The business end of the Super League season begins on Friday night when the play-offs get underway as the teams which finished fourth and fifth in the regular season meet as the Catalans Dragons host the Leeds Rhinos in Perpignan.
The Dragons were beaten in the Grand Final last season while the Rhinos are no strangers to Old Trafford themselves and both teams will be eager to set up a semi-final against either St Helens or Wigan next week.
Where to watch
The match will be shown live and in full on the Sky Sports Arena channel with the build-up to the contest beginning at 7.30pm UK time and the match kicking off 30 minutes later.
This clearly hasn’t been the best season for the Catalans Dragons, although I think we all know so much of that was down to a pretty rotten injury list they have had to contend with. There can be no excuses now though. One more defeat and the season is done so whatever they have they have to give their all. To the credit of the Dragons, they picked up two wins over the hectic bank holiday weekend to seal their spot in the postseason so they have a bit of winning form to take in with them.
We can ignore their result last weekend because they sent a completely changed side out against Wigan to ensure everyone they need for this match is as fresh as possible. The Dragons are always strong at home but they won’t need reminding that Leeds won one of the two meetings between the two in Perpignan this season. We can expect a very physical and intense display from a Dragons side who have taken some rather harsh criticism this season.
The Leeds Rhinos have been playing catch up throughout the season after getting off to a terrible start. They had the inevitable coaching change a third of the way through it and to their credit they have come alive and not just made the top six but actually finished fifth in the table. Unfortunately their reward is a trip to France but they will be aware that they have already won here this season and will be determined to do it again.
The longer this season has gone on the better Leeds have looked in attack and that is certainly no bad thing because you would imagine if they are going to make it through this match they are going to need to run up a few points. Where this game might be won and lost for Leeds, as well as being clinical at the top end of the pitch, is leaving everything on the line when they are defending their try line. They haven’t always inspired in that department though so that will be a test.
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Catalans Dragons will revert back to their strongest starters for this match. Importantly the reigning Man of Steel, Sam Tomkins has been passed fit to play and will take his place in the side at full-back. Mitchell Pearce is fit too.
Leeds Rhinos have named Harry Newman in their 21-man travelling party for this match although whether he actually makes it into the 17 remains to be seen. Their spine of Ritchie Myler, Blake Austin and Aidan Sezer are all available.
We are at the business end of the season now and so we should see some competitive action as a result of that. I did fear that Leeds might be a little too tired to give this a real good go but looking back they actually had the best of that stupid schedule over the bank holiday weekend last month as they played on Wednesday and then Monday so they should be able to compete in the physical side of this battle.
I still don’t expect the Rhinos to quite have enough to win this match because I sense we are going to see the best of the Catalans Dragons from here on in with them having all their key players back but to be fair to Leeds, they are rarely disgraced when they head to this part of France. In their last four trips to France they have lost by four points, nine points, won in extra time and lost by 14 points which was sealed with a late try. Both teams look close to full strength here so I’m expecting a high quality battle but one which the home side just edge.
Back Catalans Dragons to win by 1-12 points for a 3/10 stake at 3.00 with Betfair