The play offs start tonight with a straight knockout tie as 2 sides who’ve struggled for form lately Warrington and Castleford clash at the HJ , in Cup terms this is like a last 16 tie really where the winner will travel to the loser of the Wigan Salford game next week and the loser is out .
This play off system does seem a little complicated , I actually preferred the 6 team system , but it does give the league leaders a real advantage and that has to be right .
Warrington are clear favourites at around 1/2 to win here and whilst they are very short odds for a side who’ve lost 9 of their last 10 in the league , sandwiched in between those games were do or die Cup ties against Hull and St Helens which they won impressively .
The Wolves fans are hoping their side can raise their game like they did at Wembley but whilst that was a one off cup tie Warrington will have to do that 4 times in a row , this is why they are around 7/1 to win at Old Trafford with Cas around 25/1 .
The Tigers lost what at the time seemed a do or die clash against Wigan last week , they were handed a play off spot by Hull losing to St Helens , so will be glad of another chance tonight . They are in slightly better form , winning 6 of 10 , but their poor showing at Wigan last week has to be a worry . It seems to have been a long season at the Jungle but it’s testament to the job Daryl Powell has done when we’re saying 5th spot is a below par effort . Bookies make Cas around 7/4 to win here but that’s not for me .
With both sides inconsistent I just feel Warrington have proved they can raise it when it counts and can get home in what could be a tight affair by around 6-10 points . The handicap sees Warrington concede a 6 point start , the value is maybe them -6 at 11/10 .
If the Tigers are to win they’ll need a big effort from Jake Trueman and he would be my man of the match pick in Tigers colours at 8/1 just ahead of 10/1 McShane , as for the Wolves I can’t see past ex Tiger Daryl Clark at 7/1 ahead of 10/1 Ratchford.
The DW Friday sees a qualifier between Wigan and Salford . The winner here goes to St Helens for a semi final next week , the loser gets another chance against the winner of the Wire-Cas game .
Surely Ian Watson will get coach of the year for guiding the Red Devil’s to 3rd in the table and their reward is a free hit at qualifying for the same finals . Both these sides are on tremendous runs , they’ve won their last 15 games between them , but something will have to give on Friday .
Unsurprisingly Wigan are clear favourites at 1/3 here and given their big game experience that’s fair enough . The Warriors have only only failed to reach one Grand Final since 2013 , winning 3 of them , but for a side on the run Salford are having big odds of around 5/2 (11/4 if you shop around ) look tempting with well over 1000 fans cheering them on . It’s worth noting though that Wigan have beaten Salford 3 times already this year and with their players used to playing in the post season may just make that 4 here .
Salford getting an 8 point start at 11/10 maybe where the value lies but I think the Warriors can again win this by around 6-10 points in what could be a cracking encounter .
No surprise that man of steel contenders Hastings (who’s surely won it ) and Williams are favourites , at 8/1 and 6/1 respectively , for man of the match and it’s hard to see past either . Hardaker and Evalds , both at 10/1 warrant consideration .
Whilst this game isn’t do or die both sides know the winners get 2 chances to reach the Grand Final whilst the loser will have to win both their next 2 games to reach the theatre of dreams . Given the way the play off system works the Red Devil’s are massive at around 14/1 to win the Grand Final , Wigan are 2nd favourites at 5/2 .
League leaders ,and 5/6 favourites to win the Grand Final , Saints enter the fray next week , as always please gamble responsibly .