RUGBY LEAGUE fanatic Andrew Day (@AndyDay81) has earmarked three angles of attack for Friday night's Challenge Cup clash between Salford and Hull KR.
Salford Red Devils v Hull KR | Friday 20:00 | Sky Sports 1
The Challenge Cup returns for 2017 and whilst it returned much earlier for the lower-ranked sides, Round 6 sees the Super League big boys join the draw.
Wigan, St Helens, Castleford, Leeds and Catalans will all be in cup action this weekend however it is with this season’s surprise package, the Salford Red Devils, our preview takes focus.
Last season, the Red Devils struggled. A salary cap breach removed six points from their total before the season had even started and off the field problems, which resulted in two management changes, led to poor form on the pitch and a 10th place finish.
The start of this season however has given Salford fans reasons to be optimistic 2017 will prove more fruitful. Wins over Wigan, St Helens, Hull, Castleford and Warrington along with calmer waters at boardroom level have cemented Salford in third after 13 weekly rounds.
Hull KR have started the season like a house on fire. With ex-Australian coach Tim Sheens at the helm and some solid off-season recruitment, ‘KR’ have won 12 out 13 games and currently head the second-tier by four points.
Last weekend’s 68-4 win over Batley was the fourth time this season Hull have scored over 50 points. New signings Jamie Ellis and Jordan Abdull have begun to form a solid partnership in the halves and wing Ryan Shaw has chipped in with seven tries already.
The Million Pound Game
In order to generate excitement – not only at the top of the table, but also at the bottom – 2015 saw the introduction of the Million Pound Game.
The four bottom teams in Super League face-off against the top four teams of the Championship in a round robin tournament called the Super 8s Qualifiers. Each team plays each other once and the eventual top-three sides automatically qualify for/keep their place in Super League.
The fourth and fifth-placed teams play a one-off game, with the winner taking the last place in Super League.
Last season this game was played between Salford and Hull KR and as you may have summarised given the league they now play in, KR lost. The game itself was a fantastic spectacle of Rugby League and will long live in the memory of both sets of fans.
Salford because they won, but for Hull, the heartbreak of leading 18-10 with two minutes remaining only to concede two quick tries, including Greg Johnson's score with the last play of normal time, and an extra time Gareth O Brien drop goal, will take some time to get over.
The nature of the game and the aftermath, both sets of fans entered the pitch with various scuffles breaking out, makes the meeting of these two sides not just your average Challenge Cup 6th Round fixture.
The betting angles
Make no bones about it, Hull KR will be bang up for this game.
Although there is a league difference between these two sides (third in top-flight v first in second-tier), the nature of the previous meetings, the current form of the underdogs KR and the addition of ex-Salford manager Sheens now of Hull, means this is will not be just be a simple home walkover as most bookmakers suggest.
Hull KR currently boast a +330 points difference after 13 games and score on average 39.5 points per-game. Salford this season have a +92 points difference and score on average 24.5 points over the same amount of games.
Whilst you can argue the calibre of sides Hull are up against each week is weaker compared to Salford, last season in Super League they still averaged 22 points per-game so have no problems finding the line.
With this information in hand, the offer of Hull KR to score Over 3.5 tries at 7/2 (SkyBet) looks fantastic value.
Furthermore, I expect a tight encounter that could go either way. Hull KR will be going all out to erase the bad memories of last season and again fantastic value can be found in the offer of Hull KR to win with a +14 start at 10/11 (Sky Bet).