A new era has dawned at Headingley...the post McDonald era! Unable to secure regular first team football, the tallest player in Superleague has joined the injury devastated Wigan Warriors for the remainder of the season. The door remains ajar for his return to first team action at Headingley, if he can prove himself over the coming months. I just hope that this loan deal doesn't come back to haunt us.
For saturday nights match, the Rhinos welcome back Gareth Ellis and Chris McKenna along with Danny Ward who was suspended for last weeks trip to the JJB Stadium. Danny McGuire is once again absent after suffering a broken bone in his hand in last weeks win, and will be out for four or five weeks. Competition is fierce for the seventeen, especially with the returnees, and it is anyones guess as to who the 'tinker man' will pick.
Widnes haven't won in Superleague since beating Leigh at the end of March, and with a points difference of -202, they have been on the receiving end of some massive beatings.
Embattled Endacott is under presure to start producing results or see Widnes condemned to relegation. With Leigh starting to pick up points, and signing new players (Robbie Mears), it is going to be tough at the bottom. He has wielded the axe and chopped four first teamers from his side for saturday, in interview he is quoted as saying '...and I was within a hairs breadth of dropping another four...'. It is clear that he is sending out a message to his senior pro's that they need to buck up their ideas, and in a game which that are almost certain to lose, it does make sense.
Out go Matt Whitaker and Sala Fa'alogo, and it is likely that youngsters Adam Bibey, Paul Alcock and Jamie Durbin will all play, the latter making his debut after signing from the Wolves. Old Rhinos favourite Gary Connolly is likely to play, as is his ex-Wigan teammate Mick Cassidy.
Three Vikings to watch;
Leeds have visited the Halton Stadium three times to play Superleague football. On the first two occasions we lost; by 34-28 in SLVII, and 29-14 in SLVIII. But last year the rampant Rhinos went some way to putting the record straight with a 46-0 drubbing of the home side. In the game at Headingley earlier this season we managed to rack up a 66-8 victory thanks to four tries from Mark Calderwood.
It's going to be cold and wet so wrap up warm. We're under cover, so the weather shouldn't be too much of a problem during game time.
The bookies have given the Vikings a twenty-four point start on the coupon, but I am not sure that will be enough and would put my money on a Rhinos win by more that the handicap. Interestingly, Leeds to win by more than fifty points is only 6/1, but possibly still worth a bet, and SportingOdds.com are offering first try scorer odds ona Widnes back or forward rather than named players!
With the game being on a saturday night, with a reasonable kick-off time, I suspect that a great number of Rhinos supoprters will make the trip across the M62. It would be nice to think that we could help Widnes to top the 7,500 that turned up for the corresponding fixture last season. The Vikings have titled tomorrow night as 'Black & White' night...my suspicion is that the white will be on Widnes's side of the scoreboard with all the black on Leeds.
Don't forget to take a look at Oldlady's Ground Guide to Widnes.