The second of the double-header in Sydney pitted Wigan Warriors againts the South Sydney Rabbitohs as the Super League looked to salvage some pride after defeats for the Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC. Shaun Wane named a bench of thirteen players to back up a strong starting thirteen, emphasising that Wigan were treating this game as an early season trial themselves. The Rabbitohs were without a number of their stars as they continued their build up to the NRL season. The ground had filled considerably as the Wigan fans left the bars to join the remaining Hull FC supporters in the stands.
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Hull FC were looking for a confidence boosting win over the St George Illawarra Dragons before getting back on the plane to return to blighty to resume their Super League campaign. Although this was just pre-season friendly, with unlimited interchanges, there was still pride to play for. Lee Radford was expecting a response from his players after last weekends loss to the Wigan Warriors, but was forced into a number of changes. Injury meant he’d be without the services of Mark Minichiello, skipper Danny Houghton and vice-captain Scott Taylor. The Dragons named a substitute bench of twelve players (FC named ten) as they looked to give  a pre-season trial to as many players as possible in a competitive game.
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A win for the Widnes Vikings, by more than twenty-two points, would send them top of Super League and condemn the Warrington Wolves to a third consecutive defeat at the start of the season. A win for the Wolves, by more than six points, would lift them into the top eight and get their season belatedly underway. The Vikings have had a great start to the season with an opening weekend win over the Catalans Dragons, and a single point loss to the Castleford Tigers last week. Up the road in Warrington, teeth were already being gnashed after two consective defeats, coming on the back of an awful 2017 season. On the artifical pitch at the Halton Stadium, it promised to be an intriguing early season match-up.
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The hopes of the northern hemisphere rested on the shoulders of seventeen Leeds Rhinos players as they visited AAMI Park in Melbourne for the stiffest of challenges against the mighty Melbourne Storm. The 2018 Downer World Club Challenge was the Rhinos eighth appearance against the Australian champions, but the home side were firm favourites with the bookies, the Rhinos being given less chance than a snowflake in hell. The Rhinos were bouyed by the return of Joel Moon in the halves, and Jimmy Keinhorst was rewarded for last weeks hat-trick with a place on the bench. But Melbourne had a side that was packed with the household names of Origin and International Rugby League and it would be the stiffest of tests for the Rhinos.
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The KCOM Craven Park was the venue as two of the sides without a point to their name in Super League 2018 met in an early season basement battle. A win for either Hull KR or the Catalans Dragons could be exactly what they need to give their season a kick-start but defeat would mean that panic may start to set in amongst the staff and supporters. Both sides made some changes. For the Robins it was Will Dagger in for Adam Quinlan, Liam Salter for Andrew Heffernan, Ben Kavanagh for James Greenwood, and debutant Danny Tickle on the bench. Steve McNamara’s Dragons also made changes with Greg Bird moving into the second row as cover for the suspended Jullien, and being replaced by Luke Walsh in the halves. A big loss was likely to be that of the injured Michael McIlorum, who was replaced at hooker by Paul Aiton.
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It is the third weekend of Super League and the Championship, and the opening round of Betfred Championship One games. But the main event of the weekend is a Friday morning fixture when the honour of the Super League is placed in the hands of the Leeds Rhinos as they take on Melbourne Storm in the World Club Challenge in Australia. Two Round 12 Super League fixtures are brought forward to this weekend with the four teams who played in last season’s middle eights clearing their calendars for entering the fifth round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.
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With the game between Swinton Lions and the Rochdale Hornets falling foul of the weather, the five remaining fixtures all took place on Sunday afternoon.

 

The two newly promoted sides, Barrow and Toronto, met in Cumbria while Championship favourites Leigh had a home game against Batley Bulldogs. London Broncos were looking for their second win away at Dewsbury Rams and Featherstone Rovers looked to keep their one hundred percent record intact at home against Toulouse Olympique XIII.

 

The fifth game saw Halifax and Sheffield Eagles both looking for their first points of the season as they met at the New Shay.

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The Toronto Wolfpack band wagon rolled into Cumbria for an encounter with last seasons fellow Championship One promoted side Barrow Raiders at the JF Hornby Stadium. Both of last seasons games were played in Canada and went the way of Toronto when they handed out a 70-2 drubbing in the first game, but the Raiders gave the Wolfpack a far more competitive game towards the end of the season recording a 26-2 defeat at the Lamport Stadium. The Wolfpack were looking to maintain their one hundred percent record, with Barrow looking to get their campaign underway after last weeks heavy defeat at the London Broncos.
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A Saints side, still on a high after last weeks drubbing of the Castleford Tigers, travelled to the south of France to take on a Catalans Dragons side who suffered an opening round loss at the hands of the Widnes Vikings. The home side welcomed the return of the vastly experienced Greg Bird to the starting line-up teamed with Lucas Albert in the halves, and the whole camp will have been lifted by the news that Tony Gigot had won his appeal against a two year ban, clearing his way for a return to the side in the near future. The visitors made a couple of changes with Adam Swift in for Ryan Morgan in the backs and Kyle Amor being replaced by Luke Douglas in the forwards. Few gave the Dragons much hope of a positive result, with most commentators and pundits expecting a Saints walkover.
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The Millpond Stadium in Featherstone was the venue as the second round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup pitted the Lions against St Helens side Thatto Heath Crusaders. It was a National Conference League division one side against a team from the premier with the visitors having the loftier berth for 2018 as defending Champions.

 

Thatto Heath came into the game as clear favourites as the top side in the competition prior to the entry of the Championship One sides, but home advantage would be in Featherstone’s favour.

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