Ian Millward: Storm brewing

  • By: Ian Millward
  • Last Updated: September 21 2013, 15:03 BST

Ian Millward previews this week's crucial action in Super League and the NRL.

Cameron Smith: One of the reasons Ian is siding with Melbourne
Cameron Smith: One of the reasons Ian is siding with Melbourne

Huddersfield v Hull (+8)

You'd have no worries about Hull's defence going into this one - it's been outstanding all year and they've been in the top four of the competition in terms of conceding least points. However they sit in the bottom four when it comes to scoring them.

You have to be worried about what the Challenge Cup final took out of Peter Gentle's team. They were very disappointing at Wembley and have been under intense pressure to win games since.

True they got past the Catalan Dragons last week but I felt the wet conditions suited them as did home advantage.

To put it simply Huddersfield were very poor against Wigan last week. Some are questioning whether they froze in the play-offs and can some of their players now handle the weight of expectation on their shoulders?

I'm not concerned. Their coaching areas will have identified the areas that need working on and they've now got the blip out of their system.

They were winning games very easily heading into the post-season programme and rested all their key man for the defeat at Bradford in the final game of the regular season.

Paul Anderson will have the Giants focused again now. They know it's knock-out football but reverting back to the systems that have worked so well for them this season expect Huddersfield to win and cover here.

Leeds v St Helens (+6)

I still think the Rhinos are the second best team in the play-offs - despite last week's defeat at Warrington. I was a little worried about how they tired in the second-half at the DW Stadium but they are in a better place this year than last season in terms of personnel to call on.

They will be wary of Saints here - you have to be - they've won seven out of eight and are on a real roll. Leeds proved last year you can win this competition from fifth spot and James Roby, the best hooker in the competition, is pulling all the strings.

Make no mistake St Helens are a threat but I'm with Leeds to win and cover. There's plenty of play-off know-how in Brian McDermott's squad and a big Headingley crowd can get them over the finish line.

Manly v Cronulla (+8)

Cronulla's main player Todd Carney looks extremely doubtful for this one and if he's out they lose so much attacking flair and organisation across the park. Manly had an energy sapping game last week against the Roosters, losing 4-0 in one of the best matches I've seen for a very long time.

The Sea Eagles are one of the toughest teams in the NRL and if the game last week hasn't emptied them I'll take them to bounce back and win convincingly here. At the time of writing full-back Brett Stewart is rated a 50-50 chance to make the game. If he shakes off his hamstring problem I'd make Manly good things.

Melbourne v Newcastle (+8)

The defending premiers are renowned for producing professional, hard-nosed performances when it matters but that hasn't been the case of late. They were slowly out the blocks when beaten by South Sydney last week and know they need to be sharper here.

However they can still call on the best full-back, Billy Slater, half-back Cooper Cronk and hooker Cameron Smith in the game and they should have too much for the Knights.

The visitors have more players aged 30 or over in their squad than any others side in the NRL and I can only see a comfortable win for the hosts here.

  • Preview posted at 1155 BST on 18/09/2013.