Although Saints won the League Leaders’ Shield at a canter, this is knock-out rugby now, and only the next 80 minutes count in what will be a nail-biting round of games. Only two sides can make it through to the game’s showpiece at the Theatre of Dreams in Manchester on Saturday 13th October, but who will battle it out for the ultimate prize? Sports.net’s Super League 2018 Play-Off Semi-Finals betting preview offers the insight you need before the action gets underway.
St Helens v Warrington Wolves
- Thursday 4th October, 7:45pm
How the Bookies See It
St Helens led Super League XXIII from the get-go and rarely relented. Only a brief wobble towards the end of the regular season, when they lost successive home games to Huddersfield and Wigan, prevented them from wrapping up the leaders’ shield earlier. However, the Merseysiders finished with four wins on the bounce, including a 26-0 mauling of Castleford Tigers on the final day.
Warrington Wolves have always been there or thereabouts, but it hasn’t quite clicked on a consistent basis this term. A top four finish was never really in doubt, but they made their fans wait for its confirmation. A record of four wins (including an 80-10 demolition of Hull) and three defeats during the Super 8s show why they are rank outsiders going into the final four.
Whilst it is true that anything can happen at this stage of the season, it would not only be grossly unfair for Saints not to make the final, it would also be a huge surprise. On their day, Warrington are a tough and exciting side, but they struggle against the big teams. In fact, they have lost to all three of the other play-off sides in recent months, including two defeats to Thursday’s opponents, St Helens.
That is not to say it will be easy for Saints. Wire centre Tom Lineham always has tries in him, and full back Stefan Ratchford is a danger man, but the home side should just have too much.
For Saints, it will be Ben Barba’s last chance to wow the crowd at the Totally Wicked Stadium before he heads off to play for the North Queensland Cowboys. The talented full back, Super League’s top try scorer this term, will hope to have a Grand Final winners’ medal secured in his hand luggage before he boards that flight.
If you don’t fancy the short odds on a Saints win, maybe look at them to lead at both half time and full time. You will find a decent 3/4 on that from Boylesports.
Wigan Warriors v Castleford Tigers
- Friday 5th October, 7:45pm
How the Bookies See it
Wigan Warriors looked like they were on the verge of blowing their solid second position when they began to falter in midseason. The news that coach Shaun Wane and star full back Sam Tomkins were set to leave at the end of the campaign, mixed with controversy over the off-field antics of Sam and his brother Joel, coincided with a real drop in form. However, 2016’s champions overcame the issues and ended the season with eight victories on the bounce.
Castleford Tigers were always going to struggle to live up to last year’s epic performance in the regular season. It is to coach Daryl Powell’s credit that he has managed to keep the momentum going, despite last year’s Grand Final heartache. Five wins from their last six games is great form going into the final four. Unfortunately for Cas, they face the only team on a better run.
The scheduling of the games was decided by the finishing positions of the four teams, but it couldn’t have been manufactured any better. Whereas Saints against Wire should go as expected, Wigan and Castleford are a lot more closely matched, and this should be a thriller.
Of course, that makes it difficult to call, but there will be a better return in it if you predict it correctly. It is likely to be close, with a winning margin bet on either side looking like a decent way to increase your return. William Hill has 7/4 on Wigan prevailing by between 1 and 12 points, with 5/2 on Cas doing the same.
Overall, Wigan have edged it as the better team throughout the campaign, and they should be able to use their home advantage to eliminate Tigers and set up an Old Trafford date for a week on Saturday.
Wigan by 1-12 points