The last two winners of the Challenge Cup kick off the semi-finals when Hull FC take on Leeds Rhinos in front of a sell-out crowd in Doncaster on Saturday.
The bookies appear to have found this a hard one to call. They are separated by just the one place in the Super League table – with Leeds three points clear of Hull – and they were involved in a tight tussle a couple of weeks ago with the Rhinos just edging proceedings.
Hull come into this game on the back of a win over Huddersfield last week – a timely return to form as they ended a run of three successive defeats in the process. Their 19-man squad is unchanged from the one named prior to their win over the Giants, and are a hard side to stop on their day.
Leeds come into this game on the back of a 34-0 defeat to Wigan. Though they haven’t lost back-to-back games this season, one should take that loss with a pinch of salt. With the return of so many first team players to their squad it might as well be a different team lining up this week.
You can hardly blame them, either. They were guaranteed second place going into the Super 8s and this weekend’s game is a huge occasion for them. Rob Burrow is a notable absentee but seeing no fewer than nine players return is a huge boost for them.
From the meetings this season, Leeds have won both of the regular Super League fixtures this season. They are the slight underdogs here with some bookies offering around 11/10 along with a two-point start on the handicap, best priced Evens.
You can get a Hull victory at 10/11, but Hull -2 is available at 11/10 which seems like a decent bet and represents good value. One gets the feeling if Lee Radford’s side do win, it’s likely to be a wider margin and we’d back it.
Some may think it could be a tight game for long periods, but there is potential for a side to get a roll in. Hull by 11-15 points at 11/1 could be worth a small go. If you fancy Leeds, a 6-10 points win at 6/1 could appeal.