RUGBY LEAGUE analyst Kaine Greenwood (@KaineG23) highlights the value for Thursday night’s Super League semi-final between St Helens and Warrington.
St Helens v Warrington | Thursday 4th October 2018, 19.45 | Sky Sports
It’s been a little over a week since these two sides last met, in Warrington’s final home game of the season, when St Helens ran out comfortable 34-14 winners.
Although the scoreline looks wide and Justin Holbrook’s side never felt too troubled, not much can be taken from what was effectively a rehearsal for this.
As the play-offs took shape in recent weeks it became clear that the gap the WA9-outfit built up was never going to be chased down and Warrington managed to hold onto fourth spot with relative ease from Wakefield, despite losing three of their seven Super 8s fixtures.
So both sides have had an extended preparation. Warrington competed well in the recent game for large periods and their inability to capitalise on possession and opportunities at key moments was the element that finally allowed the competition’s best attack to take the game away from them towards the close.
Steve Price seems to be in a similar position to that of his counterpart who was coaching for the first time on these shores last season and will have noted that the club’s three Super 8s defeats were against the remaining semi-finalists – things come together briefly but not for long enough. A spell of 14 wins in 16 early in the season showed they can match anyone when it goes right though.
Much like Castleford’s domination of the league was almost undone by the Saints in last year’s semi-final, Warrington will be looking to do the same when they visit the Totally Wicked Stadium and they do have it within them to overcome the hosts. Saints’ epic golden point defeat in 2017 should mean that they are aware that complacency can’t be allowed to set in now they are in this position.
Warrington specialise in one-off performances
The 52 points accrued by the home side over the season put them 15 points ahead of their opponents over 30 games and is a clear indication as to why they start the game heavily odds-on (1/3); they should be highly confident having won their last three games by at least four scores – 26, 20 and 26-point margins.
But the Wolves do seem to specialise in the one-off performance – two trips to Wembley in the last three years an example of that, and three of four Saints’ defeats have come at home in 2018.
The magic number for the Red Vee seems to be 21 and above – Justin Holbrook’s side have won every single game this year when reaching this mark, losing five of seven in all competitions when held to less.
The corresponding fixture in the league was one of those games in which the Wolves did indeed hold them below that number, a game the Primrose and Blue lead 8-0 at half-time and dominated even after the scoreboard was levelled, only for scrum-half Danny Richardson to kick a penalty from inside his own half and win the game on the hooter, 14-12.
Back Barba to impress
Richardson is cool and calm beyond his years and is surely a future England international but even he must love the opportunity to run patterns with the main catalyst in the home side’s proficiency with the ball, Ben Barba.
A Steve Prescott Man of Steel nominee and the club’s top scorer with 28 in 24 games, Barba has made the game look easy at times as a top-five performer in: tries (first), try assists (third), tackle busts (second) and clean breaks (fourth) to this point, helping the league leaders average 29.83 points per-game.
At even money (SkyBet) to dot-down here you just have to be with him. Back-to-back doubles have been his recent showings (one against Warrington) and he has also crossed twice in eight other games (10/24) with a generous 9/2 (Betfair) available on that been added too.
Charnley can cross the whitewash
The visitors themselves have a propensity to attack, being the second-highest try producers (134) behind St Helens’ 157 efforts.
Josh Charnley has been the kind of productive recruit Warrington wanted when persuading him to re-join the league code scoring 12 times in just 15 games, and while the former Wigan Warrior hasn’t scored in four games, a career average of a try every 1.05 games (184 in 194 appearances) means I’m well prepared to say he is overdue and take the 6/4 (Boylesports) on offer.
St Helens have conceded 75 tries over 30 games and have the best defensive average (13.6ppg) which would perhaps fly against opposing any further goal line situations, however, their tries conceded total has moved from 2.34 tries in first 23 games to 3.24pg after the remaining seven, five of which have seen them ship three-or-more scores, so it is worth nothing.
Murdoch-Masila can make his mark
Interestingly, in the Super 8s phase, a player positioned in the second-row for the opposition has crashed over five times. This extends to 13/30 season-wide and means that 16 four-point efforts came through second-row forwards in total.
At 21% of the all tries the team has given up, that means implied probability odds of around 11/4 for a repeat result.
Ben Murdoch-Masila is a beast of a man at 18 stone and barged through the Wakefield defence to score from about 30 metres out at the weekend. Despite having an injury-hit season, the Tongan looks to be finding some late-season form and is one of Wire’s most productive (not just in the pack) with great ball-handling skills so becomes the main danger to consider.
Six scores in 20 appearances mean the 4/1 (Betfair) on the book is a reasonable play all things considered.
While you wouldn’t want to oppose a home win, the drop-off in defensive stability added to the unpredictability of Wire makes scorers the value way to go in this affair.
St Helens v Warrington – Ben Barba to score a try at anytime (1/1 SkyBet)
St Helens v Warrington – Josh Charnley to score a try at anytime (6/4 Boylesports)
St Helens v Warrington – Ben Murdoch-Masila to score a try at anytime (4/1 Betfair)