Phil Spink expects things to remain tight in this week's games as the battle for Super League supremacy hots up...
"Justin Holbrook's stars won the regular season by a record 16 points and are a perfect 15-0 at home in 2019. They are unbeaten against the four other play-off sides in league games, which includes three victories over Wigan"
Red Devils to inch closer to Old Trafford
Salford Red Devils v Castleford Tigers
Thursday September 26, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
Salford Red Devils can resume winning ways against Castleford Tigers in Thursday's elimination match.
Ian Watson's men, who will be just eighty minutes away from the Grand Final with victory having been 100/1 for top honours in January, suffered their first defeat in nine games last week at Wigan, but not before giving the Warriors a fright in a scintillating encounter.
Man of Steel fancy Jackson Hastings is expected to overcome an eye injury picked up in that 18-12 loss against his future employers and the Red Devils are unchanged as they return to the AJ Bell Stadium for the final time in what has been a ground-breaking season.
Castleford Tigers, who finished fifth and four points behind Salford in the league table, dumped Challenge Cup-winners Warrington out of the competition with a stunning 14-12 win at the Halliwell Jones. That was the first time in 2019 that they'd beaten any of the four sides above them away and they must now see off each of the rest in turn on the road if they are to win their first Super League title.
While Warrington were again below their best last week they may still have edged through had Stefan Ratchford's late penalty hit the target and the Tigers will need to defend heroically again on Thursday against a stronger team who have defied the odds all year. Nathan Massey and Greg Eden could return for Castleford, who get a four-point start on the Sportsbook handicap. There were just two and six points in the games last week and the eighty-minute bet is for Salford to prevail by 1 to 12.
It's also worth having a wager on Joey Lussick to help the Red Devils on their way to victory with a try. The former Manly star has had a tremendous season, notching 12 times, and was once again a menace off the bench against Wigan. He would have been scoring for the third successive game had his first-half try claim stood and can make amends.
Saints to march on to Old Trafford
St Helens v Wigan Warriors
Friday September 27, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
St Helens have been the best side by a mile in Super League in 2019 and can book their place in the Grand Final with victory over Wigan Warriors in Friday's mouth-watering clash.
If the betting and final league table is anything to go by then this game is a dress-rehearsal for the big one on October 12th. St Helens are 6/4-on to lift the trophy for a sixth time, with the Warriors unchanged from last week at 2/1 to retain their crown.
Justin Holbrook's stars won the regular season by a record 16 points and are a perfect 15-0 at home in 2019. They are unbeaten against the four other play-off sides in league games, which includes three victories over Wigan, and return from a week off with their opponents having had to work hard to beat Salford seven days ago.
The dark cloud of Wembley and the shock Challenge Cup Final defeat to Warrington hangs over those in the Red Vee though, and they'll be keen to get the job done on Friday and reach Old Trafford at the first time of asking having lost out on a place in the Grand Final for the last four years.
Adrian Lam's Warriors continued their sensational run of form with last week's hard-fought victory over Salford, their thirteenth win in fourteen matches. The tremendous defensive efforts that helped them to another championship last season was very much prevalent, with 18-year-old forward Morgan Smithies making an astonishing 72 tackles, a record for a Super League game in the 16 years the stats have been kept by Opta.
Both teams should be largely unchanged judged on the squad news and it promises to be a thriller.
St Helens were 32-10 winners the last time the sides met in July and can finish the year unbeaten at home, though things should be much tighter, and in keeping with last week's results and our Salford tip they should be backed to triumph within the 1-12 margin.