Magic Weekend: Team-by-team guide to Sunday's Super League fixtures
By Tom Mordey | Twitter: @TomMordey |
Last Updated: 21/05/17 12:15pm
Super League fans will descend on Newcastle as all 12 teams face off in one of Rugby League's favourite weekends.
So who will put the magic in Magic Weekend? Which team has the best record at the big event? And who's in the best form going into it?
Here is our team-by-team guide to Sunday's fixtures at St James' Park:
Catalans Dragons v Huddersfield Giants (1pm, live on Sky Sports Mix)
Key player: Richie Myler
Catalans have been robbed of some of their top players this season. They haven't seen enough of big-name signing Greg Bird but Myler's form has been something to shout about, despite going off injured in the Challenge Cup defeat to Hull FC.
Myler has run up some impressive numbers this season for the Dragons. He is their top tryscorer in 2017 with seven and is also way out in front in their assists chart too, putting in team-mates 13 times, four more than half back partner Luke Walsh.
Myler has also marshalled the attack with the boot, putting in 64 attacking kicks, again more than Walsh. It was a partnership expected to dazzle this season and there is still time for the combination of Walsh and Myler to fire the Dragons towards the right end of the table.
It has been a difficult time recently for coach Laurent Frayssinous who was missing 12 first-teamers for the 62-0 humbling against Hull FC in the Challenge Cup.
Super League results have been difficult too, they lost late on at home to Leeds and were soundly beaten away at both Wakefield and Wigan in the weeks before.
Catalans were on a three-game winning run before then and have the quality to beat any side on their day, but injuries are really hurting them at the moment.
Magic weekend record
For notoriously poor travellers, Catalans haven't done too badly at Magic Weekend events, winning four and drawing one of their 10 games since 2007.
However, all of those victories have come against London (or the Harlequins version in 2008), including a 42-18 victory in 2012.
Magic Weekend memories
Brian Carney, Phil Clarke, Barrie McDermott and Terry O'Connor select their favourite Magic Weekend moments
The last three Magic Weekends have brought three belters from the Dragons though; a two-point win over the Broncos in the opening match of 2014 and a 22-22 draw with Huddersfield a year later in Newcastle, conceding to a late Danny Brough touchline conversion.
And they were beaten by that stunning Jacob Miller drop goal last year, completing a treble of classics.
Watch out for more of that from Catalans this weekend.
Key player: Jermaine McGillvary
You can't look beyond Huddersfield's England winger as their go-to man this weekend, especially as Danny Brough will be suspended.
McGillvary represented the Giants Down Under against Samoa, keeping his place despite his club's poor form this season.
He has scored seven tries so far this campaign, just one more than Jake Mamo, and 10 down on his 17 from last season. But you can't doubt his finishing skills; and he proved that once again on the international stage, crossing in the test two weeks ago.
A powerful runner on kick return, it's no surprise to see him at the top of the metres list with 1446 metres from his 171 carries. And that's at an impressive average gain of 8.46m a run.
Give this man space at your peril.
It has been another difficult season in West Yorkshire. The Giants are currently 10th in the table with three wins from their 13 games.
And they don't even have the Challenge Cup to fall back on, having been knocked out in embarrassing fashion by Swinton.
Things have improved recently, pushing Castleford all the way in their last outing and hammering Leeds 31-12 at Headingley in easily their best performance of the season.
But before that, it was eight games without a win as they struggled to find their feet in 2017. Things must improve.
Magic weekend record
A winning record for the Giants in Magic Weekend, and they've had plenty of different opposition.
Huddersfield have faced eight different teams, playing just Warrington and Bradford twice. They are unbeaten in this event since a 38-34 defeat to Salford in 2012, one of the best games seen at Magic Weekend, and have two big wins over the Bulls to their name as well.
Their 48-20 thrashing of St Helens was arguably the best performance of the 2016 event in Newcastle, defying their lowly 11th place to run in eight tries against the Saints.
Danny Brough's touchline goal against this weekend's opponents in 2015 to nick a draw was also a special moment. Will they continue their good record this weekend?
Catalans Dragons: Paul Aiton, Lucas Albert, Greg Bird, Julian Bousquet, Remi Casty, Alrix Da Costa, Jordan Dezaria, Vincent Duport, Ben Garcia, Tony Gigot, Krisnan Inu, Sam Moa, Richie Myler, Ugo Perez, Paul Seguier, Mickael Simon, Iain Thornley, Luke Walsh, Fouad Yaha.
Huddersfield Giants: Paul Clough, Leroy Cudjoe, Dale Ferguson, Lee Gaskell, Ryan Hinchcliffe, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Kruise Leeming, Jermaine McGillvary, Darnell McIntosh, Jake Mamo, Nathan Mason, Alex Mellor, Aaron Murphy, Adam O'Brien, Sam Rapira, Martyn Ridyard, Oliver Roberts, Shannon Wakeman, Sam Wood.
Leigh Centurions v Salford Red Devils (3.15pm, live on Sky Sports Mix)
Key player: Ben Crooks
Is Crooks finding the form that saw him make the Dream Team for Hull FC in 2013? The on-loan Castleford centre is an ever present for the Centurions so far in 2017 and has found his feet.
Crooks is Leigh's top scorer with five tries and has also weighed in with three try assists too. He has shown impressive form with ball-in-hand, making 1008 metres at an average gain of 8.13m per drive.
With 10 clean breaks and 34 tackle busts, the best in both regards for the Centurions, Crooks is a go-to man for Leigh in attack. Will he make an impact in Newcastle?
It started well for Leigh with three wins from their first five matches but things have only gone downhill since.
Seven Super League defeats have followed, a run that has seen them slip to second bottom of the table, and they exited the Challenge Cup against lower league opposition in Hull KR.
It was always going to be a difficult first year back for Leigh and, in fairness, their only real thrashing came at the hands of the red-hot Tigers in their opening game.
Narrow defeats to Wakefield and Salford haven't helped their cause, though, and the Centurions need to rediscover their winning touch at Magic Weekend.
Magic Weekend record
This is Leigh's debut at Magic Weekend.
Salford Red Devils
Key player: Ben Murdoch-Masila
It has been a great season for Salford so far and their efforts have been epitomised by their Tongan international Ben Murdoch-Masila.
The hard-running forward is a difficult man to stop when he gets going and he's currently Salford's top scorer with eight tries, three more than any of his team-mates. That's the highest total of any Super League forward and he's extremely difficult to stop close to the line.
He doesn't carry the ball as much as some of his fellow forwards; indeed he ranks 14th for carries in Salford's statistics, but he makes an average 7.38m a drive.
Murdoch-Masila is also Salford's second best offloader with nine, though that's some way behind Josh Jones. If the Red Devils are heading for success in 2017, then they need more of the same from their second rower.
The Red Devils are finally delivering on what the Doctor ordered when he first bought the club. Currently third in the table, they've won nine of their 13 games and have progressed to the Challenge Cup quarter-finals as well.
It is four straight wins in all competitions and Salford's last Super League outing brought a first win away at Wigan in 20 years, their 31-16 triumph a clear message that they're here to stay at the top of the table.
They put 54 past Hull FC away from home and also beat St Helens and Castleford at home in other impressive performances. Will they keep up the good work?
Magic Weekend record
Magic Weekend hasn't always made easy viewing for Salford fans. They have won just three of their nine games, missing the 2008 version after their relegation in 2007.
They did beat Widnes in a tight game last season but there have been some ugly performances along the way. They were thumped 42-12 by the Crusaders in 2011, were smashed 68-16 by Warrington in 2010 and 50-18 by the same opponents in 2007.
Perhaps their best game came in 2012 when they beat Huddersfield 38-34 in a thrilling 13-try match that ended a six-match losing streak. Adam Sidlow's late try sealed a fantastic match-up and ended Salford's wait for a Magic Weekend victory.
Leigh Centurions: Mitch Brown, Lachlan Burr, Ben Crooks, Matty Dawson, Josh Drinkwater, Matty Fleming, James Green, Ryan Hampshire, Harrison Hansen, Adam Higson, Gareth Hock, Liam Hood, Sam Hopkins, Cory Paterson, Eloi Pelissier, Ben Reynolds, Glenn Stewart, Danny Tickle, Atelea Vea.
Salford Red Devils: Jake Bibby, Kriss Brining, Michael Dobson, Niall Evalds, Mark Flanagan, James Hasson, Weller Hauraki, Greg Johnson, Josh Jones, Craig Kopczak, Olsi Krasniqi, Ryan Lannon, Robert Lui, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O'Brien, Junior Sa'u, Lama Tasi, Logan Tomkins, Kris Welham.
Castleford v Leeds (5.30pm)
Key player: Luke Gale
Castleford's form has been mesmerising in 2017 and there have been plenty of star performers. Zak Hardaker at full-back, the two wingers Greg Eden and Greg Minikin and second rower Mike McMeeken have all impressed, but it is Gale that pulls the strings.
The half-back has 10 try assists to his name but has also found a knack of finding the whitewash this season, crossing 10 times so far, the joint-fourth best in Super League.
He kicks his goals, he makes the backline tick and he is now in possession of England's No 7 jersey. Will Gale blow the Tigers to glory?
Interesting. Two of their three Super League defeats have come in the last five games, against Hull FC and St Helens, but they've produced a couple of stunning performances too.
Cas destroyed Wigan 54-4 to return to the top of the table before blowing St Helens away in the Challenge Cup, proving Daryl Powell's side have ambitions on both fronts.
Castleford Tigers vs Leeds Rhinos
May 21, 2017, 5:15pm
There was a gritty win over Huddersfield in between those two thrashings, so the Tigers have shown they can win ugly too.
Magic Weekend record
Reasonable. Castleford have won six of their nine games at Magic Weekend, missing the very first edition back in 2007 with the club not in Super League.
Wakefield are their traditional Magic Weekend opponents and that has brought a couple of big wins; 56-16 in 2015, 50-12 in 2014 and 48-24 in 2013.
The Tigers haven't lost one of these fixtures since 2012 and 34 unanswered points saw them beat Warrington in last year's edition. Not bad then for a side not always traditionally fighting at the right end of the table.
Key player: Matt Parcell
James Sege-who? Parcell's sensational start at Headingley has ensured the Rhinos have made a seamless transition between NRL hookers, with their latest addition filling a hole that has often proved problematic for Leeds.
He is second in the Rhinos tryscoring charts with eight while also providing eight assists for team-mates, and formed a lethal combination with offloading prop Adam Cuthbertson.
Parcell isn't afraid to do the dirty week either; his 481 tackles is not just the best in Leeds colours, but also the best in Super League.
The 24-year-old is proving a high-quality import from Australia and Leeds need more of the same from him in the second half of the season.
Leeds have recovered well from their 2016 horror show and their recent form is okay. Two defeats in five league games have been disappointing, especially given the context of defeats to a Warrington side struggling at the time and a humbling at Headingley by a Huddersfield side in a similar position.
But there's been some good wins too; a massive 52-24 success at Hull FC and a win over Catalans in France thanks to a late Danny McGuire try.
Leeds have also been lucky in having two Challenge Cup gimmes, posting massive scores against both Doncaster and Barrow. Now, will the Rhinos avenge that 66-10 defeat to Castleford earlier in the season?
Magic Weekend record
It was all going rather well for Leeds until 2013. They had won six from six at Magic Weekend, until the schedulers pitted them against Wigan.
Four straight defeats have followed to the Warriors and the Rhinos will be almost be glad to see the Tigers lining up against them for once.
But some of the Magic Weekend's most memorable moments have involved Leeds. Who can forget the 18-point comeback and late penalty try winner against Bradford in 2011, or the similar 18-point switch-around against Wakefield in Edinburgh the year before.
And they'll always have Jordan Tansey's match-winner against Bradford in 2007, following up (in an offside position) Kevin Sinfield's penalty to touch down and snatch the points. Amazing scenes if you're a Leeds fan.
Castleford Tigers: Matt Cook, Greg Eden, Luke Gale, Kieran Gill, Zak Hardaker, Tom Holmes, Alex Foster, Andy Lynch, Nathan Massey, Mike McMeeken, Paul McShane, Grant Millington, Greg Minikin, Adam Milner, Junior Moors, Jesse Sene-Lefao, Gadwin Springer, Michael Shenton, Jake Webster.
Leeds Rhinos: Jordan Baldwinson, Tom Briscoe, Rob Burrow, Adam Cuthbertson, Brett Delaney, Brett Ferres, Ashton Golding, Ryan Hall, Ash Handley, Jamie Jones-Buchanan, Danny McGuire, Joel Moon, Anthony Mullally, Matt Parcell, Brad Singleton, Alex Sutcliffe, Liam Sutcliffe, Stevie Ward, Kallum Watkins.