Salford V Warrington
Handicap – Salford +10
This is a match involving two teams who had high expectations at the start of the season, but both have been fairly disappointing so far. The big news at Salford this week has rather unsurprisingly involved their owner Dr. Marwan Koukash, whose wife is fronting a bid to buy rivals Bradford Bulls, and you have to wonder if this has somewhat distracted Brian Noble and his men.
The pressure is no doubt on Salford after back to back defeats against St. Helens and Widnes. They have not performed in either of them games and they will need a major improvement if they are to trouble the Wolves this week. Salford’s defence has looked very shaky and while Theo Fages has played well, they seem to lack the leadership of Rangi Chase. The injury to Gareth Hock is also a major setback as he is a very creative second row forward, even if a liability at times.
As for Warrington, they have been involved in a number of close matches this season, with the exception of last week when they ran out expected winners at a poor London side. Without meaning to repeat myself, they have struggled to score points post Lee Briers. However, they had the chance last week to gain some much needed confidence and I’m sure Tony Smith’s men will be looking to build on that.
Warrington have had no trouble with defence and I do think Salford could struggle to score enough points to seriously trouble the Wolves. Salford will no doubt come out fired up at the start, but in the end I think Warrington’s class will show through.
Suggested bet – Warrington to win and cover
Wigan V Hull KR
Handicap – Wigan -18
Friday’s televised game sees another clash between two teams who have again struggled for early season form. Hull Kr are without a win from their first four games, while Wigan have just one league win and a World Club Challenge defeat to show for their efforts.
A huge plus for Wigan in this game is the return of Wigan skipper Sean O’Loughlin. He is a real stalwart in defence and creates a lot of plays on the offensive side of the field for the Warriors. After last week’s defeat at Castleford, Shaun Wane said that ‘days like these are bound to happen when you build a young squad’. While putting on a brave face for the cameras, I highly doubt he was so reserved within the walls of the changing rooms and I expect a big response this week from Wigan.
As for Hull KR they performed well in the first half last week before being blown away by table topping St.Helens in the second period. The injury to Craig Hall has been offset by the recruitment of Ade Gardener but KR have struggled in both offence and defence this season. The worrying statistic is that they have conceded 126 points in 4 matches and against a Wigan side looking to kick start their season in front of their own fans, I think for the second week in a row Hull KR could be travelling back from Lancashire on the wrong end of a large scoreline.
Suggested bet – Wigan to win and cover
Leeds v Widnes
Handicap – Leeds -18
Two teams with undefeated records go head to head on Friday night at Headingley. Widnes have been one of the surprise packages of this season, winning their opening three matches in convincing style. Denis Betts has his team playing a positive brand of rugby and they seem to be very high on confidence at the moment. This however will be the Viking’s biggest test of the season so far and it will also be the first game of the season that they have played away from home.
Leeds meanwhile have the started the season in typical fashion with three wins and a hard earned draw at Huddersfield last week. Their solid start has been built around the best defence in Super League, having only conceded 42 points so far.
This game comes down to if Widnes’ attack can score enough points against the Rhino’s defence to win the match. I don’t think they can and I expect Leeds to extend their unbeaten record. However, I don’t think Widnes will be beaten by many and I am keen to side with them getting a rather generous 18 point side.
Suggested Bet – Leeds to win match, Widnes to win on handicap (+18)
St. Helens V Catalan Dragons
Handicap – St.Helens -30
What a week it has been for the Dragons. After last week’s disastrous performance at Wakefield, the squad was recalled from England for crisis talks with the owner. Since then, veteran prop Jamil Fakir has left the club after refusing to play for the reserves and full back Brent Webb must undergo medical tests before he is allowed to play again. On the field they welcome the return of Thomas Bosc, but they are still without 10 senior players. As I said last week, the loss of so many players is bound to have an effect and I think the criticism of the Dragons is highly unfair.
However, yet again this week they face a real tough task at high flying St.Helens. With new signing Luke Walsh pulling the strings and strong performances all over the pitch, St.Helens have won all four of their opening matches in convincing style. They have the best attack in Super League and have racked up 148 points so far.
I can’t see anything other than a big St.Helens win, and while Catalan may try hard and play with a lot of spirit, I think Saints can win and cover the handicap.
Suggested bet – St.Helens to win and cover
If I were you – I’d back Leeds, Warrington, St.Helens to win by 13+ points and Wigan to win by 13+ points which pays around 1.34/1
If you’re after bigger odds – Take Widnes +18, Wigan -18, St.Helens -30 and Warrington -10 at a huge 12.28/1