John Anderson casts his eye over the odds for the first day of the Magic Weekend.
So the Magic weekend has arrived. 7 games packed into 2 days.
It promises to be a great occasion and with such high quality action on show, I’m sure we can pick some winners.
A key factor for the whole weekend is the weather forecast. It is going to be dry and hot and on a large pitch at the Etihad Stadium, so teams who play expansive rugby could be at an advantage.
Catalan v London Handicap: Catalan -16
The 2 sides that have no ‘local’ derby kick off this year’s proceedings.
These two teams have met twice already this season and both times they were close games and London won on the handicap market.
However, when London travelled to France they were given a handicap of +26.
I think the market here reflects just how poor Catalan were last week. They were thrashed by Warrington and it once again exposed just how poor they are on the road.
It is an away game for everyone in a sense this weekend, but more so for Catalan as they are playing out of their own country.
Their completion rate was awful last week and they could not hold onto the ball. If they want to win this game, their ball retention will have to be much better.
London are gradually growing into this season and with new coach Joe Grima breathing fresh life into the club, they will be looking to secure their first win of the season on Saturday.
However, the fact remains that their defence is just not up to the mark.
With the forecast set fair, any side boasting the likes of Leon Pryce and Morgan Escaré in their side are going to create chances. I just can’t see how London will stop Catalan scoring points and for me, it has to be Catalan to win and cover.
Verdict – Catalan to win and cover
Widnes v Salford Handicap: Widnes -2
At the start of the season, Salford were the talk of Super League. They made a host of signings and were been talked up as potential title challengers.
In my opinion, those sorts of comments were way beyond the mark as a Championship team isn’t created overnight.
However, they are languishing in 11th position in the table and have been extremely inconsistent. A change of managers hasn’t really helped but it is early days yet in the Iestyn Harris era.
Widnes however are enjoying a great season and a third win this season over Salford would really strengthen their hold on a coveted top 8 place.
A major boost for Widnes heading into this game is the return of Rhys Hanbury. He is a huge threat in attack and with Phil Joseph also returning at prop, they look to have a real chance of claiming their first Magic Weekend victory.
With Theo Fages and Tim Smith both missing, Rangi Chase will have to provide nearly all the attacking creativity for Salford.
I just feel they may be a little one dimensional and Widnes can take advantage and win this game.
Verdict – Widnes to win and cover
Hull KR v Hull Handicap: Hull KR -2
What a game these two sides played out last year. It ended in controversial style as Hull FC snatched a dramatic and controversial late win.
Hull are such an inconsistent side this year and you really have no idea which team is going to turn up. If they play to their potential then they have the match winners in their side to cause Hull KR problems.
The problem has been that they have not played to their maximum potential for long periods of the season. They come into this game on the back of a heavy home defeat to Wigan last time out, so Lee Radford will be looking for a big response in this local derby.
Hull KR have been far more consistent than their cross city rivals and a win for them here would see them move above FC into the top 8.
They are having to adapt to life without Michael Dobson, but there are signs that Kris Keating and Travis Burns are starting to become a Super League half back pairing.
Both teams will be desperate to win this game and the bookies are struggling to split them.
I think this could be a very close game and I’m leaving it out of my bets this weekend. But if you fancy a bet on this game, take Hull KR to win.
Verdict – Hull KR to win by 1-12 points @15/8
Leeds v Wigan Handicap: Leeds -6
The final game on Saturday promises to be a real cracker.
Leeds are the form side in Super League and they also have an excellent record at the Magic Weekend. In 7 matches, they have lost only once.
That defeat however did come last season at the hands of today’s opponents.
Leeds have a huge squad, and while many other squads are stretched they had the luxury last week of been able to rest a couple of player.
Both Ryan Hall and Ian Kirke look set to be recalled after missing last week’s win at Castleford. No such luxuries for Wigan, as they have a mounting injury list.
They do have Matty Bowen returning at fullback but Sean O Loughlin is a huge loss for the Warriors.
That said, Wigan produced arguably their best performance of the season last week when they hammered Hull FC at the KC stadium and they will be no pushovers for the Rhinos.
However, I think that Leeds will be too strong for the Warriors and they can cover the handicap.
Verdict – Leeds to win and cover the Handicap
Saturday’s Best Bet – Widnes -2 and Leeds -6 both to win pays 2.64/1
Saturday’s Longshot Bet – Catalans -16, Widnes -2 and Leeds -6 all to win pays 6/1
Full reports, photographs and analysis from all the Magic Weekend matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express, available in the shops and in a digital format online.