Challenge Cup heroes vulnerable
Salford Red Devils vs. Warrington Wolves
Thursday August 29, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
Salford Red Devils were 100/1 and 11th of 12 in the Grand Final betting with the Sportsbook at the start of the season, but after five straight wins Ian Watson's men look set to gatecrash the play-offs and are worth backing to bring Challenge Cup winners Warrington back down to earth in Thursday's televised game.
The Devils blew away Hull FC in the second-half to record an impressive 44-22 success on Humberside a fortnight ago and will go level on points with the Wolves with victory, while a winning margin of 23 or better will see them spend at least 24 hours in second in the table. They've beaten Warrington twice already this year on the road and have no new injury worries, with back-rower Tyrone McCarthy poised for a comeback against one of his former clubs.
Warrington lifted the Challenge Cup for a ninth time on Saturday at a sweltering Wembley but are asked to back that up just five days on with the game moved from Sunday for television coverage, a move that left the Lance Todd trophy winner Daryl Clark bemused, describing the feeling as like the ‘RFL having had their pants down‘.
The last five Challenge Cup winners have lost their subsequent matches and the Wolves were on a poor run in the league prior to Wembley, slumping to five straight defeats.
Steve Price looks set to make plenty of changes from the weekend and their in-form hosts look a good bet on the handicap.
Wounded Saints to bite back? The trends certainly say they will…
St Helens vs. Castleford Tigers
Friday August 30, 19:45 BST
Live on Sky Sports Arena
St Helens left Wembley with their tails between their legs but can take out their frustration on Castleford in Friday's TV game.
It will be a bit of a hollow occasion at the Totally Wicked Stadium with St Helens set to pick up the League Leaders' Shield just six days on from their Challenge Cup flop. They saved their worst performance under departing coach Justin Holbrook for the big stage, notching up a woeful 18 errors after seeing an early Morgan Knowles ‘try' chalked off in an afternoon to forget in London.
Dreams of the treble are out of the window with that loss, just their fourth in 2019, but you can be sure St Helens will use that pain to spur them on in the final three regular league games and they bid to continue a good record against Castleford Tigers having won all six games against Daryl Powell's side comfortably since Luke Gale's goal ended their title hopes in 2017.
The Tigers have found a bit of form as the season reaches its climax and their 24-0 success at Huddersfield a fortnight ago was their fourth win in five matches. An inferior points difference to Salford sees them sitting just outside the play-off places though and their last three fixtures are all against teams above them in the table.
While the Challenge Cup winners have struggled in the immediate aftermath of their success in recent years it's quite the opposite for those who tasted defeat at Wembley. The last 10 losing finalists have won their next games and there have been some huge scores along the way, none more so than Warrington's 80-10 hammering of Hull FC last year when they took out their disappointment on their hapless opponents with a 14-try romp.
Don't expect St Helens to feel sorry for themselves for long and they should be backed to continue the trend and cover the handicap.