Saints given 8-point start at Wigan

Challenge Cup TV games

An early start today for Wigan and St Helens, as their big derby in front of the Sky cameras kicks off at 12.15.

The Warriors will be looking to carry on the remarkable tradition of not losing on Good Friday since 2009, in fact Coach Shaun Wane will be looking to make it 5 out of 5 for him.

Both sides are struggling for form at the moment and Saints are without a Coach after parting company with Keiron Cunningham earlier in the week.

Saints had a poor defeat at Salford on their last road trip and drew with lowly Huddersfield last week despite leading 14-0.

As for the Champions, they have not won for 4 games as the injuries mounted up, but they seem to be clearing up with the likes of Gelling, McIlorum, Burgess and O’Loughlin all back for this.

Sean Long takes charge of his first game and brings Luke Thompson back into the Saints squad. Matty Smith plays against the side with whom he won two Grand Finals.

It’s very hard to read the form for this game with Wigan getting so many players back, the likes of Lockers and Burgess should fit straight back in but you’d think it will take Micky Mac a few weeks to settle in due to the nature of the horrific injury he picked up that kept him out for 13 months.

Wigan’s recent Good Friday record is amazing given Saints have turned it around to win the return match on each occasion, but the bookies must have taken this into account as Super League sponsors Betfred give the Red V an 8 point start on the handicap against a side who haven’t won since early March.

These games can be very tight but it’s 2011 since Saints stayed inside the 8-point handicap on offer today.

I can’t see Cunningham’s absence affecting Saints too much, they would have been up for this game regardless, and in dry conditions you’d have to fancy the World Club Champions to win this by 2 scores and cover the 8-point handicap

However, heavy rain is forecast and that brings Smith’s kicking game right into the equation, whilst I think 2/1 is a little on the short side for an away win you have to think they can stay inside the handicap.

Given the uncertainty of the players returning, it would be a big risk at 2/5 for Wigan to win here, this can be boosted to 4/5 on the Half Time Full Time, but I do think they’ll just get home by around 1-5 points.

Best value for Wigan backers could be 13/8 for a win by 1-12 points.

There was heavy rain the last time these two contested a Good Friday Derby and there were only 16 points in the game, going low on points could also be another way to look at would could be a bruising encounter.

It certainly makes 7/2 for a penalty to be the first scoring play worth a second look.

The returning Burgess is hard to ignore at 5/1 to score the first try, with Marshall 7/1. Percival would be my pick at 11/1 for the visitors and don’t forget Betfred double your first try scorer odds if your player goes on to score a second try. Please check T&C’s.

Louis McCarthy-Scarsbrook scored Saints only try two years ago here and is 7/2 to score a try anytime in the game here.

Finally the man of the match, Wigan will know all about how effective Smith is in wet conditions and with Sky having history of giving these awards to players against former clubs, I just choose him over the back to form Alex Walmsley.

As for Wigan, Williams is just too short in the betting now, these games bring out the best in O’Loughlin so he should offer much better value so it’s Smith and Lockers for me.

As always, please gamble responsibly.