Challenge Cup Semi-Finals Tips: Saints and Wolves set for Wembley
Phil Spink casts his eye over the betting for Sunday's mouth-watering Challenge Cup Semi-Finals...
"Saints have beaten the Dragons by margins of nine and fourteen this year and a bet on them to triumph within the dozen points offered on the handicap looks the way to go"
Rugby League fans are in for a treat on Sunday as the Challenge Cup Semi-Finals take place as a double-header from the sold-out Bolton Wanderers' University of Bolton Stadium, with both games live on BBC1 in the UK.
Saints to keep alive treble dream
St Helens vs Catalans Dragons
Sunday 5 August, 12:30 BST
Live on BBC1
The runaway Super League leaders St Helens can book their first trip in ten years to Wembley, but won't have it all their own way against a resurgent Catalans in the first match.
Saints are 4/6 with the Sportsbook to lift the trophy for a thirteenth time on August 25th, and it will be a brave punter who bets against them given they've tasted defeat just twice in 2018 and made it fourteen wins in a row last week against fellow Semi-Finalists Warrington courtesy of an 80th-minute Danny Richardson penalty.
There were loud cheers from the home fans present as they were paired with Catalans in the draw after their hard-fought 25-22 win over Hull in the Quarters, but those supporters have every right to be weary two months on with Steve McNamara's side a different beast now. They've lost just twice in twelve games since they last faced St Helens on May 3rd, making the Super 8s with a bit to spare, and have the bit between their teeth, though they'll have to do without the influential Greg Bird and Jodie Broughton here.
Saints have beaten the Dragons by margins of nine and fourteen this year and a bet on them to triumph within the dozen points offered on the handicap looks the way to go.
For a tryscorer bet look no further than Jonny Lomax, who has struck in his last three matches against Catalans, opening the scoring in both of this season's games. At the very least he has to be backed to strike again anytime at 9/5.
Wolves to wipe out the Rhinos again
Warrington Wolves v Leeds Rhinos
Sunday 5 August, 14:45 BST
Live on BBC1
Warrington can make the final for a fifth time in ten years with victory over thirteen-time winners Leeds.
These sides have plenty of recent form in the competition, the Wolves coming out on top against their rivals at Wembley in 2010 and 2012 before coming unstuck in the semis in 2014, with the Rhinos going on to lift the trophy.
It has been a hugely-contrasting year for the two sides. Warrington comfortably secured a top-four finish in the Super League under new coach Steve Price and produced easily the best performance in this season's Challenge Cup when whitewashing Wigan 23-0 in the Quarter-Finals.
Meanwhile 2018 has been annus horribilis for the reigning champions Leeds. They won just once in ten games in the league in a spell from the start of April that saw the departure of record-breaking coach Brian McDermott.
They'll end the year in the Qualifiers and a trip to Wembley is the only way they can salvage something from a disastrous campaign. Ties against Super League-basement club Widnes and disappointing Championship-side Leigh have given them a relatively-smooth passage to the last four and this represents a whole different challenge, one that it's hard to see them overcoming on this season's form.