After a long 7 weeks getting the Super 8 out of the way we’ve finally reached the business end of the season as the top 4 clubs are only 80 minutes from the Theatre of Dreams ,
Home advantage is usually key at this stage as no side has won a semi away from home for 6 years .
1st up sees 4th placed Warrington head to the Totally Wicked Stadium to take on St Helens .
Saints have been going through the motions for weeks now as top spot was all but secured weeks ago . With both sides assured of positions in the league for at least 6 weeks it’s hard to take recent form into account , you’d think Saints would be fresher after having Wembley weekend off now but that was 6 weeks ago and Steve Price has managed his Wire squad well since then .
You have to fancy the league leaders at home in this one , with the speculation about Barba finally over he can now concentrate on playing and the team will benefit from finding their rhythm against Cas last week , albeit a Tigers side with both eyes on this week .
Bookies make the Red V favourites at around 4/11 and you have to think that’s justified , they’ve been the best team this season and form has only really dipped when they were all but home and dry .
I’d certainly want more than 5/2 for the Wire but in what could be a tight game they may just be able to stay inside the 8 point handicap, these games tend to be close .
Rather than Saints on the handicap the Half Time Full Time at 8/11 for he hosts is probably where the value lies .
Barba heads 1st try markets at 8/1 , but Percival at 12/ looks good value to me . In form Wire winger Charnley , a man for the big occasion. , could be your man in Primrose and Blue at 12/1 .
Second semi final sees Castleford travel to the DW to take on Wigan .
This is the stage last season where the wheels started to come off for Daryl Powell’s side and there’ll be desperate to get back to Old Trafford to make amends for the defeat there 12 months ago .
Wigan have been formidable at home though , only losing to St Helens , and have just become the only side to win all 7 games in the Super 8 .
Both sides have been trying to claim 2nd spot and the home semi because they know the advantage it brings and that could be key here .
The Warriors were clearly the better side in both encounters at the DW and I see no reason to suggest this will be any different . Cas do have Gale back now but Shaun Wane has picked his strongest squad of the season and I think Wigan can win a tight game and book a place in the Grand Final for the 5th time in 6 years .
Shaun Wane’a side start justified favourites at 4/7 with Super League Sponsors Betfred , Castleford are 6/4 , and concede a 4 point start on the handicap.
It should be a tight affair but I just fancy the Warriors to get over the line by around 6-10 points .
Again the value could be in the Half Time Full Time , with Wigan even money . The double with St Helens at Betfred on the Half Time Full Time pays just under 5/2 .
Fun bet seekers may point to Wigan starting slowly in games this year , they were 12-0 down against Hull last week , and Castleford Half Time Wigan Full Time can be backed at 6/1 but
I think the 2016 Champions can lead from start to finish here .
Tigers backers can get their side with an 8 point start at 4/7 at Betfred , if you fancy them to win the game I’d take the slightly reduced odds to reach the final in case of golden point .
Greg Eden has to be the man for 1st try backers and he is available at 9/1 if you shop around , Manfredi is the same price in Cherry and White but back in the England squad Sam Tomkins looks big at 18/1 .
Back with a look at the Grand Final next week, as always please gamble responsibly