There is one offering from the Super League on Saturday and it sees two sides looking to bounce back from surprising losses last week when the Catalans Dragons welcome Hull FC to a hot and humid Perpignan.
These two sides have their sights set firmly on going deep in the play-offs when they come around. The Dragons will want to avoid playing in the first round of them and a win here will assist them with that while Hull still have plenty of work to do to be in the postseason extravaganza.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Arena channel with the brief build-up beginning at 4.55pm and kick off coming in France at 5pm UK time.
The Catalans Dragons are once again genuine Grand Final contenders, a year on from losing in the big dance at Old Trafford last term. It is fair to say they haven’t been quite as consistent as they were last season, which is ironic when you consider they could barely play at home last year and had to regularly fly to England at short notice for matches, but one of the reasons for that has been one or two injuries and a couple of new signings just taking a few weeks to adjust to the competition.
Those excuses have gone now so Steve McNamara will be expecting his charges to deliver some consistent displays and certainly much better ones than the one they produced at Huddersfield last week. The positive for the Dragons is that their home form is generally very good, especially this time of year when English sides get drained by the intense heat and humidity, and despite their injuries and surprise defeats only St Helens have conceded fewer points than them this term.
Consistency is something that Hull FC just can’t seem to find under Brett Hodgson. It was the same last season too. They were in a good position to make the play-offs around this time of the campaign but then injuries started to hurt them hard and they missed out on the end of the season altogether. That consistency is still missing so everyone of a Hull persuasion will be praying that the injuries of last year don’t follow and end their play-off hopes.
An injury cost them badly last week when they were cruising against Wakefield Trinity only to fall in a heap and eventually lose in extra time and while they will be looking for a bounceback here you would have to suggest they are up against it not just from a very good Catalans side on their day but also conditions which English sides just aren’t accustomed to. The one good thing is that Hull FC do match up well to the Dragons in that they have a forward pack which can go toe-to-toe with the French side, although whether they can do it for 80 minutes in these conditions remains to be seen and could be the deciding factor.
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Steve McNamara will be able to welcome Samisoni Langi back into his squad for this match while Julian Bousquet returns from suspension but the former England coach will be without Gil Dudson and Benjamin Jullien.
Hull FC will be without Jake Connor for up to three months which is not an ideal situation for them. Scott Taylor is banned for this match and Josh Bowlden has dropped out of the squad. Carlos Tuimavave comes back into the squad, as does Miteli Vulikijapani.
I would imagine this will be a competitive contest played down the middle for much of the early stages but the longer the game progresses the harder it will get for Hull FC in these conditions and in the end I expect the Catalans Dragons to wear their visitors down and run out relatively comfortable winners. They have done that in recent home matches against the Warrington Wolves where they were 6-6 at half time before powering clear to win 40-8 and against Castleford who were 16-6 down on 35 minutes but lost 44-12.
What Hull FC bring with physicality and power through the middle they will lack in endurance in these conditions which means they will need their back line to be on great form to have any chance of containing this Dragons side. That is where the loss of Jake Connor will hit them the hardest. Not only can he create something out of nothing to get his side down the field or in a position to put points on the board but he brings strength defensively. The longer this one goes I only see Catalans getting stronger and they can end up covering two converted tries.
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