RUGBY LEAGUE fanatic Andrew Day (@AndyDay81) makes his WLB bow with two fancies from Thursday night's Super League clash from Headingley.
Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants | Thursday 20:00 | Sky Spors 3
2015 treble winners Leeds Rhinos look to have turned a corner in recent weeks and after the disaster that was 2016, appear to be back to their old selves.
Six wins in their last seven Super League games with notable victories over last season’s champions Wigan and a tough Easter Monday win away at Hull has seen Leeds jump up the table to share the spoils with early pacesetters Castleford.
Star players Ryan Hall and Kallum Watkins are back in the 2015 form that saw the Rhinos so dominant and off-season signing Matt Parcell has given the side a much tougher edge, contributing a massive 409 tackles already this season; the league’s second highest.
However, it has been the positional change to half-back of Joel Moon that has had the biggest impact. The Aussie has eight tries already this season and his control of the game alongside captain Danny Maguire has been pivotal to the Rhinos upturn.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, are having a season to forget. Eight games without a win and confidence has been further damaged by last weekend’s humbling home defeat to third-tier Swinton Lions in the Challenge Cup.
It is however, not all doom and gloom at the John Smith Stadium. In amongst those winless games were credible draws away at both Wigan and St Helens, as well as narrow defeats to Catalans and last year’s grand finalists Warrington.
With game changing players such as Danny Brough and England International wing Jermaine McGillvary the Giants can never be completely written off. Furthermore, this is a Yorkshire derby and form in these situations tends to go out of the window.
The betting angles
As previously mentioned, Moon’s move to half-back from the centres has been a revelation to the Rhinos improved performances however defensively, it has left a weak link.
A substantial number of the tries conceded by the Rhinos since the switch have come down their left-side and Moon’s recent replacements – Liam Sutcliffe and Jimmy Keinhorst – are both ruled out through injury.
The place is likely to go to young forward Stevie Ward and although he is a fantastic player in his own right, he is vastly inexperienced in this position.
Add to this, Huddersfield’s biggest attacking threat and top team try scorer, McGillvary operating on this side, I believe the current offer of 5/4 (SkyBet) for the England winger to touch down at any time is very generous.
Handicap there to be attacked
Whilst I fully expect Huddersfield to match Leeds for the majority of this Yorkshire derby, I feel the 2015 champions will have too much for their opponents over 80 minutes and will eat up the -16 handicap William Hill are offering.
Over the last couple of weeks, manager Brian McDermott’s use of Rob Burrow from the bench in the second-half has seen Leeds wrack up seven tries in the final 20 minutes of games and therefore don’t be too concerned if the scores are tight, as I expect the Rhinos to eventually pull away in the latter stages.
Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants – Jermaine McGillivray to score a try at anytime (5/4 Sky Bet)
Leeds Rhinos v Huddersfield Giants – Leeds -16 handicap (10/11William Hill)