Archive for July, 2009

Crystal Ball: Week 24

July 31, 2009

Crystal BallHuddersfield Giants beat Hull FC by 10

Do the Airlie Birds even have anything to play for at this point? For the Giants, a top 2 finish really isn’t out of the question.

Salford City Reds beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by 4

Mainly because of home advantage.

St Helens beat Wigan Warriors by 8

Now this could be a real good un. Wigan showed last week that they are more than capable at taking on and beating top sides, and they’ve already beaten Saints once this season. They’re a team in the zone right now. Yet for some reason I feel compelled to pick Saints, even though they’re down a few good players. Why? I guess it’s the Knowesley Road factor. 

Leeds Rhinos beat Warrington Wolves by 10

Was last weekend a blip, or have Leeds been deceiving of late? I think a home tie against a slightly-struggling Wolves side might be the kind of game they can scrape through. 

Catalan Dragons beat Celtic Crusaders by 22

Expansion ahoy! The Dragons might just have peaked too late to mount a playoff run, but it should be enough to overcome the Crusaders here. 

Bradford Bulls beat Harlequins by 6

Two teams caught in a tailspin right now. This prediction reflects more in my lost faith in Quins than it does in my belief of the Bulls’ ability. Either way, I doubt this game is pretty.

Castleford Tigers beat Hull KR by 8

Two teams hoping to consolidate a playoff position. I think this could prove to be a real good game, and I think that home advantage and a greater sense of urgency helps the Tigers here.

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Crystal Ball: Week 23

July 24, 2009

Crystal BallLeeds Rhinos beat Wigan Warriors by 4

Leeds just seem to have enough momentum to scrape through this one. Should be a close game either way.

Bradford Bulls beat Celtic Crusaders by 10

Not particularly confident about this pick, but I think the Bulls will want revenge for earlier in the season.

St Helens beat Harlequins by 22

Quins seem to have lost the plot in recent weeks, and a game against a smarting Saints is not the ideal place to rediscover it.

Hull KR beat Hull FC by 16

I think the Robins should confirm who’s the best side on Humberside this weekend.

Huddersfield Giants beat Catalan Dragons by 12

The Giants appear to be building up momentum at just the right time…

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats beat Castleford Tigers by 8

A local derby with serious playoff implications? Yes please!

Warrington Wolves beat Salford City Reds by 14

Mainly because of home advantage.

Crystal Ball: Week 22

July 17, 2009

Crystal BallIt’s been going pretty well for the last few weeks. Can I keep it going? For some reason I’m not so confident this week.

St Helens beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by 22

I find it hard to believe that last week’s game was anything other than a crushing blow to Wakey, added to which it seems that St Helens are the best team in the country.

Hull FC beat Celtic Crusaders by 14

Although if there was a team whom I could see the Crusaders somehow scraping an away victory against…

Castleford Tigers beat Salford City Reds by 6

Only because the Tigers need it more (if the Reds hadn’t started so poorly, this could’ve been a playoff eliminator).

Leeds Rhinos beat Hull KR by 16 

I still think Leeds are getting back into form, although they’ll need to do better than last week against a Hull KR side hoping to prove that they’re out of a rut. 

Catalan Dragons beat Harlequins by 12

Ah, that well-known local feud continues…

Warrington Wolves beat Huddersfield Giants by 2

This would be my upset pick for the weekend. I just think the Wolves will want to prove a point after last week’s disappointment and the Giants are surprisingly vulnerable at home. 

Wigan Warriors beat Bradford Bulls by 14

Because Wigan a) need it more and b) are playing better at the minute.

Monday Musings: Rhinos On The Charge

July 13, 2009

A few weeks ago I went to see Harlequins play Leeds Rhinos. Quins had already beaten Leeds at Headingley earlier in the season and were coming off of a resounding televised victory against Hull KR the week before, so I was expecting to see a good, well fought, close game. I saw that for one half of the game, but once Will Sharp threw one of the most ill-judged passes into touch that I’ve seen in a good long time (and with it any momentum) Leeds took complete charge and ended up cruising to victory by a score of 48-14. I was wondering at the time if Leeds, who seemed to have been a shadow of their former selves at stages during this season, had finally rediscovered the form that had taken them to two consecutive Super League titles. 

About a month later, I’m still not entirely sure that Leeds are there yet, but they’re certainly heading in the right direction. They now have eight wins in their last nine games (the loss being a narrow defeat in Perpignan to the Dragons) and have managed to be verging on uber-threatening at various stages during that time. They also seem to have luck on their side, although they do deserve credit for finding the will to score two tries in the final three minutes to snatch victory at Wakefield. The fact that they had to do this does suggest that the Rhinos machine isn’t completely operational yet, but it does appear to be warming up nicely as the playoffs approach. 

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Crystal Ball: Week 21

July 10, 2009

Crystal BallWigan Warriors beat Catalan Dragons by 14

The Warriors have proven very good at getting good just in time for the playoffs under Brian Noble (he wasn’t too bad at doing that at Bradford either) and I think they end this mini resurgence by the Dragons.

Leeds Rhinos beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by 10

I think Leeds are also warming up as the playoffs approach. They’re not quite at full steam yet, but they should have just enough to get past Wakefield. 

Salford City Reds beat Celtic Crusaders by 8

Man, the Crusaders have had a rough week. I doubt it gets better when St Helens’ conquerors come to town.

Huddersfield Giants beat Harlequins by 18

For some reason, the Giants appear to have a hex over  Quins this year.

St Helens beat Warrington Wolves by 2

As much as Wire have improved, I just can’t bring myself to pick them over Saints. Sorry, just can’t do it. 

Hull KR beat Bradford Bulls by 8

No particularly good reason for this pick, just a gut feeling.

Castleford Tigers beat Hull FC by 14

The loser of this is out of the playoff picture.

What a Week!

July 10, 2009

celtic

It’s been a turbulent week over in Bridgend, hasn’t it? All kinds of stuff going on, and none of it good.

First of all, Leighton Samuel has had to come out and reassure everyone about the financial security of the Celtic Crusaders. It was nice of him to do this, but the mere fact that he had to come out and do this is a worrying development in itself. At least he also had the backing of those at the RFL (this in itself seemed rather revealing about the RFL’s expasion priorities).

Then we also had the Crusaders announcing they were considering a move to Newport, which seemed to indicate a worry aboput their status in Bridgend (it also seemed like a poorly thought-out attempt at hyping their game against Leeds Rhinos in Newport). Of course, this was within the context of needing somewhere to play whilst they have a new stadium built (they tried reassuring everyone about their commitment to Bridgend) but in a week like this, it’s all too easy for somebody to spin something like this the wrong way.

Then there was the fact that the club is now under investigation from the UK Border Agency over visa irregularities. Again, this probably doesn’t mean all that much (it has been well documented how many players have had visa problems this year, and the Crusaders pre-season was destroyed by late visas) but any time the phrase ‘under investigation’ is used in a report about a club, it rarely looks good.

Finally, there’s the news that Tony Duggan and Damian Quinn will be leaving the club at the end of the year. Both men have been around the club basically from the beginning, and are core players for the side. Of course, if they can actually replace them with some quality talent then this could prove to be a blessing, but it does seem to indicate an end to the first phase of the Crusaders project (to me at least) that they now know they need to bring in new talent (or develop their own).

On the one hand, it’s hard not to see this week as a massive prolonged PR cock-up. It should also be pointed out that the Crusaders have to shoulder quite a lot of the blame for this themselves and will have been under extra scrutiny as they appeared to benefit from an RFL expansion agenda when the Super League licences were announced. On the other hand, it should also be pointed out that these are natural growning pains for a club (and business) that is still getting used to the level it is required to be at. Everyone new it would be a hard task to get the Crusaders up to speed, but I’m not sure the RFL realised just how difficult it would be.

In the end, as long as people learn from this week then that’s fine. As long as the people at the Crusaders remember to check that the paperwork of their players are in order, then that would be a start. As long as they make sure they know who their fans are and who they are appealing to, and don’t seem to be abandoning them when things don’t appear to be going their way (even if they’re not) then that’s good too. And as long as they can get their house in order (with help from the authorities if necessary) then that would be good for everyone. It’s going to be hard enough for the Crusaders as it is, without having even more of a negative perception around them.

Free NRL!

July 3, 2009

As you may be aware, Setanta UK recently went off-air, due to the company going into administration. This sucks for fans of boxing, UFC, mediocre Premiership football games, the Cricket Circus, and of course the NRL.

Well, fear not! The NRL have made their games available for live-streams for the lovely cost of ZERO MONEYS (for now at least). This is a smart move for the NRl to make sure that their fans in this country don’t forget that they exist in the interim as they search for a new TV deal. This is also a pretty sweet deal for those of us who never had Setanta in the first place…

Crystal Ball: Week 20

July 3, 2009

Crystal BallLast week wasn’t too bad. I’d like it to end up like that again, please.

St Helens beat Salford City Reds by 32

Beware the Saints – they’re right in form right now.

Wigan Warriors beat Harlequins by 6

Their game earlier in the season was a mini-classic, and I’m expecting a very similar result this week.

Leeds Rhinos beat Hull FC by 26

I think the Rhinos are back, and FC definitely seem to be on a slide right now.

Catalan Dragons beat Hull KR by 8

Are the Dragons about to make an improbable run for the playoffs? Utilising home advantage here would help their cause enormously.

Warrington Wolves beat Celtic Crusaders by 22

Warrington should make the playoffs now. It will be interesting to see if they can sneak into the top 4 (they’re only 4 points off).

Huddersfield Giants beat Wakefield Trinity Wildcats by 16

Because why not?

Castleford Tigers beat Bradford Bulls by 4

Cas probably need to win this if they want to get back into the top 8. I think that a sense of urgency should hold them in good stead.