RUGBY LEAGUE fanatic Andrew Day (@AndyDay81) has earmarked two selections for Friday night's action…
Leeds Rhinos v Catalans Dragons | Friday 2nd March , 19:45
After two weeks in Australia, Leeds returned to these shores battered and bruised and it showed when they rocked up to the Widnes Vikings last weekend with 12 first team players absent. It was therefore no surprise that they succumbed to 23 – 6 to the in form Vikings.
This Friday the Rhinos welcome league struggles Catalan Dragons and are hopeful of welcoming back some first team regulars. Front-rower Anthony Mullally, Second-rower Carl Ablett and winger Tom Briscoe are all expected to return. Add to that the early form of new half back Richie Myler and Rhinos stalwart Kallum Watkins; Leeds should be good shape going into this one.
These sides met twice last season with the Rhinos winning on both occasions scoring 76 points in total including a 46 – 10 win the last time these sides met in Yorkshire.
Despite last weekends defeat, the Rhinos have won 9 of their last 12 games, including wins over Warrington Wolves and Hull KR in Gameweeks 1 & 2 of this season.
The Catalan Dragons on the other hand have struggled so far this season and have done nothing to dispel the experts preseason predictions of a fight to stay in Super League. Last weekends 14 – 16 defeat to Wakefield was their fourth in a row – 7th in their last 12 games – and leaves them winless in 2018.
More concerningly for Dragons fans, they have conceded an average of 27.5 points per game this season and barely troubled the opposition with a poor average points score of 10.5 per game.
I can see nothing but a Leeds win here and with the taste of defeat still strong, the Rhinos will be looking to put on a show. Leeds to win with a -12.5 handicap is the bet and is also my NAP of the week.
St Helens v Salford Red Devils | Friday 2nd March , 20:00
The Saints go marching on! Last weekends 26-12 victory over Huddersfield made it 3 wins out of 3 this season and the excitement around Justin Holbrooks side continues to grow.
And boy is that excitement deserved. They have scored an average of 31 points in those three games and a monster defence has seen an average of only 10 points scored in the same period. They are the leading try scorers in the league – 15 tries – and will take some stopping this weekend.
These sides met three times last season with the Saints winning two of those games including a narrow 25-24 win the last time Salford visiting the Totally Wicked Stadium. The average total points scored in these three games was 39.6 with the Saints scoring 25 points or more in their two victories.
Salford fans have cause for optimism after last weekends impressive 36-12 win over Hull KR. That result was off the back of successive defeats to Wigan and Wakefield – the latter being a narrow 14 – 12 loss – and the confidence that saw last year’s early season good form shows signs of returning.
The change in fortunes is evident in their improved defence. Despite conceding 40 points to Wigan on the opening day of the season they have conceded just 24 points since and the Red Devils seem to be coming to terms will the close season loss of star players Michael Dobson and Ben Murdoch-Masila.
The bookmakers have St Helens to win this and rightly so, I cannot see anything past a win for the in-form league leagues. That being said, I do not think they will win at a canter, and Salfords growing confidence will mean the Saints will be made to work hard for a result here.
With that in mind, I will be taking Salford to win with a +15.5 handicap.
Leeds Rhinos v Catalans Dragons – Leeds – 12.5 Handicap (20/21 188 bet)
St Helens v Salford Red Devils – Salford + 15.5 Handicap (5/6 188 bet)