race consists of six stages – around a marathon a day – covering over 250 kilometres in total and competitors face temperatures up to 50°C and the terrain is extremely challenging, combining sand dunes and rocky hills.

Having had to drop out of last year’s race with a problem with his prosthetic legs, this year he raised over £20,000 for his chosen charity, Walking with the wounded.

In Super League it was a weekend where players had (for the most part) to back up and play another game in around 48 hours, it was once again the match officials that took centre stage at times.

I’m not going to make scapegoats of the officials, but there are certain ones who, perhaps unknowingly, seem to favour certain teams where infringements are concerned.

They have always been the bane of fans and coaches alike, but some seem to revel in their role as pantomime dames, almost wanting to be at the centre of attention…

It was as usual a weekend of contrasting results for teams, with Salford’s five game win streak ending in France, and Castleford dropping points at St. Helens.