William Hill: Preliminary Semi-Finals Preview
Huddersfield Giants and Leeds Rhinos will battle it out on Friday evening to decide which team will be Yorkshire’s sole representative in the Super League Grand Final eliminators and earn the right to be club called for next week’s qualifying semi-final.
Although the Giants (7/4 match betting) are the home team, it is the visiting Rhinos (2/5) that will start as favourites when referee Phil Bentham blows his whistle to commence the match at the Galpharm Stadium. Indeed the top two teams from the White Rose county have met each other twice so far this season with honours shared, on both occasions the away team triumphing.
Back in April the Giants took advantage of a disjointed Rhinos’ performance to leave Headingley with a 38-6 victory. A repeat of that scenario could certainly prove profitable for any Huddersfield fan. The Giants to win by 31-35 points is priced at 80-1 while the hosts -2 on the handicap market can be backed at 2/1.
The sides met much more recently though, just a fortnight ago in fact when the visitors won 31-24, and if the Rhinos can maintain their recent run of excellent form they will have an outstanding chance of progression. Leeds, despite finishing fifth, have now won eight of their last 10 games and have piled up 137 points in three wins since going down to Wigan in the Challenge Cup final at Wembley on 27 August.
The Rhinos can be backed at 9/2 to win by 6-10 points and 10/11 on the market handicap market at -6.
Huddersfield are close to full strength for this game with first-choice centres Leroy Cudjoe and Joe Wardle both returning along with back rower Dale Ferguson. They’ll need all the experience and talent at their disposal to turn up and be counted, something they didn’t do last weekend when they were thrashed 47-0 by Warrington. Another lacklustre performance this time around and they’ll not only find themselves on the end of another drubbing, but out of Grand Final reckoning all together.
Leeds are still without injured centres Carl Ablett and Kallum Watkins but in-form prop Ryan Bailey has won his appeal against a one-match ban and has been cleared to play. Their head coach Brian McDermott was delighted with their all-round game against vanquished Hull in the play-offs game one. “We came up with some sensational patches,” he said. “We were brilliant on some occasions.”
The biggest losers of last weekend were the defending Champions and current Challenge Cup holders Wigan. They made a complete mess of their week one home advantage, allowing bitter rivals St Helens to take an early lead at the DW Stadium, one that ultimately they could not claw back.
In complete contrast, the Dragons flew out of the traps at the Stade Gilbert Stadium, blowing away in-form Hull KR by 56-6 to set up this fascinating tie. If they are to do the unthinkable and knockout the Warriors, then they must do it without influential forward David Ferriol after the 32 year-old was found guilty of leading with the knee during the French club's victory a week ago.
Wigan and Catalan have met twice this season with the Dragons emerging victorious on both occasions, something head coach Trent Robinson will want to repeat. If his charges can maintain their ferocity and desire in Lancashire, they might just be worth backing at 3/1. That said, it would take a performance of monumental proportions to oust Wigan, and at 2/9 it seems that the bookies are favouring the Cherry and Whites to progress.
The handicap spread for this clash has been established at 12 points. Therefore, Wigan -12 and Catalan +12 can both be backed at 10/11.
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All prices subject to fluctuation. Prices correct as at 4.30pm 22/09/2011. William Hill rules apply. Over 18s only. For advice and information visit www.gambleaware.co.uk