Thursday, 3 March 2011

Round 4

It’s fair to say that the next few weeks of the season can offer the highest risk / reward of the year. With most teams now having been televised twice, and three games played for all teams but Castleford, most have been able to build fairly solid opinions of all teams.

However, in my opinion such opinions can be prematurely formed and can occasionally not be fully reflective of a team’s abilities but rather an indicator of form although it can be very difficult in separating the two.

The Friday night SKY game is the prime example of this where Harlequins host Huddersfield and a fairly significant amount of money was matched in the mid 1.6s before the price crashed to below 1.5 and it is a game which I would struggle to price up.

At the start of the season, Harlequins looked like being one of the weakest teams in the competition; devoid of strength, skill and speed. However, coach Rob Powell has the Quins playing out of their skins, with victories over Catalans, Crusaders and Leeds this season. Meanwhile, Huddersfield have not been particularly impressive and since their opening victory, have appeared to be rather overrated considering starting prices.

I am not sold on Quins however who appear to be a side playing to their maximum rather than turning out to be a significantly better team than advertised. That said, I do think that Huddersfield appear significantly on the short side at below 1.5 although as per usual with SKY games, I would expect the biggest value to show itself in play, even if this is another game which I will miss.

Another game on Friday night sees Hull FC take on Crusaders. Hull are the only side to have not won this season and they have carried on their awful 2010 end of season form. I say form, but I strongly believe that Hull are an incredibly overrated side who appear to be poorly coached. I had Hull rated significantly below their average prediction and the current price in the 1.4s appears incorrect.

However, I have not been able to get a handle on Crusaders. Last year, I continued to hold a belief that they were a woeful side even as they scraped a playoff place. Being a side largely made up from Australians, I may have difficulty in establishing their baseline but having seen them twice this year, I have been suitably impressed. More so in Cardiff than in Wrexham but they look a team capable of scoring frequently.

That is in direct contradiction to Hull who, especially with Sean Long out, look stifled for creativity and lack that little bit of magic out wide. I would not be surprised if Hull win. They should be favourites, and they could canter home but it’s fair to say that I far from agree with the starting price.

The other Friday night game sees Wigan travel to Salford. The Warriors will surely be extra keen to rebound from their WCC defeat whilst Salford will play hosts without their top two coaches, with Assistant Phil Veivers in Australia and Head Coach Shaun McRae having been placed on a month’s leave due to an unspecified illness. Whilst you could usually look to expect a club to pull together in such circumstances, the ability and professionalism of Wigan should see them through although my thoughts on low odds are well known.

Saturday night sees Warrington host Leeds Rhinos on SKY in what could be a cracker. As with any SKY games, the main value will lie in play and this is a difficult game to call. Whilst I feel safe with describing Warrington as a top team, Leeds have been incredibly poor this season. Whilst they have missed key players in Danny McGuire and Jamie Peacock, it has been the basics that they have struggled with.

However, I can imagine that the Rhinos will be extra fired up to set things straight and kick start their season. So whilst the current prices would look to favour Warrington on paper, I could easily see the Rhinos coming out all guns firing and securing what would be a surprise victory.

The other Saturday game sees St Helens travel to Catalans where, hopefully, they can leave Kyle Eastmond – sans passport. Eastmond’s performance against Warrington may have been one of the worst I have ever seen in Super League – certainly the worst if you were comparing ability against performance. Whilst nearly all Saints fans wanted to release Eastmond immediately, one can only hope that with the news now being made public, Eastmond can produce a performance like he actually wants to play. That said, with Saints set to recall Leon Pryce, they should be able to defeat a Catalans side who produced an excellent victory last week but, unless Scott Dureau is capable of replicating Michael Dobson’s impact on the French outfit, should continue to struggle for the majority of the season.

On Sunday, Bradford host Wakefield and the Wildcats return to being heavy outsiders from the favourites they were last week en route to a 32-6 mauling from Salford. Wakefield will struggle this year, but coach John Kear is at his best with his back against the wall, and Wakefield’s young side are capable of springing the odd surprise this year. Therefore, if they continue to be heavy outsiders, there will certainly have been worse shouts this year. Especially as Bradford are yet to impress this year and with their first choice halfbacks out injured, may lack for organisation and creativity.

The other Sunday game sees Castleford take on Hull KR and sees a price which baffles me.

The Tigers have been excellent this season although one may wonder how their week’s break will impact any momentum they had built up. Meanwhile, Hull KR are without their key player in Michael Dobson and also have Jake Webster suspended. I expected the Tigers to be around 1.5, especially given the “home advantage” but bizarrely, the initial prices see the bookmakers unable to separate the two clubs.

I have been higher on Castleford than most this season and it would not shock me if the Tigers did lose, especially given my thoughts on home advantage. However, from an odds point of view, the price appears staggering especially when Hull KR are without their key player who for the past two seasons, has been their dominant controlling force. It is just such a rarity that I consider a home side to have been overpriced; usually I can’t even agree any home price!

A quick note as well that National League rugby returns to SKY next Thursday which sees an additional televised game per week which can be traded. Hopefully this will be competitive than the one sided Varsity match that was televised tonight which again resulted in a maximum loss. Maybe last year’s memory of a 16-0 turnaround stayed strong! However, the gulf between the two sides was as large as any that I can recall seeing and Oxford eased home to victory so comprehensively, that even the largest handicap was traded at 1.01 after 25 minutes!

1 comment:

  1. Craig, great to see you back. Top blog and top insights. James