Well the wait is finally over as the Sky cameras are at Langtree Park for the Super League season opener between the competition’s two most successful sides St Helens and Leeds.
Brian McDermott will be looking to get off to a flyer and put last seasons struggles well behind him. The Rhinos had to fight for their Super League place in the Qualifiers and won’t want to put their fans through that again. As for the hosts, for all they made the top four, it was an average season by Saints’ high standards as they lost out to Warrington in the play-off semi-finals.
Super League sponsors Betfred give the 2015 Treble winners a six-point start on the handicap on a ground where they don’t have the best of records. I haven’t been too convinced by Leeds recruitment over the winter and losing James Segeyaro was a big blow. Matt Parcell looks a great signing but will be under pressure to settle quickly.
Whilst I think Saints may edge this, I’d rather be on Leeds getting a six-point start. Matty Smith will be a big miss with St Helens losing Luke Walsh over the close season, but they may just have enough to justify their 4/9 favourites tag and win a close game by 1-5 points.
Obviously it’s very early days so anything can happen so the best value for me is a 1-10 point home win at around 2/1. An alternative to Saints on the handicap for home backers is the Half-Time Full-Time, Betfred have Keiron Cunningham’s men at 10/11. If you fancy Leeds to get off to a flyer it’s 15/8 for an away win.
Both sides will want to put points on the board early and backing a penalty as the first scoring play works out as 7/2 if you back both sides to half your stake.
Saints winger’s Adam Swift and Tommy Makinson share first try favouritism at 6/1; I’d just prefer speedster Swift as I think he could score a lot of tries this season. As for the Rhinos, Kallum Watkins looks decent value at 10/1. In a World Cup year we could do with a return to form for the talented Leeds centre.
Finally the man of the match. We’ll have to look at this from a different angle with Mike ‘Stevo’ Stephenson gone, but another player, like Watkins, who had an average (by their standards) in 2016 was James Roby. With a full pre-season behind him the hooker could rediscover his best form. He is a worthy 8/1 favourite and it’s hard to see past him if Saints get home.
In the Sky opener last year debutante Kurt Gidley took the man of the match bubbly for Warrington. Matt Purcell has big boots to fill in those of Segeyaro and will have to match Roby if the Rhinos are to win. He will be firmly in the spotlight and is good value at 9/1. So it’s the two no. 9’s Roby and Purcell for me.
New boys Leigh make their Super League bow at Castleford tomorrow, it’s early days so please tread carefully and as always please gamble responsibly.
Please click here to go to the Betfred website for all their Rugby League prices.