Magic Weekend: Team-by-team guide to Saturday's Super League fixtures
By Tom Mordey | Twitter: @TomMordey |
Last Updated: 20/05/17 2:05pm
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?
All is answered below in our guide to Magic Weekend:
Widnes Vikings v Wakefield Trinity (2.30pm)
Key player: Joe Mellor
The fact Widnes are bottom of the table might have a lot to do with the fact Mellor didn't feature until round eight after suffering a knee injury. But the half-back is in the side now, scoring a crucial try in their 16-14 win over St Helens back in April.
Tom Gilmore has impressed in Mellor's absence with his eight try assists but Mellor proved his star quality in 2016 with 16 try assists and 11 tries, playing alongside the now-departed Kevin Brown.
The Vikings need Mellor to strike up a similar partnership with Gilmore, or the new arrival of Rangi Chase, for the rest of this season if the side are to survive in 2017.
Look away now Vikings fans. They've won just twice all season, beating St Helens and Leigh in April.
On the whole, Widnes have avoided any real thumpings; the one really disappointing result coming in a 46-10 reverse at home to Salford. But they're also now out of the Challenge Cup after defeat to Warrington and threw away a 22-4 half-time lead against Hull FC in their last Super League game.
Things have to improve.
Magic Weekend record
Won two, lost three. Widnes' first appearance at Magic didn't come until 2012 in Manchester and they were duly thrashed 68-4 by Warrington.
They have played Salford in all four games since, winning three of them before losing a tight encounter in Newcastle last year 18-12.
The Vikings have opened the event in the last two seasons and will do the same in 2017. Will they get the weekend off to a flying start?
Key player: Ben Jones-Bishop
It is a joy to watch Wakefield's outside backs at the moment. Despite the devastating blow of losing Tom Johnstone for the season to an anterior cruciate ligament, Trinity have some serious firepower out wide.
Mason Caton-Brown scored four times against Dewsbury in the Challenge Cup but their top scorer in Super League, Jones-Bishop, was rested.
The former Rhino has found the whitewash 10 times so far in 2017, the joint-fourth top scorer in the competition and he's got some seriously impressive running stats to his name. He has made 1202 metres at an average gain of 9.54m a run, making a team-high 13 clean breaks and 22 tackle busts.
Impressive stuff from Jones-Bishop. Now will he light up Newcastle too?
Once again, Wakefield are defying the Super League bookmakers. Chris Chester's side currently sit sixth in the table and have reached the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
They have won their last two Super League games, beating Leigh away and Catalans at home, and suffered narrow defeats before that to Warrington and Wigan.
The highlights of Trinity's season have been away wins aatSt Helens and in the south of France against Catalans to keep them on course for a second successive Super 8s finish.
Magic weekend record
Not too good. Wakefield have won just three of their 10 games, conceding 50 points to local rivals Castleford in both 2014 and 2015 and 48 to the same opponents in 2013.
But they've played their part in some of Magic Weekend's brilliant games. They suffered that close 34-30 defeat to Leeds in 2010 and beat Castleford 32-26 in a thriller in the 2012 opener.
But how about last year's game? Wakefield recovered from 14-0 down to win 25-24 against Catalans. And it was a stunning drop goal from Jacob Miller to win it, smashed over from miles out with just three minutes to play. A memorable Magic Weekend moment.
Widnes Vikings: Jack Buchanan, Greg Burke, Hep Cahill, Ed Chamberlain, Jay Chapelhow, Rangi Chase, Gil Dudson, Alex Gerrard, Rhys Hanbury, Aaron Heremaia, Chris Houston, Ryan Ince, Jack Johnson, Jordan Johnstone, Manase Manuokafoa, Eamon O'Carroll, Charly Runciman, Lloyd White, Sam Wilde.
Wakefield Trinity: Tinirau Arona, Joe Arundel, Matty Ashurst, James Batchelor, Mason Caton-Brown, Anthony England, David Fifita, Liam Finn, Scott Grix, Keegan Hirst, Craig Huby, Ben Jones-Bishop, Danny Kirmond, Reece Lyne, Jacob Miller, Mikey Sio, Bill Tupou, Sam Williams, Kyle Wood.
Hull FC v St Helens (4.45pm)
Key player: Albert Kelly
Has there been a better signing in Super League this season than Albert Kelly?
On his day, the half-back has everything. He's a try scorer, a try creator and pretty handy with the boot as well. His 12 tries is the best return for any Hull FC player, four more than any team-mate in fact, and he is chasing down the Castleford pair of Greg Eden and Greg Minikin at the top of the competition's charts.
Kelly is also capable of putting a team-mate through a gap too; his five try assists are only second to Marc Sneyd in Hull FC's rankings. The half-back has also made nine clean breaks and no stranger to taking on the defensive line.
If there is one player capable of lighting up Newcastle, Kelly might just be the man.
Second in the Super League table, just a point behind Castleford. And FC might have a just reason to feel aggrieved at the Tigers getting all the 2017 plaudits for their form.
Lee Radford's side have won four Super League games in a row, including a two-point win over the league leaders, and they demolished Catalans 62-0 last Friday as they aim to defend the Challenge Cup.
There have been a couple of strange results - shipping 50 in back-to-back weeks against Leeds and Salford at home raised a few eyebrows - but Hull FC remain on course for a good crack at Old Trafford.
Magic weekend record
There's mixed memories for Airlie Bird fans in Magic Weekends. In their 10 games, they've won four and lost six. And with the RFL's love for a Magic derby, eight of those matches have come against Hull KR.
The Black-and-Whites lost their first two games to their big rivals at this event before a two-year break from playing them. However, they've played the Robins every year since 2011, throwing up a few whoppers.
There was a 32-30 defeat in Manchester in 2012, thanks to that dramatic late winner from David Hodgson, before that controversial late score at the same venue a year later. Chris Green's try, that was incorrectly allowed despite being offside, earned FC their first derby bragging rights at Magic Weekend and they beat their rivals comfortably in 2015 and 2016.
It will be a strange event without the Hull derby but FC will still have the red and white of St Helens to get stuck into instead.
Key player: Mark Percival
What a difference this man makes to the St Helens attack. He is their joint-top scorer with six tries this season and has also provided six assists, the second best for the Saints.
Percival will also be smarting after his non-England selection, Wayne Bennett opting for full-back Zak Hardaker in his place, but there is plenty of time to convince the England coach otherwise before the World Cup.
Percival is St Helens' third-best metre maker, notching up 1311m from his 160 carries, at 8.19m on average a drive, just behind James Roby in that respect.
But the centre has also made 19 clean breaks, 10 more than any other team-mate and the second best in Super League, and 54 tackle busts, again the best of any Saints player and third-best in the competition.
Expect fireworks from him in Newcastle.
Not as hoped. St Helens are clinging on to their Super 8s place, level on points with ninth-placed Warrington. Justin Holbrook is on his way from Australia to replace Keiron Cunningham and he can't come soon enough.
The Saints were hammered by Castleford in the Challenge Cup last weekend and also thrashed by Warrington the week before in Super League. They did beat the Tigers in April in the league, but followed that up with a shock defeat to Widnes.
There's no doubt St Helens will need a big impact from their new coach if they're to make any waves in the business end of the season.
Magic weekend record
Quite disappointing for a side with St Helens' pedigree. They have won four, drawn one and lost five, though, in their defence, the games haven't generally been easy, including five local derbies with Wigan and another three against Warrington.
Highlights include a comeback win over Warrington in 2015, snatching 16 points off Wigan in the final 15 minutes to pinch a draw in 2011, and a stunning 10-try demolition of Wigan - including a Sean Long hat-trick - to see out proceedings at Cardiff in 2008. But a losing record all the same.
Hull FC: Josh Bowden, Jack Downs, Brad Fash, Chris Green, Josh Griffin, Danny Houghton, Albert Kelly, Sika Manu, Steve Michaels, Mark Minichiello, Jamie Shaul, Marc Sneyd, Fetuli Talanoa, Scott Taylor, Jordan Thompson, Carlos Tuimavave, Jansin Turgut, Danny Washbrook, Liam Watts.
St Helens: Kyle Amor, Luke Douglas, Theo Fages, Regan Grace, Morgan Knowles, Tommy Lee, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Tommy Makinson, Ryan Morgan, Mark Percival, Dominique Peyroux, Greg Richards, James Roby, Matty Smith, Adam Swift, Zeb Taia, Luke Thompson, Alex Walmsley, Jon Wilkin.
Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (7pm)
Key player: George Williams
He missed the cup win over Swinton with a migraine and also England's win over Samoa with a knee injury, so Williams will be champing at the bit to get stuck into Warrington.
It has been an injury-hit season for the Warriors but their young stand-off has provided most of the standout moments so far in 2017.
Williams signed a new contract in April, keeping him out of the clutches of the NRL, and it's easy to forget he is only 22. He is pivotal to Wigan's attack; his 16 assists 11 more than any other Wigan player, and a figure that's also three more than any other Super League player either.
Williams has five tries to his name as well and isn't afraid to take on the line himself. Expect a big display come Saturday night.
Ouch. Wigan's injury problems have finally caught up with them in Super League. They were beaten at home by Salford for the first time in 20 years just a week after being thrashed 54-4 at Castleford.
The Warriors had been defying their injury curse before that, winning three in a row against St Helens, Wakefield and Catalans to stay in touch at the top of the table.
A comfortable win over Swinton in the cup brought light relief last weekend, and this Magic Weekend fixture against Warrington will also be the cup quarter-final match-up.
Magic weekend record
Stunning in recent years. Wigan have not lost at Magic Weekend since 2008, although that was a 57-16 hammering at the hands of St Helens.
Seven wins and a draw have followed since, and even that 16-all game against St Helens in 2011 was chucked away. They have beaten Leeds four times in a row, including a 40-8 thrashing last season, running in seven tries.
You could argue Wigan have had it hardest in this event, five games against rivals St Helens, four against Leeds and one against Huddersfield in 2010 in Edinburgh. Taking that into account, their record is sensational.
Key player: Chris Hill
Is there a harder working player in Super League? Despite missing the opening four rounds of the season, Hill has already smashed the 1,000-metre mark for 2017, the best of any Warrington forward.
His 1096 metres have come at an average of 8.12m a drive from 135 carries. Throw in 263 tackles from the skipper and 10 offloads and you have a prop forward at the very top of his game.
Tony Smith has built his side round Hill for a long time, though he could only make Wayne Bennett's bench against Samoa.
Vastly improving. The Wolves have put themselves on the verge of the Super 8s, losing just one of their last six league games, a 34-10 reversal at Hull FC.
A dreadful start had left last season's Grand Finalists in serious danger of missing the end of season cut but Smith's side have turned it around. They hammered St Helens 40-18 last time out in Super League and eased past Widnes in the Challenge Cup this weekend.
Will they build on this recent form by beating Wigan in Newcastle?
Magic weekend record
A real mixed bag. Wigan will be Warrington's sixth different opponents at Magic Weekend, previously playing St Helens three times, Salford and Huddersfield twice each and Hull KR, Widnes and Castleford once each.
Beaten last time out by the Tigers, they have notched up two excellent 40-point performances against St Helens while also putting 60 on Widnes and Salford.
Perhaps their most exciting game was the 36-34 win over the Giants in 2008 in Cardiff, overturning a 16-point deficit to snatch victory. But it's an overall record of six wins and four defeats.
Warrington Wolves: Ryan Atkins, Kevin Brown, Daryl Clark, Mike Cooper, Dominic Crosby, Brad Dwyer, Kurt Gidley, Chris Hill, Jack Hughes, Benjamin Jullien, George King, Tom Lineham, Declan Patton, Joe Philbin, Stefan Ratchford, Matty Russell, Andre Savelio, Joe Westerman, Ben Westwood.
Wigan Warriors: Joe Burgess, Tom Davies, Liam Farrell, Callum Field, Liam Forsyth, Nick Gregson, Willie Isa, Liam Marshall, Michael Mcilorum, Romain Navarrete, Frank-Paul Nuuausala, Sean O'Loughlin, Ryan Sutton, Taulima Tautai, Lewis Tierney, Joel Tomkins, Jack Wells, George Williams, Josh Woods.