Thursday, 4 February 2010

A quick look at Round 1

For the reasons set out in the below post, my preview for the first round of Super League probably won’t be as detailed as usual but it always helps to get a few thoughts down so here goes.

The first round is always more unpredictable. Whilst it is relatively easy to analyse teams on paper, you can never be certain how they will actually perform.

Huddersfield v Bradford

As this is the SKY game, I feel the best opportunities will arise in play and so initial positions should be relatively small to begin with. Usually I prefer away underdogs but for mine, the value is with the home favourites here.

I’m really low on Bradford this year. They have a horrible three quarter line and only four recognised props in their squad; two of which are Danny Sculthorpe and Craig Kopczaz. The former is definitely out of this game and the latter is doubtful too. Add in the fact that their second rowers are more second rowers / centres than second rowers / props and I really think they could struggle to gain the yards. I also have a huge question mark hanging over Brett Kearney who missed all of last year with an ankle injury. Last year I was very high on Bradford but this year, I expect them to not make the Top 8.

Huddersfield look to be a solid outfit who have a very deep squad. I’m not sure they have the genuine talent to be a Top 4 team this year but equally they look very likely to finish in the 5th – 8th slots. They have made some shrewd new signings and with Kevin Brown back from injury, they should have a more attacking presence than they had at the back end of 2009 when they fell away badly.

However, this is the first real competitive match of Super League XV so it might be worthwhile to watch the game as much as to trade it to try to assess how things might play out.

Wigan v Crusaders

I would expect Wigan to finish 4th this season. Whilst they have only signed Paul Deacon to add to their 2009 squad, new coach Michael Maguire has seemingly given Wigan a lift in the off season and has improved the fitness of several key players which should help them as the season progresses. The key concern for Wigan will be avoiding the second season syndrome for star man Sam Tomkins. The experience of Paul Deacon should be hugely beneficial in avoiding this and giving Tomkins greater freedom to impose his considerable talent on games.

The Warriors should therefore be too strong for a Crusaders side who whilst impressing last week are clearly the weakest side in the league at the moment. However, anything at around 20/1 represents some value and whilst speculative, is a decent shout.

Leeds v Castleford

Leeds proved last week why they are the cream of the crop with their performance in the last 15 minutes and with Brent Webb and Jamie Peacock returning to the fold, the Rhinos should improve on last week’s showing.

However, Castleford Tigers are no mugs and 1.1 is a ridiculously low price. The Tigers are clear underdogs for the game and I expect them to finish 11th. However, they do have some genuine quality in the halves and pace in the backs. Whilst they have a thin squad and the strength in the forwards can be questioned, if the Tigers can play an expansive style at Headingley they could cause an upset.

I will post on the other games tomorrow. For now, I have a very nice e-mail to write to Betfair!

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