The Super League play-offs begin this week and Phil Spink has to side with the home teams...
"Their excellent record in 'shootout games' in recent years gives plenty of cause for optimism about them reaching the Grand Final for a third time in four seasons"
Wolves to stay in the hunt
Warrington Wolves v Castleford Tigers
Thursday September 19, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
There are no second chances for Warrington Wolves if they are to reward us and their many ante-post backers with victory at Old Trafford on October 12th, but knockout rugby clearly brings out the best in them and they can end Castleford's season in Thursday's televised elimination final.
Steve Price's men, who were as short as 11/4 for Grand Final glory at the beginning of the year, are out to 7/1 with the Sportsbook as the play-offs begin after a shocking end to the regular league campaign that saw them finish fourth having won just twice from the start of July, against relegated London, and Wakefield.
In the midst of all that of course, though, came their heroics in the Challenge Cup, and having seen off Wigan, Hull KR and Hull the Wolves stunned St Helens in the Wembley sunshine. Their excellent record in 'shootout games' in recent years gives plenty of cause for optimism about them reaching the Grand Final for a third time in four seasons and a 'must-win' encounter at home to poor travellers Castleford looks a great platform for them to build on.
The Tigers sneaked into the play-offs ahead of Hull FC and must beat all four teams who finished above them in the table away from the Jungle if they are to be crowned Super League Champions for the first time, something Daryl Powell's side haven't done in 2019 having won just 5 times on the road. They've scored only 8 points and a solitary try in their last couple of away games at St Helens and Wigan and having been nilled by both those sides in their final two matches last year you get a real sense of déjà vu.
Castleford are without suspended forward Jesse Sene-Lefao, while Warrington's scrum-half Matty Smith is also banned. Back the Wolves to return to winning ways and cover the handicap of six.
Warriors to edge the first play-off battle
Wigan Warriors v Salford Red Devils
Friday September 20, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
The two in-form sides in Super League do battle in Friday's qualifying final and Wigan Warriors should be backed to edge out their rivals on home turf.
Adrian Lam's Warriors are just 2/1 with the Sportsbook to be crowned Super League Champions for the third time in four years and become the first team since Leeds Rhinos in 2012 to retain the trophy. They are on a sensational run having won twelve of their thirteen matches since Warrington dumped them out of the Challenge Cup in May, their only defeat in that time coming at St Helens. They put in a cracking second-half performance to beat Castleford 26-8 last week and secure the runners-up berth, albeit a whopping 16 points behind Saints.
Salford Red Devils, 100/1 with the Sportsbook for the title at the start of the season, have been the breakout team in 2019, finishing a stunning third in the table following a club-record eighth straight win courtesy of Krisnan Inu's Golden Point goal against Hull KR. It's foolish to write off Ian Watson's brilliant side in their first-ever Super League play-off game but Wigan have seen them off three times already this year and look to hold the aces with crucial home advantage.
The Devils have named a very strong squad, with mighty prop Gil Dudson among three players to return, while the Warriors welcome back winger Liam Marshall, who scored a hat-trick in his last game against Wakefield three weeks ago, and Liam Farrell, who has won four Grand Finals for the Cherry and Whites.
Back the Warriors to win by 1 to 12 points and set up a mouth-watering clash at St Helens next week.