Rugby League Tips | 18th-19th February 2017
Rugby League expert Kaine Greenwood has picked out his best bets from the Super League and World Cup Series this weekend.
‘Welcome to Super League,’ they said. Leigh’s reward for achieving promotion to the top-tier is a fixture list that sees the newcomers face six consecutive games against former or current Grand Final or League leaders’ Shield winners on the back of a punishing 44-16 ‘welcome back’ at the hands of Castleford Tigers. The next task up: Leeds Rhinos.
Leeds ran out 37-12 winners over Leigh in their last match of the 2016 season as part of the ‘Middle 8’s’ phase but Leeds captain Danny McGuire is expecting the Centurions to pose more of a serious threat this time around considering both sides had secured a Super League place in that fixture.
He himself will be part of a Rhinos squad that looks to make sure that isn’t the case however as he has recovered from his first week injury while the hosts will be without their own linchpin in Martyn Ridyard who is ruled out through injury.
The Centurions’ task becomes a whole lot tougher with that absence and frankly it will be difficult for Neil Jukes’ side without their premier organiser in Ridyard but they do welcome experienced centre Willie Tonga into the side to add some alternative three-quarter flare. Antoni Maria and Lachlan Burr are also included in the squad and could make their competitive bows.
The Rhinos suffered narrowly at the hands of St. Helens in the season-opening fixture but displayed some great defensive efforts throughout and Brian McDermott’s pick for the full-back slot, Ashton Golding, arguably put in a man-of-the-match display for the West Yorkshire side under real scrutiny.
That is not only encouraging for a Rhinos side that struggled with defensive issues for most of the previous campaign but a big concern for the Leigh Sports Village faithful who may have been banking on catching their opponents cold in the early weeks.
In short the visitors should be far too strong for the home side in this fixture and if they are able to iron out of the attacking issues they suffered with in their first 80 with an extra week’s training and the return of McGuire to stabilise that middle area of the pitch then it is not out the question that Leigh could concede a number of points for the second week running.
In the interests of playing it a little more cautiously it looks like a handicap of -8.5 is the way to focus; the former Champions will no doubt pick up their maiden win of the season by at least 10 points in this clash and the price should be snapped up.
It’s the clash of the ex-England and the current England coaches under the Saturday night lights in Warrington.
Wayne Bennett is back on British shores looking to win another game – such was his excitement at England scraping past Scotland in an ironically dismal 38-12 display on Bonfire Night in Coventry.
In Daryl Clark Warrington have a player who Bennett will be well aware of and who was one of the bright sparks of that game (and tournament in general) off the bench.
Clark is tipped by many to be a front-runner for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award and he will have to turn up to this event if the Wolves are to have any realistic chance of kicking off the World Club Series in style.
His speed from the the play-of-the-ball will be an obvious concern for Broncos who can be susceptible to such agility around their middle.
The Broncos have brought a strong outfit to the Halliwell-Jones for the fixture however as they look to ramp up efforts for the start of the NRL season and never take this competition lightly.
Bennett’s side ran hot 12 months ago in putting on a seven-try clinic against the Wigan Warriors and with the likes of Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford and Darius Boyd acting as tricky triumvirate in centre field a Broncos win has to be favoured again.
The experience of Ben Westwood will no doubt help the Wolves’ young pack as he returns to the fold but the Aussies are clear favourites in a straight match-up across the board.
Despite their opening week defeat in the south of France though I think there is enough to like about the Wolves’ setup this year to believe that they will provide a real challenge to all in the Super League.
The Broncos represent a quality benchmark for Tony Smith’s side to take further into the season here so while they aren’t favoured I do want to get onside with the home side.
On that basis, the near four-score head-start given to the Primrose and Blues has value considering they lost just one match over such a line in 2016 and based on their six-point losing effort (18-12) against St. George a year earlier in what will likely be another committed but losing effort.
Kaine Greenwood’s Best Bets