The Challenge Cup is a fantastic competition, bringing forward the do-or-die nature of the playoffs to earlier in the season, usually serving up some classic encounters. Thebuild up to Leigh v Salford began as soon as the draw was made, and it has the makings of an entertaining game. Super League also offers another couple of great games, with what could be a pair of dress rehearsals for the playoff semi-finals.
Fantastic rugby is almost guaranteed, so here's where you should be putting your money this weekend.
1 - Wigan Warriors to beat Warrington Wolves by a margin of 6-10pts @ 5.04/1
Thursday April 16, 20:00
Wigan haven't been great this year, but then again, neither have Warrington. However, last week saw both sides playing some of their most impressive rugby of the season. While the away side put 80 unanswered points on the board against Wakefield, the Warriors were nilling Catalan in their own big performance, so this looks to be set up perfectly. Warrington have a big chance to overtake Wigan in the league, but the Warriors tend to be a much better prospect at home, so this could be another close run game among the top clubs. The five point margin bands tend to offer better odds than the wider ten point bands we've backed in the past, so taking a little risk and backing Wigan to win a close fought game appears to offer the best value. Warrington could spring a surprise, and they have performed in matches you wouldn't expect them to, but their away form against local rivals suggests otherwise, having already lost at both Widnes and St Helens.
2 - Leeds Rhinos to beat St Helens @ 2.47/5
Friday April 17, 20:00
This game always ends up being ultra-competitive, which is no surprise given the success of these two. Leeds have tended to get the better of Saints in the big games, with memorable wins in Challenge Cup semi-final's and a trio of Grandfinal victories to their name. St Helens will want to close the gap back up at the top of the table though, especially at home, so they should be at their effective best as a unit come Friday night. This fixture is usually won by the team who does the basics right, makes the least mistakes and takes their chances at the line. Leeds have a slighter leakier defence than Saints, but their attack is operating fantastically in all areas of the park, which is why 2.47/5 on an away win seems slightly long. Having scored almost 100 points more than Saints this season already, Leeds have the talent to win this should their defence perform, so that's where your money should go.
3 - Salford Red Devils to beat Leigh Centurions by a margin of 21-30pts @ 4.84/1
Saturday April 18, 14:35
This game is usually a big enough deal, given the locality of the two sides, but with the added drama surrounding Gareth Hock's involvement, this one has already been in the news for weeks. Having been released from Salford earlier this season immediately after incurring an eight game ban for two illegal uses of his knees, Hock was snapped up by Leigh. According to Salford, there's an agreement in place that should prevent Hock from competing against them, but after seeking legal advice, Leigh seem determined to play him regardless. On the pitch, this may well boil over, but Salford have the class in their team to run away from the Centurions if they play to their best. Leigh have a perfect record in the Championship this year, winning nine from nine, and look set for a step up to Super League next season, but this is a massive test of their ability. In a game that looks primed for a David vs Goliath style upset, expect Salford to spoil the party and utilise their added quality to run in a fair few tries.