Warrington v Catalans: Three key battles
By Tom Mordey | Twitter: @TomMordey |
Last Updated: 11/07/18 9:01pm
Two teams with designs on the Super 8s face off on Thursday night, live on Sky Sports Arena and Sky Sports Mix from 7.30pm.
Warrington are still gunning for a place in the top 4, while Catalans have done well to put themselves in the mix. So who will come out on top?
Here's three head to heads that might decide it…
Stefan Ratchford v Tony Gigot
It's been a strong season for Stefan Ratchford at full-back, which nailed him the number one jersey for England. Wayne Bennett gave him the nod for the win over New Zealand in Denver but Ratchford can't afford to rest on his laurels.
He was rested by Steve Price for the Salford game after the trip across the Atlantic, with Mitch Brown coming in and impressing - but the England man is still number one for Warrington.
He's got eight tries so far this season, but also provided 14 try assists, four better than any of his team-mates. Expect him to play a big part in the run-in.
How important is Tony Gigot for the Dragons? He returned in February, having had his two-year ban finally overturned and he's got four tries to his name so far for the season.
Gigot is a threat with the ball from the back, making nearly 1500 metres from his 192 carries - that's an average of 7.58m a run. He's also made nine clean breaks and 67 tackle busts, the best in the Catalans side.
And if there's a tight game, you'd want Gigot on your side. He's kicked six drop goals this campaign, two more than any other player in Super League. Could he be the key in a tight finish?
Bryson Goodwin v David Mead
Warrington have the international experience of Bryson Goodwin in their backline. The New Zealand international joined the Wolves from South Sydney Rabbitohs, although he was originally scheduled to join Leigh before their relegation.
Goodwin has two tries and three try assists to his name this campaign, having played 17 of the 20 league games this season. He's also assumed the kicking responsibility from the tee, but Goodwin will hope to improve his accuracy, having kicked 29 but also missed 19.
With Ryan Atkins having just had surgery on an injured bicep, Steve Price will need all of Goodwin's experience in his side during the run-in.
The man topping the try charts for Catalans is David Mead - he's crossed eight times so far for the Dragons. And despite their difficult start to the campaign, the Papua New Guinea international has shown his consistency in 2018.
Mead has also changed positions during the season. Having started off at full-back, he switched to centre to accommodate the returning Tony Gigot in the No 1 slot.
Mead adds quality on the ball; indeed he averages 8.03m per carry and has a total of 1679 metres for the season. Steve McNamara will need Mead at his best if the Dragons are to secure a Super 8s slot.
Ben Westwood v Greg Bird
At 36 years of age Ben Westwood is still going, and he keeps notching up the milestones. The forward's appearance against Wigan was the 500th in his career; 425 of them coming in Warrington colours.
With 27 England caps, he's had a fine inning but there is still something missing - a Super League winner's medal. Westwood has been on the whole journey with the Wolves since 2002, through Challenge Cup glory but also through Grand Final pain.
Westwood has played in all 20 games this season, starting all but two of them and locking down the loose forward position. He's doing what he's always done - trucking the ball up willingly, and tackling. Westwood has 1687 metres from 242 carries and has made 553 tackles as well. Will he keep going until the end of the season?
Opposite Westwood in the loose forward position is another veteran - Catalans' Greg Bird. Now 34, he's keeping up with the pace in 2018 as well, appearing in 18 of their 20 games so far this season.
Bird offers Steve McNamara plenty of versatility; featuring at lock, in the second row and the half-backs so far this campaign. He's a strong carrier; 1834 metres from his 241 carries is the third best in the Dragons side, an average of 7.61m a drive.
Bird also has three tries to his name, and is a creative force too; third in the Dragons' rank for offloads with 23 and also seven try assists so far in 2018. If the Dragons are to put together a strong run into the Super 8s, expect Bird to be at the heart of it.