Magic Weekend 2018 preview: Who plays who?

“Warrington Vs. Wigan Scrap” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by roblawton

St James’ Park in Newcastle hosts rugby league’s Magic Weekend for the fourth consecutive year on the weekend of 19-20 May.

All 12 teams in the Super League will play a match on Tyneside over the two days which opens with a Championship clash between Canadian club Toronto Wolfpack and French side Toulouse Olympique.

The Magic Weekend has produced already produced thrills, spills and drama aplenty in its 11-year history, so what will happen at the twelfth edition of this event designed to promote rugby league to a wider audience? Here’s a brief overview of the six Super League encounters on show.

Widnes Vikings vs. St Helens

League leaders St Helens have Australian back Ben Berba in blistering form with his tries and assists for centre Mark Percival a key factor in their strong start to the season. Kicker Danny Richardson has also been prolific with his boot.

When they met Magic Weekend opposition Widnes away on Easter Monday, Saints ran in six tries during a comprehensive 28-6 victory. Vikings had injuries to contend with then, but that’s impacted their campaign.

St Helens, meanwhile, are already odds-on favourites in rugby league betting on who will finish the regular Super League season top and 7/4 to win the Grand Final.

Wigan Warriors vs. Warrington Wolves

Two of the top four and local rivals meet in what could be the game of Magic Weekend 2018. Wigan and Warrington have to contend with kicking off at the same time as the FA Cup final at Wembley if you’re thinking of watching on TV.

There are lots of subplots surrounding this derby encounter, including former Warriors wing Josh Charnley back in Super League with bitter rivals Wolves after a finding crossing codes to rugby union with Sale Sharks a difficult transition. Wigan and Warrington met at the Magic Weekend last year and honours were even thanks to Joe Burgess’ hat-trick.

Wolves ran out 16-10 home winners over Warriors back in February and this is a repeat of the 2016 Grand Final which Wigan won 12-6. They are 3/1 to go all the way again, with Warrington available at twice that price.

Castleford Tigers vs. Leeds Rhinos

Another top six encounter rounding off Saturday, 19 May is a White Rose battle between the Tigers and Rhinos. Just a single point in favour of Castleford separated these Yorkshire rivals at Elland Road back in March.

Last year’s Super League man of steel Luke Gale kicked four goals and a drop goal back then. These proved decisive despite braces from Leeds duo Kallum Watkins and Ash Handley.

Salford Red Devils vs. Catalans Dragons

The Red Devils can move further clear of the bottom four when they clash with struggling Catalans in the lunchtime kick-off of Sunday, 20 May.

Wing Jake Bibby and the kicking of Robert Lui will be key for Salford and was over Easter when they ran out 32-16 winners over Dragons.

Wakefield Trinity vs. Huddersfield Giants

The second Yorkshire derby of the Magic Weekend gives Wakefield the opportunity to trounce lowly Huddersfield again, having done so 22-4 in March. Ben Jones-Bishop bagged a brace in that match and is Trinity’s main try threat.

The Giants have looked anything but their name in Super League this season but have Scottish veteran Danny Brough still kicking points. No team has lost more matches than Huddersfield, however.

Hull KR vs. Hull FC

Super League wouldn’t be the same without Hull’s two team doing battle in derbies. KR’s promotion back to the top-flight for this season means there’s a Magic Weekend matchup to look forward to.

Although KR centre Thomas Minns hit a hat-trick in the first Hull derby of the campaign, FC ran out 30-22 winners thanks to two tries from Fetuli Talanoa and the kicking of Marc Sneyd.

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