The latest round of matches in the Super League concludes in France on Saturday afternoon as for the first time since the restart fans will be allowed in when the new league leaders Catalans Dragons host the former champions Wigan Warriors in a tasty looking contest.
This always had the makings of being a tasty match anyway but with the new rules that sees the league determined on point percentage rather than total points, the winners here know that they will exit the weekend on top of the table. The match is live on Sky Sports with a 5pm kick off UK time.
When the Catalans Dragons were wiped out by St Helens in their first match after the restart there were fears that this was going to be another campaign that offered plenty but delivered little, however two convincing Super League wins and another in the Challenge Cup has put those concerns to bed and now the attention is beginning to centre on whether they have the durability and the belief that they can be Super League champions.
There is certainly no shortage of points in this Dragons side. They have an entire back line that can win matches on their own on any given day but the impressive thing in this recent run has been how they have gone defensively. You could argue that two matches against Wakefield Trinity and another against the Castleford Tigers isn’t the hardest run of fixtures but the discipline and intensity they have shown to keep their opponents from scoring offers up a lot of hope.
When the season restarted the Wigan Warriors were expected to launch a title bid and that is exactly what they did with three successive wins to get their campaign back under way but if you thought they were going to cruise to the postseason, their momentum was halted when they were shocked by Hull KR last time out. They need to bounce back from that as soon as possible but this isn’t the easiest assignment they could have had.
Although Wigan won those three matches prior to that loss you would be fibbing if you said there was a lot that was convincing about them and that will be a concern. This is very much their toughest test since the restart so it will be interesting to see if that brings out a performance better than what they’ve shown. We know Wigan are capable of muscling up defensively and in the likes of Jackson Hastings and Bevan French they have players who can open sides up at will.
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The Catalans Dragons will be without some big players with Michael McIlorum and Josh Drinkwater missing. Tom Davies and David Mead are also out but to offset that the likes of Lucas Albert, Julian Bousquet and Samisoni Langi are in the squad.
Wigan Warriors will welcome their captain Sean O’Loughlin back for the first time since lockdown which will be a huge boost to their chances. George Burgess and Ethan Havard are included in the squad and could return.
I’m incredibly tempted to take the Catalans Dragons for this match given that they will get the energy of fans behind them in this game but they are just missing one or two too many for my liking which leaves me thinking the better bet might be for more than 47.5pts to be scored. Ever since the restart of the competition the trend has been for high scoring matches and these two teams certainly have enough in their ranks to pile points on each other.
I suspect this is going to be a gruelling and energy zapping match played in some pretty intense heat so the longer the match goes the defences are likely to tire quite quickly which should lead to points being scored regularly enough. Importantly both teams have good kickers so we shouldn’t lose too many points on conversions which is always key. These are two of the best in Super League and I’m expecting a high scoring classic as a result.
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