Salford Red Devils V St Helens
Thursday, 8pm, AJ Bell Stadium
Handicap: St Helens -10
Overview: This week’s televised Thursday night match sees two teams with 100 per cent records go head to head. It should be an intriguing contest. It is no surprise to see either team having made such a positive start, with Salford backed by big-spending Dr Marwan Koukash, and St Helens having recruited extremely well in the off-season.
It is fair to say Saints have been more impressive so far in Super League, following up their clinical destruction of Warrington in round one with a solid second half display that turned Hull over. Salford, meanwhile, struggled past a poor Wakefield in week one before taking down strugglers London last week. With the amount of signings Salford made in the close season, it is almost certain they will take time to reach their full potential as players have to gel and get used to each other’s styles of play.
As such, I think it could be later on in the season if we see them become a major force. As for St Helens, they have had no such problems and new half back Luke Walsh has slotted into the side with apparent ease. His all-round performance has been hugely impressive and if he continues to play so well then St Helens should prove too hot for Salford to handle at this early stage of the season.
Suggested bet: St Helens to win
Hull Kingston Rovers V Castleford Tigers
Friday, 8pm, KC Lightstream Stadium
Handicap: Hull KR -4
Overview: Castleford have been the surprise package in the first two rounds of Super League. Many thought they could be involved in a relegation fight, but they disposed of Bradford in week one and were impressive when running out 32-6 winners against Catalan Dragons last week. Hooker Daryl Clark has been very important for the Tigers but it is winger Justin Carney who is currently grabbing the headlines.
A hat-trick against Catalan to go along with a strong performance against Bradford and Carney has been almost unplayable in Super League so far. You can be sure he will feature heavily in Hull KR’s plans for this game. The Robins themselves come into this match on the back of a good result at Huddersfield. Two tries in the final three minutes enabled them to snatch a 24-24 draw and coach Craig Sandercock will be hoping his side can build on that strong second half performance to gain a first win of the 2014 campaign.
I did wonder about the Rovers’ ability to score points without Michael Dobson, but they answered that question last week by scoring four tries against a Huddersfield team known for a tight defence. This is a game that could go either way, but if Hull KR can stop the Tiger’s dangerous offence, at home they should be able to score enough points to get the job done.
Suggested bet: Hull KR to win and cover the handicap
Catalan Dragons V Leeds Rhinos
Friday, 10pm, Stade Gilbert Brutus
Handicap: Leeds -8
Overview: At the time of writing, although included in the 19-man squad, it is still unclear as to whether influential Leeds captain Kevin Sinfield will recover from an ankle injury in time to play for the Rhinos. If he does, that is a major boost for them. However, unless 100 per cent fit, I can’t see coach Brian McDermott risking him. The Dragons have had a tough start to the season and by their own admission have been way below their best.
The manner of their 32-6 defeat at Castleford will worry coach Laurent Frayssinous. However, both of Catalan’s first two games have been away from home and they are a completely different side once back in the south of France. Frayssinous was scathing after the Castleford defeat and said that not one of his players had emerged with any credit. He will be hoping for a major response in front of a passionate home crowd on Friday night. However, regardless of whether Sinfield is fit to play, Leeds should be too strong in this match. If you are to win against Catalan you must win the physical battle in the middle of the park. With the likes of Jamie Peacock, Ryan Bailey and Kylie Leuluai in your squad, Leeds will be confident of building a solid platform from which to attack.
And with arguably one of the best three quarter lines in world rugby at the moment, Catalan can’t afford to give the Rhinos as much possession as they afforded to Castleford last week. Add in the fact that Catalan are missing Scott Dureau (injured) and Julian Bousquet (suspended) and Leeds are good value for the win on Friday night.
Suggested bet: Leeds to win
If I were you…
I’d stick money on St.Helens, Hull KR and Leeds all to win this week. It pays around 1.7/1
It’s a long shot, but…
Backing St.Helens (-10), Hull KR (-4) and Leeds (-8) with their handicaps pays a tasty 5.68/1