When Leeds and Warrington served up a cracker in Round One at Headingley, it seemed both these sides were headed for success in 2022.
Since then, both have flirted with relegation although both now appear safe from that particular threat but only one of them are in the running for play-off rugby and that’s the Leeds Rhinos.
A win is a must for the Rhinos in the play-off race, whilst Warrington will be hoping to pick up a rare consecutive win.
The Rhinos are boosted by the return of three players from bans in the shape of Aidan Sezer, Matt Prior and Rhyse Martin. The fourth player expected back from a ban – Tom Holroyd – won’t return now requiring surgery on his elbow. Harry Newman is another young casualty with his season likely over after a third hamstring injury of 2022 whilst Bodene Thompson is another player who will be absent due to picking up an injury in the win against Hull KR though Cameron Smith appears to be ready to play despite picking p a nasty cut on his hand which could have ended his season had a ligament been torn. James Bentley is included in the squad after missing last week through injury whilst Zak Hardaker is carrying a knock.
Warrington have lost Stefan Ratchford to concussion this week with Riley Dean replacing him. Tom Mikaele, Matty Nicholson and Connor Wrench all picked up injuries last week so a quartet of youngsters have been named in the squad including Tom Whitehead who after being named in a number of 21-man squads could finally make his debut.
Match Preview – Key Battles:
Richie Myler vs Matt Dufty: Though he’s been brilliant in the halves recently, Richie Myler will likely be at fullback due to the injury of Harry Newman which will see Zak Hardaker move to the centres. Myler is in some rich form creating and scoring tries but it’ll be fascinating to see the former Warrington hero come up against the Wolves’ latest hero in the lightning quick Matt Dufty who has really taken to Super League.
Zak Hardaker vs Jake Wardle: Two midseason signings will collide down the flank. Both are deceptively strong and are great at weaving through defences and exploiting space when it’s given to them. It should be a unique battle between two players taking to their new clubs.
Jarrod O’Connor vs Daryl Clark: As Leeds get bodies back, Jarrod O’Connor could very well return to hooker. He’s been brilliant in the role using short passes to put big players through gaps whilst his powerful running game makes him a real threat. However, there are few players as dangerous out of dummyhalf as Daryl Clark. It’ll be an interesting test for young O’Connor.
Where the game will be won and lost:
When Leeds’ attack gets going, they’re one of the league’s most dangerous sides. This is what Warrington will have to shut down. Leeds won’t worry too much about the arm wrestle and will instead look to stretch the Wolves pulling them this way and that. If the Wolves can contain them, then they’ll get a real foothold in the game and could surprise the Rhinos.
Score Prediction: Leeds Rhinos 32-16 Warrington Wolves