Who’d have ever thought, going into a Saints-Leeds showdown, that we’d be talking about top against bottom?
The Rhinos are currently joint-bottom alongside Castleford and Toulouse, with just the one win in the opening six rounds of the Betfred Super League season.
Ominously, the game is to be played this Friday, on April 1 – and the champions can’t be foolish and underestimate the struggling hosts, something we learned a couple of weeks ago against a winless Toulouse. If you don’t turn up with the right attitude, things can quickly go wrong.
Leeds, now under the interim stewardship of my good friend Jamie Jones-Buchanan and former Saints legend Sean Long following the stepping down of head coach Richard Agar, will be hoping that their biggest challenge so far this season can reignite their season.
The appointment of Rhinos legend JJB is clearly one to try and replicate the enthusiasm and passion – something they have lacked in the opening two months – he showed throughout his own playing career. Unfortunately for him and the Leeds fans this didn’t happen last weekend in his first game in charge as their season went from bad to worse, bowing out of the Betfred Challenge Cup after a comprehensive 40-16 defeat to Castleford.
Betfred Challenge Cup Odds
In the same competition it was a case of normal service resumed as Saints saw off a spirited Whitehaven side by 46-4.
As expected, it was a tough opening 20 minutes against a very physical and resilient side who had a very vocal home crowd behind them. However, after weathering the storm class told in the end as the holders ran in eight tries by eight different players – including six forwards!
Saints boss Kristian Woolf was pleased with the response after that disappointing loss in France the previous week, and commented how teams only need to be off the pace by 5% and they can come unstuck. This wasn’t the case on Saturday, with Woolfy particularly complementary of the team’s ability to adapt on attack and score points by playing what is in front of them.
Unsurprisingly, Saints remain favourites at 9/4 with Betfred to retain the iconic trophy, ahead of Wigan and our quarter-final opponents Catalans Dragons at 3/1 and 5/1 respectively.
We are also 11/8 clear favourites with Super League’s title sponsors to win the Grand Final, for an historic fourth consecutive year, come September 24th – again with Wigan (3/1) and Catalans (4/1) next in line.
The big movers in the betting are the out-of-form Warrington Wolves, who are now 7/1 to win the title.
Just like the Rhinos, the big spending Wire have been terrible in 2022 and were also booted out of the Betfred Challenge Cup this weekend as they went down to Wakefield for the second week running. They face a tough trip away to Hull KR on Saturday, which could prove pivotal for their season.
But back to Friday at Headingley, where I can’t see past a Saints win.
There’s no doubt Leeds will come out of the blocks and try to upset the visitors, but It won’t be enough. I’m going for a St Helens win by 16 points or more (5/4 at Betfred).
Betfred Super League Odds