Here are my thoughts on this weekend's action in Challenge Cup. |
Wigan Warriors v Harlequins
Repeat of last week’s close fixture, albeit at a different venue which could be crucial in determining the winner. One of the main objectives of many Aussie imports is to play in the Challenge Cup final. They seem able to rise above the mundane and show some of their true class and ability. Trent Barrett showed against Leeds how much he wanted to play in the final. He drove his team forward - not that a Tiger tank was required against a pretty abject Rhinos - to a well deserved victory. He will be the key player if Wigan are to progress any further against a feisty Harlequins outfit buoyed from their conquering of Wigan last week.
For the ‘Quins, McLinden has the class but he often fails to fire when the intensity is at its most potent - that’s what years of playing for Canberra does for you. He needs to be at his very best if he is to see his side prevail.
I would like to see McDermott’s side progress but I fear the Barrett-factor is too great when combined with 10,000 Lancastrians spitting crust onto the field.
Prediction - Calderwood hat trick.
Wigan Warriors 32 - Harlequins 18
St Helens v Warrington Wolves
I see the BBC have arranged an early kick off to facilitate messrs. Long, Gleeson and Bridge. They will be able come straight from whichever St Helens hot joint they have spent the previous night. Hot joint and St Helens there’s an oxymoron if any there was one.
We may jest but for Paul Cullen this is game is no laughing matter. If rumour is correct this will be Cullen’s last game if Warrington fail to turn Saints over on Saturday.
Is this remotely likely - not on the evidence of last Friday’s visit to LS6. Having spent a heap of cash the board at Warrington must be bitterly disappointed with the run of feeble performances in recent weeks. Agreed Warrington have been unlucky with injuries but they have really failed to fire on the remaining cylinders. Warrington hope to have Anderson - why I fail to see - and Gleeson back this week.
Saints now back at the top of the table and with a pretty much full strength side out should be too professional to surrender home advantage in a game that really matters.
Prediction - Cullen to be seen more frequently with Eddie and Stevo.
St Helens 42 - Warrington 16
Sporting Odds: Warrington (+18)
Bradford Bulls v Huddersfield Giants
Potentially the best clash of the round. In McNamara Bradford have unearthed/developed a coach with not inconsiderable talent. He has taken an ageing squad dotted with rejects/journey men and moulded them into a cohesive force that should not be underestimated.
The Giants fail to impress me - I am not sure why? I just think it’s a combination of dull, dull play and Sharp’s monotone diatribe that puts me off them. How many more times do we have to hear - the stats said we won the game. Hopefully Cummings producing the evidence supporting Ian Smith’s last minute decision will make Sharp eat the large piece of humble pie, and he should.
I can’t see Huddersfield finding Odsal quite as much to their liking as their last visit in the Challenge Cup to this council-owned landfill site. I don’t expect the Bulls to surrender in quite the abject manner that befit the mighty Rhinos last year. One positive thing Huddersfield will have some hands to shake at the end of the game this year.
This looks like a regulation win for the Bulls despite the result when the two teams last met. A stronger side and home advantage should see the Bulls home.
Prediction - Big Les to score first try.
Bradford Bulls 35 - Huddersfield Giants 10
Sporting Odds: Giants (+8)
Hull FC v Catalan Dragons
For the benefit of the game it would be tremendous if the Dragons could pull this off. Judging by last Sunday’s game at the KFC that should be possible. However the Dragons are a very inconsistent when on the road.
Hull 24 - Catalans 8
Sporting Odds: Dragons (+8)