Manchester Magic Weekend – Saturday Preview
By Mark Rawlinson
It’s that time of year again where Super League enjoys its Magic Weekend as all 14 teams descend on Manchester to play the 16th round of fixtures.
The Magic Weekend has been hosted by Cardiff and Edinburgh in the past but Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium will again host all seven fixtures over this weekend after it first came to the city last year.
Three matches will be played on Sunday afternoon with the other four taking place on Saturday with the day culminating with the standout fixture between local rivals St. Helens and Warrington Wolves, which kicks off at 6:45pm.
The Saints have been hit with a number of long term injuries to several experienced players this season, which has hindered their progress in the league. They are without England hooker James Roby, Gary Wheeler, Mark Flanagan and Jonny Lomax whilst other key players such as New Zealand international Lanch Hohaia and skipper Richie Whellens have only recently returned from lay-offs.
The Cheshire side lie eighth in the table and had lost five games on the trot in all competitions before their excellent 30-22 win at Leeds Rhinos on Monday. Their recent forms set them as underdogs ahead of the fixture with a number of bookies including Ladbrokes and Coral offering 9/4 for a Saints victory.
Warrington are in hot form though and are currently sitting third in the table after four wins in their last five Super League games, the blot on the sheet coming last Friday when they were beaten 16-26 by Hull FC. Bet365 and Sportingbet are a couple of outlets that are offering a Wolves win at 2/5.
The match beforehand sees another local derby between the two Hull sides, Hull FC and Hull Kingston Rovers. Sixth-placed Hull FC are favourites for the match and come into the game full of confidence with that win over Warrington. Peter Gentle‘s side are also in fantastic form, having won five of their last six Super League games and Sky Bet, Bet Victor and Betfair are all offering odds of 2/5.
It is worth noting though that Hull KR have never lost to their cross-city rivals at a Magic Weekend and they also came out on top in their previous meeting this season, running out 23-10 winners back in March.
They will be without forward George Griffin who has been ruled out for a month whilst David Hodgson is a doubt. Sportingbet are offering the best odds on a Hull KR win at 5/2.
The day’s fixture programme kicks off at noon as fifth-placed Catalan Dragons face second-bottom London Broncos. The Broncos are in the search for their first win in four games this Saturday and would be a decent punt Bet365 and Boyle Sports at 5/1 as they only narrowly lost out 24-30 the last time they played Catalan back in March.
Finally, at 2:15, it’s another derby as West Yorkshire rivals Castleford Tigers and Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. It should be a close game with Wakefield sitting in tenth, just two places above Castleford and they go into the game as slight favourites, with Sky Bet and Stan James offering odds of 8/13. Bwin provide the best odds for a Castleford win at 17/10.
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