After a blistering start, the wheels have well and truly fallen off Warrington Wolves’ Betfred Super League title bid.
The Wire slid to an eighth defeat in nine games at bottom-of-the-table Wakefield last weekend and head coach Daryl Powell left the club only hours after the chastening 42-6 defeat at Belle Vue.
Gary Chambers has been placed in temporary charge, but things could get worse before they get better for the beleaguered Wolves, who begin life after Powell with the visit of table-toppers Catalans Dragons on Friday.
Prop Thomas Mikaele has been included in Warrington’s 21-man squad after returning to the club on an initial deal running until the end of the season.
Loanee Jordan Crowther could make his Wolves debut, but Matty Ashton, James Harrison and Matty Russell are sidelined through injury.
Fouad Yaha and Bastien Scimone have replaced Mike McMeeken and Jordan Dezaria in Catalans’ 21-man squad for the trip to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Catalans Dragons -6 handicap @ Evens
Warrington have twice travelled to Perpignan this season – once in Super League and once in the Betfred Challenge Cup – and came away with the spoils on both occasions.
But the Wolves are at an extremely low ebb right now and league leaders Catalans should gain a measure of revenge at the Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday.
Warrington have won only once in nine league and cup outings since the second of their triumphs in France this season, which came on 20th May.
Catalans, meanwhile, have won seven and lost just once since that narrow Challenge Cup defeat and, with seven games of the regular season remaining, the Dragons are four points clear at the top of the table.
The French outfit’s seven victories since losing to the Wolves in the Cup have come by an average winning margin of 21.4 points, and they have accounted for champions St Helens, Challenge Cup finalists Leigh Leopards, and Wigan Warriors in that time.
Given the stark difference in form of the two sides, a handicap of one converted score should be well within the Dragons’ reach.
Tom Johnstone first tryscorer @ 5/1
England international Tom Johnstone has enjoyed a remarkable first season with Catalans and the Betfred Super League’s top tryscorer is taken to add to his tally against Warrington.
Johnstone has touched down for 24 tries in the league this season and is also Super League’s top metre-maker, averaging over 134 metres per game.
The 27-year-old has scored the first try in three of Catalans’ last seven wins and could add insult to injury with the opening score against the beleaguered Wolves on Friday.