Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Quins Easter weekend in focus

Quins RL face two tough fixtures over the course of the Easter weekend, facing last season’s Super League runners-up Hull FC at home on Good Friday, with another trip to the South of France booked for Easter Monday when they take on fellow expansion club Catalans Dragons.

Coach Brian McDermott will be hoping last weekend’s comfortable victory over French Elite side Pia in the Challenge Cup will be a turning point in a miserable run of form which has seen his side lose its last four Super League games. Whilst the recent run of league results has been a disappointment the side has played some solid rugby league in that period, and has been competitive in all outings this season.

Hull FC have largely failed to recreate the form which saw them finish second last season, producing a highly erratic start to the season, but they remain entirely capable of defeating any side in the league as their recent demolition of St Helens demonstrates. Much of the dip in form has been attributed to the loss of influential playmaker Paul Cooke to injury, fortunately for Quins Cooke is not expected to make his comeback until the Hull derby match on Easter Monday.

Despite the absence of Cooke, Hull FC still have plenty of talent and experience across their side, in the backs young centre Kirk Yeaman had a breakthrough year in 2006 making the Great Britain test side, whilst the close season signing of veteran ex-Kangaroo winger Matt Sing offers real pace and guile out wide. The movement of the side is likely to come from Great Britain halfback Richard Horne and vastly experience former Kiwi hooker Richard Swain, Swain in particular will be a key player for the Hull FC side with his legendary work rate the rock on which their defence is based.

Up front Hull FC have a good balance of power and aggression with Hutch Maiava, Ewan Dowes and Paul King all effective ball carriers, whilst skipper Radford and interchange hooker Wayne Godwin provide good mobility in the forwards.

Easter Monday’s opponents Catalans Dragons are arguably the most improved side in the competition having finished their inaugural Super League campaign at the foot of the ladder. Coach Mick Potter has made some astute signings from his native Australia to complement the core of talented but relatively inexperienced French players in the squad, including incumbent Queensland State of Origin back Adam Mogg and veteran second-row forward Jason Croker.

Undoubtedly the lynch pin of the Dragons side is Kiwi legend Stacey Jones, whilst the crafty halfback may be reaching the end of his career he remains a top class player. Jones who missed the opening four rounds of Super League has been an influential figure in their last two victories, including landing the crucial drop-goal that granted the Dragons victory by the slenderest of margins against Huddersfield.

Mick Potter’s main injury worriers are versatile former Brisbane Broncos utility Casey McGuire and recent signing hooking signing from Newcastle Knights Luke Quigley although McGuire is named in the squad for their Good Friday game away at Hull KR.

On the Quins front Brian McDermott’s main injury worries are form Jon Grayshon who drops out of the squad for Good Friday with a hamstring injury and Lee Hopkins who remains in the squad despite continued problems from a recent rib injury. New signing Richard Villasanti continues to be overlooked as he builds his match fitness in the reserves following off-season knee surgery.

Quins have a realistic chance of getting a result from both of the Easter fixtures, Hull FC have struggled to find their best form this season and have won just one out of their last four encounters against Quins. McDermott will also be hoping to exploit the Catalans Dragons injury worries, although the French outfit are a far tougher proposition at home than on the road.

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