The bookies haven’t wasted any times in releasing prices for Round 20 of Super League action – which gets underway on Thursday. Given the nature of the competition this season – and some of the fixtures – we could end up in a situation when all six games are pretty close.
Here are our initial thoughts on the prices on offer:
Leeds Rhinos v St. Helens
Leeds will look to bounce back from defeat to league leaders Castleford when they take on a Saints side buoyant following their dramatic late turnaround against Salford – culminating in a late Matty Smith drop goal to win the game.
The Rhinos have yet to lose back-to-back games this season while questions surrounding consistency will continue to be asked of St. Helens until they string a significant run of wins together.
It’s of little surprise that Leeds are favourites – best priced 8/11 with Paddy Power – while Saints are 6/4 with Bet365. You can get varying handicap bets at 10/11 with Saints offered starts of either two points or four.
Castleford Tigers v Hull FC
Castleford bounced back from their Challenge Cup defeat to Hull in some style with a bruising win over Leeds last week, while Hull continued their recent good run after a slight scare against Wakefield – though their win looked comfortable on the scoreboard.
Hull will look to repeat their two victories over the Tigers they’ve recorded this season but they might have their work cut out – as Castleford have a 100% record on their own patch this season.
The Tigers are seven points clear of their opponents at the top – so a Hull win could revitalise the possibility of the league leaders shield really being up for grabs when the closing stages come around. If the home side win, it would take something staggering for them to surrender top spot in the remaining 10 games. Castleford are 2/5 while Hull are 23/10. Hull have been given an eight-point start with some bookmakers, with one or two offering Even money on the league leaders to cover it.
Catalans Dragons v Leigh Centurions
Steve McNamara got a first look at his side in the narrow defeat to Warrington – in what was regarded by many as a game low on quality. They will be looking for some improvement here against bottom side Leigh.
Both will fancy their chances, and there is an element of tossing a coin here. If Leigh turn up they could cause some problems, and we don’t yet know just how much progress the Dragons have made ahead of this encounter.
The home side are strong favourites at 1/5, with Leigh available at 4/1 – which some might think is on the long side. They have also been given a 14-point start which looks appealing as one gets the feeling this could be a bit of an arm wrestle.
Wakefield Trinity v Warrington Wolves
Warrington ended their winless streak with a narrow win over Catalans while Wakefield have lost each of their last three in all competitions – though in defeat they don’t disgrace themselves.
Trinity are slight favourites at 5/6 with Warrington available at 21/20. A lot will depend on whether Warrington can kick on or if Wakefield can continue in the same vein as they have done throughout the season.
Given the season both sides have had, some would suggest Wakefield should be a shorter a price.
Salford Red Devils v Huddersfield Giants
Has the bubble burst for Salford? They were certainly on the end of a sickening blow at St. Helens – making it their third consecutive Super League defeat – though in that run they have made it to the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.
Huddersfield’s recent winning run came to an end with a draw against Wigan but they have improved markedly since they last faced Salford in February.
You can get Salford at 1/2 and Huddersfield at 19/10. Some might be tempted to back the Giants given their recent improvement, and the Red Devils’ recent wobbles. Huddersfield have been given a six-point start on the handicap across the board.
Wigan Warriors v Widnes Vikings
Wigan’s draw with Huddersfield on Friday brought about their worst run of league form since the start of the 20th Century, while Widnes go into this game having won three of their last four games – climbing off the bottom of the table in the process.
There have been signs of improvement for Wigan in recent weeks – with a Challenge Cup semi-final to look forward to as well as the return of high profile first team players too. They are 2/11 to record their first Super League win since April.
Widnes are 9/2 and they have shown they can give any side a tough encounter – their lack of a killer instinct in certain circumstances has perhaps let them down this season. They have been given a 14-point or 16-point start on the handicap at 10/11 depending on where you look. That’s available with Bet365 and it seems to be worth backing at this stage.