Betting.Betfair‘s new rugby league correspondent Stuart Jones believes that his predecessor’s team will be very diificult to stop this season. Here’s his best bets for the opening weekend’s action…
Warrington and Huddersfield, third and fifth respectively in last year’s regular season, get the “Millennium Magic” proceedings underway on Saturday afternoon and, with little to split the sides on paper, Huddersfield with a 6.5 point start on the handicap looks the call.
The Giants’ pack is where their strength lies and they will be looking to get on top in the early exchanges to ensure that Warrington’s backs can’t get the space they can so clinically exploit. Nathan Brown has bolstered that area with the signing of former New South Wales star Luke O’Donnell, and his partnership with David Fa’alogo in the second-row promises to rival that of any other club in Super League.
Warrington will be looking to get their backs into the game wherever possible, especially now they have added former Giant Brett Hodgson and Australian test winger Joel Monaghan to the ranks. But without winning the forward exchanges this dynamic backline could be starved of the ball.
Michael Maguire led Wigan to a Grand Final success in his very first season in charge and it’s difficult to see how their rivals will bridge the gap this season. The cherry and whites look to have made a net gain in terms of signings, with the capture of Australian trio Brett Finch, Ryan Hoffman and Jeff Lima more than making up for the departures of bit-part players such as Palea’aesina, Bailey and the injury-prone Cameron Phelps. Amos Roberts looks set to take Pat Richards’ place on the wing and he was in scintillating form before injury put a premature end to his season.
Maguire put his side through a rigorous pre-season routine last term and it reaped massive rewards in fitness through the season. A similar approach this time may well see them starting very fast in most of their games and taking them to score the opening try against local rivals St Helens may well be the call.
There have been comings and goings aplenty at Odsal in the close season and Mick Potter has brought in 11 new faces in his bid to get Bradford back into the play-offs for the first time since 2008. The pack looks strong with Matt Diskin, Bryn Hargreaves and Olivier Elima adding some much needed strength in depth, but it’s the backline that could prove to be their Achilles heel. Shaun Ainscough and Patrick Ah Van are both prolific tryscorers, but neither would be known for their defensive strength, and the lack of a pair of genuine centres is a concern.
With that in mind, the West Yorkshire derby between the Bulls and the Rhinos has the look of one that could be very high scoring. Brian McDermott, now in charge at Leeds, had Harlequins playing entertaining rugby during his reign in the capital and it will be interesting to see how he gets on with a much stronger squad. Leeds are without long-term absentees Danny Maguire and Jamie Peacock, but that won’t leave them too short on creativity and new signing Ben Cross provides adequate cover at prop.
Huddersfield plus 6.5 points @ 1.91
Wigan to score the first try @ 1.72
Over 42.5 pts @ 1.9 in the Leeds v Bradford game.
Check out all the Super League Millennium Magic Betting odds here.
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