Ben Barba making his 1st appearance in the Red V has overshadowed what is a crucial derby between St Helens and Wigan tonight on Friday night Rugby.
Victory could put either side in the top 4 with only 3 games left and only 2 points behind 3rd placed Hull.
It will almost certainly be the end of the road for the side that loses so it could be argued that this is a bigger game for Wigan than last week’s Challenge Cup Final.
Having a week off should be of no real advantage to St Helens as most of the Wigan squad have had lengthy spells on the sidelines this year and should be quite fresh, Hull put up a good fight at Headingley last night with a day less to prepare.
It’s honours even so far this season with Wigan winning on Good Friday and Saints getting revenge in June.
Both sides are at near full strength, Liam Marshall looks set to continue on the wing with Davies ruled out and Barba should start at full back for Saints.
It’s worth remembering that for all Wigan were 2nd best at Wembley last week the try count was level and the Warriors nearly snatched it at the death when Burgess went over only to be called back for a forward pass.
St Helens are very short at 1/2 to win this and I feel the bookies may have overestimated the Wembley factor the Wigan camp know how crucial this game is and should have plenty in the tank. Whilst I do think 15/8 is too big for the Warriors, I’d have them around 11/8, the value is surely with them getting a 6 point start on the handicap.
Saints have a very impressive record at Langtree Park this year and Wigan have been largely poor on the road and that would put me off the Warriors but I think in what should be a tight game Shaun Wane’s side can stay inside the handicap, as for a winning margin I can’t see more than a try in it either way but possibly just favour Wigan by 1-5 points.
Possibly value could be the 6/1 with Betfair that scores are tied at either half time or full time as this should be tight.
Grace, Makinson and Barba head 1st try lists at 10/1, I’d prefer Ryan Morgan at 6 points bigger.
As for the visitors it’s take your pick at 11/1 between wingers Burgess and Marshall.
Finally the man of the match, Barba is an obvious favourite at 11/2 and it’s tough to argue a case either way. If Saints win and he plays ok he’ll get it, but he hadn’t played for a while and Wigan will target him early. Vatuvei is still struggling to adjust to Super League with Salford and it’s possibly Barba could do the same, he’s a class act though and Sky would love to give him man of the match. For me Roby looks back to his best and great value at 12/1.
Plenty of dangers like Percival at 20/1 and Fages at 14’s.
As for the visitors, again the market is wide open. Williams is the shortest price at 8/1 but seems to have lost his early season spark to me, Tomkins is an obvious danger at 12/1 but Bateman looks back to his near best and rates good value at 16/1. So it’s the 2 players I rate as the best on the pitch, Roby and Bateman.
2 other games tonight, Salford can’t buy a win and will be wanting the season to end. After starting the Super 8 in 4 th with the extra home game they’ve lost all 3 games and look set to finish bottom.
They entertain 4th placed Wakefield who have won 3 of their last 6.
Most bookies can’t split the 2 sides but some just favour the Red Devils at 8/11.
6/5 is available for Trinity if you shop around and for all they are a bit inconsistent surely they’re in better form and spirits than Salford and should win this.
A dead rubber at the John Smith’s Stadium where Castleford, who have already tied up the league leaders shield, are the visitors.
Huddersfield are around 2/1 for a home win in a game that’s hard to call, surely the Giants are just too far back to make the top 4 but could run the Tigers close.
I can’t see Daryl Powell letting his side take their foot off the gas but 2/5 is short for a side looking 4 weeks ahead.
Cas may just get home but the Giants can push them all the way and look the value at 19/20 getting a 6.5 point start with marathon.
Middle 8 returns tomorrow, as always please gamble responsibly.