Rugby League Expert & Columnist
Phil Clarke's Weekend Preview: Super League Round 5
Last Updated: 08/03/18 1:20pm
Phil Clarke turns the spotlight on three Betfred Super League Round 5 clashes including a "must-win" match in Perpignan, live on Sky Sports Arena.
On Saturday night, Steve McNamara's Catalans Dragons side will be meeting Tim Sheens' Hull KR for the second time in three weeks.
The last encounter saw Hull KR prevail 23-4 at KCOM Craven Park and Clarke has identified this second meeting as a pivotal match.
"Even at the start of March, this is a must-win match," Clarke told Sky Sports News.
"I know that there's a long time left in the season but in the first 23 rounds, you've got to get things right and for the Dragons that has to start on Saturday night.
"At home, they're a much stronger side but are they strong enough to beat Hull KR? I think so, yes," he continued.
"At the start of the season, I tipped them to just about creep into the top 8 and to do it, they have to win this week."
McNamara's Dragons are going into this game having had their Round 4 match against Leeds Rhinos postponed. Hull KR's meeting with Castleford Tigers also fell foul to the inclement weather.
The Perpignan-based side are yet to score a league point this Super League season and in front of our cameras on Saturday night, they need to show that they are, as Clarke believes them to be, "a different side at home".
On Friday evening, the Halliwell Jones Stadium will open its doors for Warrington against St Helens.
The home side are one of five clubs with four league points, having gained just two victories from their five league encounters this season. Ahead of Round 5, Clarke assessed their loss to Hull FC last time out.
"Well, they haven't got off to a great start. We saw them play against Hull at the weekend and for 50 minutes they were completely outplayed until they had a man sent off," commented Clarke.
"In fact, with 12 men they looked more dangerous, more threatening and had more energy about them but, they were clearly outplayed by a Hull.
"They have struggled with their attack Warrington this year and their big money signing - Tyrone Roberts - hasn't really excited me, or any of his teammates, at present. So, they are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform better."
In contrast, their opponents St Helens are sitting at the top of the table, alongside Wakefield, with four wins from four and for Clarke one man is certainly standing out.
"Last year they had great defence and what they've added to that this year is cutting thrust to their attack particularly with Ben Barba, the full-back.
"People predicted that he would be the competition's best player this season and in the early rounds he's certainly delivered on that. When the pitches get firmer and the weather gets drier I think that we're only going to see more from him.
"The challenge for Warrington, if they're going to have any chance of beating Saints, is to nullify the threat that Barba poses in this game and hope that somehow they can find a way through St Helens' defence."
Another side that will be looking to ignite their form while it is still relatively early in the season are Brian McDermott's Leeds Rhinos, who host Hull FC on Thursday night. In spite of their slower start - two wins and a loss - Clarke's perspective on them is a positive one.
"Well, two years ago, they struggled at the start of the season and of course missed out on the play-offs and they'll be desperate for that not to happen again.
"We are talking about a team that has won six of the last 10 Grand Finals so you can never really write them off.
"Even though they haven't been playing very well and I don't think that their attack is very fluent, they've got Kallum Watkins and Ryan Hall - world class players who have the ability to win games virtually on their own. That's the threat that Hull face when they play against them this week."
The Rhinos haven't lost to Hull FC at the Emerald Headingley Stadium since 2007 and welcome back Jack Walker from injury to take a place on their bench.
That said Leeds' injury list is much longer than McDermott would like with Brad Dwyer being the latest to join it.
Liam Sutcliffe, Adam Cuthbertson, Stevie Ward, Jimmy Keinhorst, Brett Ferres and Nathaniel Peteru are all unavailable for selection.
Alongside Round 5 of the Betfred Super League, the NRL returns on Thursday so clear your diaries and enjoy an action-packed few days of rugby league, live on Sky Sports.