Wakefield are aiming to gatecrash their neighbours' party as Castleford bid to make history by lifting their first League Leaders' Shield. The trophy will be taken to the Mend-a-Hose Jungle and presented at the end of Thursday's Super 8s game if the Tigers - 10 points clear with five rounds to go - avoid defeat. Owen Fulda looks at the two televised games and the best Super League betting…
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8:00pm Thursday, The Mend-A-Hose Jungle
Tigers To Win Both Halves @ 10/11 - BET NOW
Castleford are fancied hugely by the bookies who have them priced at 1/6 for the win. Tigers have won their last seven matches against their Super League neighbours, but head coach Daryl Powell is wary of the threat posed by a side that thrashed Leeds 38-6 in their last game. "They're playing very well," Powell said. "They looked really good against Leeds last week, we're mindful of that.”
Wakefield are big underdogs at a best price of 4/1, but Trinity coach Chris Chester is hoping his own top-four aspirants can rain on their parade by condemning them to a second successive home defeat. "There's a lot at stake for both sides," Chester said. "The League Leaders' Shield is going to be there and we've got a hell of a lot to play for as well in terms of that top four, especially with Leeds playing Saints and Salford at Wigan.”
There’s no value in backing Castleford for the outright win in my view, but 10/11 for them to win both halves looks good to me. They’ll be gunning for a big score and their record against Wakefield is absolutely fantastic in recent years. I’m confident of this one landing, so get on it with me!
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8:00pm Friday, DW Stadium
Warriors To Win By 13+ Points @ 11/10 - BET NOW
Wigan have won eight of the last 10 Super League fixtures between the clubs and they also knocked Salford out of the Challenge Cup just a few weeks ago. They’ve always dominated their neighbours in fairness and when it comes to Super 8s, even more so. Salford are in shocking form coming into the game, having lost their last six in all competitions.
After their poor mid-season string of results, Wigan look back to the formidable side we know they are capable of being. Winning by 13 points or more won’t be by any means a formality for Wigan - the Red Devils will be amped for this game - but I fancy them to be too strong on the day in front of their home fans. Back Wigan Warriors to win by 13 points or more at 11/10.
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Wigan Warriors @ 2/1 - To Win Grand Final - BET NOW!
The returning hero, Kiwi Thomas Leuluai is back for one final bash at Super League after re-joining the Warriors. The 31-year-old will also help coach the team and should improve their attack, which was poor for long periods of 2016. Boss Shaun Wane insists he never had a worry that Frank Paul Nu’uausala would join Super League’s contract rebels, and by putting him through the wringer in pre-season may bring even more out of the man known as ‘The Wrecking Ball’. Wigan are top-four certainties.
Warrington Wolves @ 10/1 - BET NOW!
Warrington’s loss of star halfback Chris Sandow after losing both major finals last year will be particularly hard to take. Kevin Brown is the man tasked with stepping into Sandow’s huge boots. I’ll be amazed if he’s able to replicate the Aussie’s 11 tries and 25 assists but Brown is still a quality operator. Can the Wolves top the Super League table after 30 rounds once again? Certainly. Can they go one better and claim that elusive Grand Final glory? I’m not so sure.
St Helens @ 14/1 - BET NOW!
Taking on Leeds Rhinos in the curtain-raiser on Thursday night will give us a enhanced sense of where St Helens are after a topsy-turvy off-season. Most disappointingly their ‘super-quality’ signing, scrum-half Matty Smith will miss the start of the campaign after suffering a broken leg in pre-season. Jonny Lomax will once again be key to their chances. Keiron Cunningham has made some shrewd signings and you simply can’t rule Saints out of the trophy hunt this year.
Hull RFC @ 10/1 - BET NOW!
With their local rivals Hull KR relegated, Hull can focus on progressing beyond beyond the semi-finals of the play-offs this year. Albert Kelly became the latest player to controversially? cross the Hull city divide and will feel serious pressure to perform. After topping the Super League table Hull won just three of their Super 8s games before seeing their hopes extinguished 28-18 by Wigan. They need to build on winning last season’s Challenge Cup with a Grand Final appearance.
Leeds Rhinos @ 6/1 - BET NOW!
Much as they’d like to, Leeds Rhinos can’t erase 2016 from history, but they’ll need to delete it from their memory banks if they are bounce back in the way that club-legend turned Rugby Director Kevin Sinfield believes they’re poised to. Captain Danny Maguire managed just 10 appearances last year so hopefully he can stay fit and lead the Rhinos onwards and upwards. A winning start at St Helens would be a massive tonic for the entire organisation.
Castleford Tigers @ 2/1 - BET NOW!
There could be some value to be had backing the Tigers. They won an impressive five of seven Super 8 games last term, but by then it was too late as their poor early-season form meant they missed the playoffs. Considering they are as short as 10/1 with certain bookies, 20/1 is a huge price! They’ve recruited well in the former Man of Steel Zak Hardaker, and hopes are high that Castleford can break the monopoly at the top of Super League. Time will tell.
Catalan Dragons @ 33/1 - BET NOW!
Could 2017 finally be the year of the Dragon? The French side are 4/7 for a top eight finish and I’m certain they’ll achieve that. French international prop Remi Casty has retained the Dragons’ captaincy and his natural leadership is valuable in pushing onwards from their last campaign which promised so much but ultimately tailed off badly. If Laurent Frayssinous can finally coach his side to overcome their struggles away from home, they really could challenge.
Huddersfield Giants @ 500/1 - BET NOW!
The Giants had something of a shocker in 2016 but at least they avoided the dreaded drop when Rick Stone came in and steadied the ship. Some pundits think they’ll be scrapping it out at the foot of the table once more but some are more positive. I’m going to sit on the fence until I see them in action, but their odds of 9/2 for the wooden spoon may tempt some people - especially Rhinos supporters.
Leigh Centurions @ 1500/1 - BET NOW!
Promotion was well-overdue for the Centurions but now the real test starts. The jump from playing part-timers to fully battle-hardened professionals on a weekly basis is a huge one, but Leigh will be quietly confident of causing some upsets. They even put 50 points past Wigan in pre-season which certainly made a few people sit up and take note!
Salford Red Devils @ 20/1 - BET NOW!
Salford would have reached the Super 8s last season if it wasn’t for the six-point deduction imposed on them by the Rugby Football League for salary cap breaches. They’ve brought in former Dally M Medal winner in the NRL Todd Carney, and the Australian will add some panache. Priced at 13/8 for a top-eight finish, that will surely tempt some people, even me.
Widnes Vikings @ 2500/1 - BET NOW!
Injuries have robbed the Vikings of the vital Joe Mellor for the first half-dozen or so weeks of their campaign and selling Kevin Brown to neighbours Wigan won’t have gone down too well with the fanbase. They beat Wigan away last season and sat on top of the table briefly before ending up in seventh place. A tough season awaits and I’d be surprised if they progress beyond the initial 23 games.
Wakefield Trinity @ 500/1 - BET NOW!
Trinity made headway in 2016 by reaching the 8s for the first time in their history but then proceeded to lose all seven games. A Challenge Cup semi-final appearance was another high and the have a clever coach in Chris Chester. The bookies don’t seem to rate them, but trust me, their 5/2 price for a top-eight finish will rapidly shorten if they even come close to upsetting Hull on Sunday!
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