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Festive rugby league score predictions: Including Leeds vs Wakefield and Featherstone vs Castleford

Leeds Rhinos Headingley Stadium

It’s Christmas Day tomorrow which can only mean one thing – Boxing Day rugby league is within touching distance and we’ll get a taste of the game we love and a sense of what to expect for the 2023 season.

As well as the two games on Boxing Day there’s one last game of 2022 on New Years Eve with Featherstone Rovers hosting Castleford Tigers to round out a brilliant year of rugby league.

Before then though we get a new look Leeds Rhinos hosting Wakefield Trinity in the traditional Boxing Day game and we also get to see two teams eyeing up promotion from their respective divisions as Batley Bulldogs host Dewsbury Rams in the Heavy Woollen derby game.

As such these games mark the unofficial start of the 2023 season and here’s a breakdown of what to expect.

Leeds Rhinos vs Wakefield Trinity – Boxing Day, 11:30 am @ Headingley Stadium

The game that most have been waiting for, the only one of the festive fixtures to feature two Super League clubs and a game that has become a staple with 2005 featuring the first match-up between the sides on this date in the Super League era.

Only once since 2009 has the match been held at Belle Vue with Headingley being the traditional venue and across the 12 match-ups Leeds are out in front with eight wins to three, the 2013 game being an 18-18 draw.

What’s to be expected for 2022 though? Well, Rohan Smith has confirmed a squad that’s very experimental and will feature four new signings but notably some positional changes as the Australian heads into his first pre-season with Rhinos.

Ash Handley has been listed as the starting full-back whilst Morgan Gannon is set to operate in the halves, debuts will be handed to new boys Derrell Olpherts, James McDonnell, Justin Sangare and Leon Ruan with fans set to see the quarter in amber and blue for the first time.

As for Wakefield it’s also been confirmed that they’ll show off some new signings with Mark Applegarth set to lead Trinity out for the first time with a side featuring two new signings, both Morgan Smith and Renouf Atoni are set to play.

Neither Kevin Proctor, not yet in the country, or Samisoni Langi, only just in training this week, will play but fans will get a chance to see plenty of familiar faces as Applegarth aims to find his best starting 13, having become Super League’s youngest head-coach at 38.

Prediction: Leeds 33-26 Wakefield – A high scoring game on account of Rhinos’ experimental squad with the Headingley crowd seeing them over the line thanks to a standout Ash Handley performance at full-back, which will only serve as a good problem to have for Smith heading into the season.

Batley Bulldogs vs Dewsbury Rams – Boxing Day, 12:00 pm @ Mount Pleasant

Last season’s Championship playoff finals losers take on the side that finished 13th and were relegated as hopefuls Batley take on their rivals Dewsbury in the Heavy Woollen derby.

Similar to Leeds and Wakefield this game has become a Boxing Day tradition in the 21st century, however this will be the first match-up since 2019, when the sides drew 14-14.

Across the most recent 11 match-ups Batley have won on nine occasions with the Rams sole win all the way back in 2011, but given the two league meetings last year seeing Batley run out as victors on three occasions, including by margins of 60-6 and 36-20 when playing at Heritage Road which spells trouble for Dewsbury.

Batley have lost their star full-back Luke Hooley to Leeds but on the whole have managed to retain players as they look to make another playoff charge, and with the announcement that fans will have ticket prices lowered to just £10 for all home games the hope for Batley is that plenty will show their support across the season.

Just this past week Batley have extended Luke Blake, Ben Kaye and Jamaican World Cup star Greg Johnson.

For the Rams they suffered a far worse season and ultimately were relegated winning just three league games across the season but with Liam Finn in charge they’ll hope to challenge in League One and he’ll have Paul Sykes operating as player-coach, pulling the strings on the park as well as taking up training sessions.

Sykes hasn’t been announced in the squad for Boxing Day with the Rams announcing a side featuring plenty of names from last season, although fans should look out for former Rochdale Hornet, Luke Littlewood, who will be trialling for the Rams.

Prediction: Batley 42-14 Dewsbury – Unfortunately for the Rams I think the short trip to Batley will be a losing one with nothing to suggest that they can reverse the three previous results and with history in this fixture also not on their side it could be a long afternoon for the Rams. Batley will be intent to show that last season wasn’t a fluke and they’ll be even more keen to do so by beating their rivals to do so.

Featherstone Rovers vs Castleford Tigers – New Years Eve, 12:00 pm @ Millennium Stadium

Last and by no means least is this cracking derby that we see so rarely given the separate leagues the teams compete in, but that delay makes these games all the more special and with a new look promotion chasing Featherstone team being assembled this looks set to be a great game.

Rovers fans have long desired the right to play at the top table and reach Super League and with bookies confirming them as joint favourites to do just that alongside Toulouse then maybe this is a fixture we could see more often in the future.

Sean Long takes the reigns for Rovers and the ex-Super League legend knows a thing or two about winning, and seemingly about squad building too as he’s added plenty of quality including Papua New Guinea World Cup star McKenzie Yei, Leigh’s Caleb Aekins, the talented French duo of Mathieu Cozza and Thomas Lacans have all joined a squad that was already very accomplished.

Rovers finished second in the Championship last season and really do look set to go better this season and this seems the most exciting fixture of the three given the unknowns.

As for Castleford they’ve arguably lost more than they’ve gained with top try scorer Derrell Olpherts leaving for Leeds, Jake Trueman heading to Hull FC and Gareth O’Brien now heading up the playmaking at Leigh.

Granted they’ve picked up Gareth Widdop and Jacob Miller in order to create opportunities but the loss of 18 tries will be incredibly hard to replace for a side that just missed out on the playoffs last season.

Whilst form from four months ago is hard to use as a measuring stick in this kind of game the fact Tigers lost five of their last seven certainly isn’t good news and facing a Rovers team who’ll be bang up for this final game of the 2022 calendar year they could be in for a shock.

Prediction: Featherstone 26-22 Castleford – Featherstone are going to pull off the shock, the recruitment during the off-season has been brilliant and whilst it’s hard to blood in so many players all at once this will be a crucial test for them and will mark the statement of intent for the forthcoming season. Their fans will be out in voice as if it’s the Grand Final and a new Rovers legend will be created with veteran Craig Hall putting in a two try performance.

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