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Demolition derbies

Stevo Posted 5th April 2012 view comments

Super League has a double treat in store with two rounds of matches over the Easter weekend.

Sky Sports expert Mike 'Stevo' Stephenson takes a closer look at the live matches...

Warrington v Widnes

It's going to be a tough ask for Widnes. They got hammered by Catalan Dragons last weekend - their coach Denis Betts was fully aware it might be coming. He'd anticipated somewhere down the track they were going to get a really good hiding and so it turned out.

Big statement: Tomkins is expected to have a big say against Saints

Big statement: Tomkins is expected to have a big say against Saints

The Vikings are a team in progress and it didn't surprise me at all as Catalan Dragons are a very good side. So are Warrington! They lost to St Helens last week and will want to get back on the horse. They can't take this game lightly - their coach Tony Smith will ensure they're up for it.

Wigan took the Vikings too lightly and came up with one heck of a surprise so it really was a kick in the teeth as far as they were concerned. However, I believe Warrington have far too much strength and expertise - especially in Brett Hodgson.

James Roby is such a key player for them. It was no coincidence that they went through a rough period when he wasn't playing. He's just such a talent.

Mike Stephenson
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Hodgson's been in great form with the boot but he hasn't really hit the high spots in open play. That being said, his try last weekend may indicate that he's getting back towards his top form. Warrington will want to improve as well though - the likes of Lee Briers and Richie Myler have to stand up and get into it.

It doesn't surprise me that Smith has rested Michael Monaghan. Since he had his knee operation he hasn't been the same player so I think a little bit more rest will do him the world of good.

Widnes have got that horrific loss out of their system and they won't need the coach to tell them that they need to up the tempo a little bit. I think you'll find a little bit more enthusiasm will be shown tonight. They've got a good new winger in the young Paddy Flynn - he's just signed a new two-year deal so he'll be bouncing out of his skin to put in a good performance.

I don't have to tell anybody that the Widnes defence has to improve. They've missed a lot of tackles lately and when you come into the highest standard of rugby league, it's difficult. It's not easy to get into it. They've got Patrick Ah Van, Scott Moore and some hard workers in Simon Finnigan and Dave Allen, but I can't see them getting near Warrington.

Since Ryan Atkins was left out of the England squad, it's really given him a kick up the backside and he's produced some sensational rugby league football. The return of Ben Westwood will also be a huge boost for the Wolves - he's the man that sets them up in the forwards. He's big, strong and never stops.

Stevo's prediction - WARRINGTON

Hull FC v Hull KR

I think there's a bit of a problem for Hull FC after the knee injury to Eamonn O'Carroll - so I think Lee Radford could find himself out of retirement and on the bench for the derby. It wouldn't surprise me if he sends him out there.

I doubt Radford has been relaxing since calling it a day. He's the rough and tough type, don't worry about that. Match fitness will be his problem but if he's going to be utilised off the bench then they can give him a 10 or 15 minute stint and then give him a rest.

I've been impressed with Hull and especially their full-back Wade McKinnon. He was classified as one of the best attacking full-backs in Australia's NRL. He's speedy and reads the game exceptionally well. He's 31 years of age, but I still think he's got it.

Jay Pitts is a good player. I was surprised that he was given the opportunity to leave Leeds and go to Hull. He's big, he's strong and he likes to run out wide. Kirk Yeaman coming back from injury will also be a big boost because he's just a top-quality player.

Hull KR will look to one man and that's Michael Dobson. He's all class and so talented creatively. At the end of the season, when you total all the assists, he's up there with any of them.

This is going to be a tough one. It's a battle in the forwards and at dummy-half. It's one of those where it will be grinding in the first half-hour as these teams try and get on top of eachother.

I think it's going to be a cracking game. Forget about form. Forget about what's gone on. This is life or death, isn't it?! If you like your rugby league rough and tough, don't miss this one.

Stevo's prediction: HULL FC

St Helens v Wigan

It'll be interesting to see who St Helens select at full-back as Paul Wellens is suspended. They have a few options with Jamie Foster and Gary Wheeler but they'll probably push Lance Hohaia back there.

Saints know the main man for Wigan is Sam Tomkins. The last thing they'll be doing is kicking down his throat. If they kick towards him, they're going to be in trouble.

I think that they'll opt to kick more at Pat Richards, but he's such a tall player that it's not worth so I think the tactics will be less on the high bombs and more of the hard grubber-kicks into the ground. Obviously, that depends on what the conditions are like.

The Saints have too many good players for this mini-renaissance to die out. Mike Rush and Keiron Cunningham - the stand-in coaches - have just gone back to basics and that's been important for them.

They've gone to the people that they know can do all the hard work. They've gone to Ade Gardner - bringing the experienced wing in from the cold. He's played exceptionally well and is on fire. He was out of favour and never even mentioned to get into the 17, and now he's back and is playing out of his skin. He's also put Wheeler into the centres and Meli onto the wing.

Meli is a huge guy. It's 6ft 2 and about 15-and-a-half stone. He's played in 22 derbies so he's got the experience and it may well come down to that.

I think some of the Saints players might have been slightly embarrassed when Royce Simmons was sacked. They possibly all grouped together and there could be a little bit of a guilt factor there.

Five weeks ago, you'd have said Wigan would have walked away with it because Saints didn't seem to be gelling. Now they are and they've had two good wins against Leeds and Warrington and that's not a bad effort. It was a huge win over the Rhinos and no fluke.

James Roby is such a key player for them. It was no coincidence that they went through a rough period when he wasn't playing. He's just such a talent. Wigan are no slouches and it's going to be a really good game. With it being tight, it could come down to goal-kicking. I think Richards slightly edges Jonny Lomax in that respect.

Interestingly enough, Saints have changed their attitude since they sacked Simmons. In both games since, they put as much effort into the opening 5-10 minutes as possible. They swamped their opponents and were like eager beavers in and around the breakdown. Don't be surprised if Saints win the toss and choose to kick-off.

Stevo's prediction: ST HELENS

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