Round Four was easily one of the most entertaining set of fixtures in the recent years complete with upsets, large score draws, comebacks and blowouts. The top of the table supremacy some clubs have enjoyed over consecutive seasons is being challenged, and the overall competitiveness of the competition has definitely improved. Before the season, you could have plotted places one to 12 and not been far off in years gone by, but this time around, it's far more unpredictable. Going in to Round Five, here are three big bets to take in to consideration.
1 - Castleford Tigers to beat Huddersfield Giants @ 2.77/4
Last week, both of these sides hadn't won a match and were scratching their heads as to how. A week on, they've both broken their ducks, and will be facing each other in one of the most interesting games of the season so far. Huddersfield are built on solid defence, good kicking and scoring when they have field position advantages. Castleford are slightly more freeform, and look to attack from more unconventional areas, which leaves them weaker defensively. Huddersfield were good without being great against Widnes last week to open their account, their playmaker and heart of the side Danny Brough having his best game this year, creating everything good about what they had in attack. Castleford won their first game in fantastic style, blowing away Wigan at home by playing with a level of confidence and freedom that sent them within a game of top spot last season. This game should be close, and will be decided by the most clinical side, who make the least mistakes and build on better positioning. While my head says this could be a narrow home win, my wallet sees an exciting Tigers backline priced long enough for an educated dabble.
2 - Leeds Rhinos to beat Warrington Wolves @ 2.1511/10
Away against Hull FC last week, Leeds started the game somewhat badly. They failed to score a point in the first half, made basic mistakes that they otherwise wouldn't and found themselves lucky to only be 12-0 down at the sound of the hooter. However, their performance in the second half was simply savage, scoring 43 unanswered points of their own. Leeds destroyed a Hull FC defence that had been watertight in the opening rounds and showed a level of ruthlessness mostly associated with the Rhinos come the playoffs, Leeds went another game unbeaten, and showed clear intention to challenge at the top of the league. Warrington, on the other hand, just about managed to keep an impressive Hull KR side at arms length, showing their class in the final third to keep the visitors eight points behind at full-time. This fixture has become bigger and bigger over the past few years, and has created the odd modern classic. Warrington, coached by former Leeds favourite Tony Smith, operate in the same attacking manner the Rhinos have built title teams on, but also boast an impressive defence. This game could be played at playoff pace and atmosphere, and the class, confidence and experience of the Leeds outfit is too tempting to turn down.
3 - Widnes Vikings to beat St Helens @ 2.3411/8
St Helens are doing that typical champion side thing so far this season, where they're not playing anywhere close to their very best, but still grinding out victories and keeping themselves at the top of the table. However, injuries are starting to take their toll on the balance of the squad, especially in the ball-playing back areas, and that could open the door for an impressive Widnes side to take advantage of their Lancashire neighbours. Much like they did against Wigan on the opening day, Widnes will raise themselves against their more decorated local rivals, and with their attacking trio of Hanbury, Mellor and Brown starting to click in to gear, this fixture could play right in to their hands. Don't be mistaken though, this is the most risky bet of the three proposed, and not just because on every occasion Saints find themselves in need of inspiration, they seem to stumble across it as a collective. Should Widnes avoid a war of attrition and take their chances they're in with a massive shout, but if Saints manage to get their way the Vikings will need to find something extra from within.