Hull primed for another fast start against Saints
Vikings out to stay strong in battle to stay in top eight
Sky Sports 1, 8pm Friday
If there was an award for the most surprising scoreline of the Betfred Super League season, St Helens 45 Hull 0 at the Magic Weekend would certainly be a leading contender.
The Black & Whites were eight-point favourites having won their previous five games while Justin Holbrook took charge of Saints for the first time. They had won just two of their previous eight matches.
That seven-try rout in Newcastle was followed by a memorable derby victory over Wigan but since then Saints have managed only two victories in five attempts.
But now they will have to try to keep their flickering top-four hopes alive without string-puller Matty Smith, who has had two operations on the torn eyelid he suffered at Leeds a week ago.
The five matches the scrum-half has missed this season have produced two wins and three losses including a 24-14 defeat at Hull.
Saints are also missing captain Jon Wilkin, who is suspended, but Mark Percival returns from a ban.
One of the features of the Magic meeting was Hull's lacklustre start. In the seven matches since, the Airlie Birds have been first on the scoreboard five times and it's likely coach Lee Radford will emphasise the importance of getting out of the traps quickly. The 10-11 that Hull score first looks a decent bet.
Victory for the visitors will take them up to second spot on the league ladder but elsewhere the focus is firmly on the foot of the table.
If Widnes fail to win at Huddersfield, the Vikings will be condemned to a bottom-four finish and it may pay to back Denis Betts's boys with a ten-point buffer on the handicap.
Widnes lost by that margin at runaway league leaders Castleford in May and trailed by just four with ten minutes to go at Wigan last time out before two late Warriors tries gave the final score a more lopsided look.
They can stay closer to the eighth-placed Giants.
Leigh's last-gasp loss in France last Saturday eliminated the Centurions from top-eight contention and it's difficult to know how they will react at Warrington.
The Wolves are in desperate need of a win but the same comment applied when they travelled to Wakefield six days ago and turned in an abject performance in a 26-12 loss.
Tony Smith's troops are tasked with giving up an eight-point start on the handicap, something they have managed only three times in 30 league games this season. It looks like a match best avoided for punting purposes.
Hull to score first
3pts 10-11 general
2pts 10-11 general