“Howay, man!” we’re all off to Newcastle for the Magic Weekend, a jamboree of Super League rugby league to celebrate the mid-point of the season as we head into the all-important jostling for the play-off positions stage of 2023.
There are six games over two days at the weekend and while some people will just come to see their side and spend the rest of the time in the bar, many will take in all three fixtures on a particular day, or for the real marathon runners amongst us, sit through all six games.
It should be a fabulous occasion and we just can’t wait, so here we will take a look at the ties on offer and give some thoughts on likely outcomes.
13:30 - Salford Red Devils V. Hull Kingston Rovers
First up is a potential humdinger, one of the games of the weekend, as two sides level on sixteen league points face one another when fourth placed Hull KR take on the Salford Red Devils. These are the two most impressive sides in the 2023 season given their odds for a bottom six finish when we kicked off in February. There is almost nothing to choose between the two sides, the bookies slightly favouring the Robins and handicapping them by four points on the coupon. KR won the early season meeting but Salford are a much improved side since then. Almost impossible to call.
15:45 – Wigan Warriors v. Catalans Dragons
The second game almost lives up to the closeness of the first as second play first with the winners ending the weekend in guaranteed second place and still snapping at the heels of the league leaders Warrington Wolves. The bookies think that the travel might affect the Dragons, not that it has done so far this season, and have handicapped Wigan by six. We suspect that they are right has Wigan have show us a bit more mettle in the last couple of weeks, since that humiliating second half turnaround to Leeds. The Dragons won the only meeting so far this season, Wigan to equal the score.
18:00 - Leeds Rhinos v. Castleford Tigers
What would normally be the highlight of the day might have all but the diehards heading for the exit as eighth placed Rhinos take on a Castleford Tigers side who can’t buy a win and who are pleased that Wakefield are having the sort of season that wouldn’t result from even the worst bad luck. Leeds have only wone on in their last five games. When the two sides met in March it was the Tigers who were the victors, but they have only won once since then and that was against Wakefield. The bookies have handicapped the Rhinos by eight and we think that sounds about right, a narrow Leeds win.
12:00 – Wakefield Trinity v. Leigh Leopards
Leigh Leopards are seemingly all conquering and Wakefield Trinity must be dreading facing another form side as they still look for their first victory of the season and even the slightest glimmer of salvation from relegation. A win would be extraordinary, but it would likely half the deficit to the Castleford Tigers (should they lose to Leeds) and give them something to aim at. We can’t see anything other than a Leopards win and the bookies think that the margin will be considerable having handicapped the by eighteen.
14:45 – St Helens v. Huddersfield Giants
Huddersfield are another side having a torrid time in 2023, but they come up against a St Helens side who are also going through an uncharacteristic blip as they struggle for a place in the play-offs under the new coaching of Paul Wellens. Saints are seventh and Huddersfield ninth in the current table, some way away from a top six finish, and two points on Sunday will be seen as crucial for both coaches. Saints won by just two points when the sides met earlier this year and the bookies have the to do a little better this time having handicapped them by eight. We’ll go with a narrow Saints win.
17:00 – Hull FC v. Warrington Wolves
The curtain comes down on the weekend with what looks like a certain eleventh win of the season for Daryl Powell’s Warrington Wolves as they take on a Hull FC side who are floundering at the bottom of the table. But Warrington were beaten by Leigh last weekend, and Tony Smith finally seems to be turning the corner with the Airlie Birds, so it might not all be one way traffic. The bookies have suggested Warrington by eight but we’d not be surprised to see Hull gibing them a run for their money, even if the primrose and blue do come away with the points.
“Howay the lads”.