The Super League Magic Weekend has developed into an integral part of British rugby over recent times and Anfield, home of top Premier League football club Liverpool FC, takes over hosting duties this year.
Six rugby league matches packed into the late May Bank Holiday weekend (Saturday 25 and Sunday 26) come thick and fast. But who is playing who and when during Magic Weekend 2019? Let’s take a look.
Wakefield Trinity v Catalans Dragons (Saturday, 14:00)
Perpignan based Catalans can use their maiden Challenge Cup triumph last year as a springboard for greater success. Ex-England and Bradford Bulls boss Steve McNamara has done a great job since joining the French outfit and his side open Magic Weekend with a fixture against Wakefield Trinity.
Wakey have Scotland half-back Danny Brough in fine form this season, both assisting tries and kicking plenty of points. Full back Sam Tomkins was an eye-catching signing for Catalans from Wigan, meanwhile, and he’s sure to have added plenty to their ranks.
Hull FC v Huddersfield Giants (16:30)
A Yorkshire derby is second up on Magic Weekend as Hull FC of the old East Riding tackle Western opposition in Huddersfield. The Giants haven’t started the season that well, but Hull are already putting forward their claims of a playoff place.
Marc Sneyd remains a very handy player for them among the backs. Huddersfield, meanwhile, could well be missing the aforementioned Brough from their ranks, as well as retired Australian forward duo Ryan Hinchcliffe and Tom Symonds.
Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves (19:00)
It’s only fair to have a Red Rose derby as well as a White one on Magic Weekend. Two Lancashire sides do battle in a repeat of the 2018 Grand Final as Wigan face rivals Warrington once again.
Warriors do not look the same proposition without long-serving manager Shaun Wane in the dugout though. They are off the pace in the running for the League Leaders’ Shield and, according to the latest rugby league odds with bet365, are 33/1 to finish the regular season top.
Wolves are 11/8 second-favourites for that honour, however, and equally fancied with St Helens in the market on the Grand Final to go one better. Josh Charnley has come back to haunt Wigan more than once since joining Warrington and the prolific try scorer could do so again here.
Salford Red Devils v Hull KR (Sunday, 13:00)
Day two of the Magic Weekend begins with what looks to all intents and purposes like a midtable clash between Salford and Hull Kingston Rovers. Loose forward pair Weller Hauraki and Ryan Lannon left the Red Devils to join KR for this season.
That makes for an interesting subplot among the packs on show in this fixture. KR have also made some international signings too with halfback Josh Drinkwater arriving from Catalans and Kane Linnett coming in from North Queensland.
Leeds Rhinos v London Broncos (15:30)
This fixture pits two sides that are struggling and have made poor starts to their Super League campaigns. Memories of Leeds doing the treble in 2015 seem somewhat distant now, but their Magic Weekend opposition are top-flight newcomers the Broncos.
Rhinos come up against a side which after the first 10 games have conceded the most points and score the fewest. Only the side that finishes bottom of Super League after the regular season will be directly relegated and both they and London will hope to avoid the drop.
St Helens v Castleford Tigers (18:00)
Closing out Magic Weekend 2019 are the regular season favourites Saints against the Tigers. Both of these teams were finished in the top three of last year’s Super League, but lost in the playoff semi-finals.
St Helens are leading contenders again this term, but have lost the 2018 Man of Steel and Australia back Ben Barba, although did draft in Lachlan Coote from North Queensland to cover this. Paul McShane and Samoa back Pete Mata’utia have been creating tries aplenty for Castleford during the first few months of this season though, and this promises to be another absorbing game of rugby.