As was the case on the opening day of the Super League XXVIII Magic Weekend, the middle match of the three on Sunday looks to be the pick of the games as the champions St Helens take to the St James’ Park stage to face Huddersfield Giants.
Both of these teams enter the match much lower down the Super League table than they would wish to be so there will be even more of a desire for them both to pick up a Magic Weekend win and boost their position.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Arena channels with the build-up beginning at 2pm and the match kicking off at 2.15pm.
We are not accustomed to seeing a team like St Helens outside the top six in the table and while they won’t be panicking with them having a couple of matches in hand of most teams in the division, they will be conscious that we are moving into the second half of the campaign and that if they are going to ease the path to another successful title defence they need to get into the winning habit pretty soon, and start to look dominant in doing so.
Saints head to St James’ Park off the back of a win last week but they were forced to go to extra time by a Leeds team who were running out of bodies with every minute which passed. A win is always a welcome outcome for any team but you would struggle to suggest that there was too much that was particularly impressive about it. Champion sides tend to raise their game on the bigger stages though and St Helens will hope they can do that here.
I think all things being equal the most disappointing season of all the teams in the Super League belongs to the Huddersfield Giants. After a solid campaign last term, much was expected of them with the signings that they made ahead of this season but all they have to show for their efforts are five wins from 12 matches. They are now six points off the top six and while they also have matches in hand they are another side who need to start winning soon.
The big problem for the Giants is only the two teams below them in the table have scored fewer points than them this season. Admittedly, Huddersfield have played less games than most in the league but that is a statistic which needs to change. The positive is that only their opponents here have conceded fewer points this term so they are offering up the goods defensively so if they can find a groove in attack they’ll be fine.
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St Helens have two big players back for this match with Mark Percival back from injury to take his place in the squad while Matty Lees returns having served a two-match suspension. Ben Davies is one of those to drop out.
Adam Milner is expected to make his Huddersfield Giants debut in this match having joined from Castleford Tigers recently. Chris McQueen is in the squad as is Jake Connor so the Giants are close to full strength.
With the two best defences in Super League opposing each other here I think it would be foolish to expect too much in the way of high scoring and that always makes me think that a 10 point start for either team will be too big. There were two points between the pair when they met at the John Smith’s Stadium earlier in the season and in truth St Helens have been that clunky in attack this season that I wouldn’t be comfortable backing them to cover a 10 point handicap regardless of previous meetings.
I am waiting for Huddersfield Giants to break out and come into life and we saw on Saturday that the stage brought the best out of a couple of underdogs who have flattered to deceive this season. The big open spaces should allow the likes of Tui Lolohea, Theo Fages and Jake Connor the room to do their thing and with the power that the Giants have through the middle I expect them to put down a real challenge to the champions if not get the better of them.
Back Huddersfield Giants (+10) to beat St Helens for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with Coral