If, as the old cliché reminds us, form is temporary and class permanent, Leeds should already have the champagne on ice as they ready themselves for Saturday’s Grand Final showdown with Castleford. The Rhinos are undisputed rugby league royalty, record-breaking seven-time Grand Final winners; the Tigers, on the other hand, are the upstart gatecrashers with no Super League lineage to speak of.
Iain Spragg, our resident rugby league betting expert, talks us through how this one could pan out.
No club can boast more Grand Final triumphs than Leeds have amassed in the past 13 years. Castleford, in contrast, have never before made it as far as the season’s showpiece fixture – only the third Yorkshire derby in the game’s history. So, when it comes to a question of pedigree, the Rhinos really are far bigger beasts than the Tigers.
Reputations, though, are there to be disregarded, and after a dominant campaign for Daryl Powell’s flamboyant and entertaining side, it’s Castleford who head into this weekend’s Old Trafford clash as clear favourites at 13/25 to lift the trophy for the first time. Leeds are rated no better than 6/4 to derail the Tigers juggernaut.
Looking at the stats, it’s not difficult to see why.
Castleford were beaten just three times in 23 games en route to the final. They finished 10 full points clear of their fellow finalists in the standings, scored 216 more points than the Rhinos, conceding 99 fewer, and when the two teams met at The Jungle in March, the Tigers tore their rivals to shreds in a 66-10 demolition job. In June, Castleford completed the double with a 23-12 win over Brian McDermott’s boys at Headingley.
If the Tigers can repeat that kind of form at Old Trafford, Leeds could be in serious trouble. You can get 7/4 on the Tigers’ winning by up to 12 clear points. A 13 point or more margin of victory for Powell’s side is 11/5, while a form-defying, if seemingly improbable, 13 point plus triumph for the Rhinos is a lucrative 6/1.
The try scorer market is dominated by Castleford full-back, Greg Eden, and after a stunning season, he looks a good bet at 3/4 to touchdown at some point over the 80 minutes at Old Trafford. The 26-year-old has been Super League’s standout four-point finisher this year with 38 tries – 17 more than his nearest rival. You can get 7/1 on Eden to score first.
The Tigers’ second most prolific try scorer this term is centre Greg Minikin with 19. The 22-year-old is rated 5/4 to score again this weekend and 10/1 to cross the whitewash first. That’s the same price in both categories as Zak Hardaker, a three-time Super League winner with Leeds.
2017 Man of Steel
Tigers’ half-back, Luke Gale, was crowned the 2017 Man of Steel on Wednesday night and, having made a Lazarus-like recovery from appendix surgery last month, made the match-winning drop goal – as well as a try and five goals – against St Helens. Confidence, then, shouldn’t be a problem for the 29-year-old, and at 7/4 to register a touchdown on Saturday against his hometown club, he looks good value to get his name on the score sheet again.
With only 10 tries to his name, It’s not been a vintage season for Headingley stalwart Ryan Hall. However, he is still fourth on Super League’s all-time list of try scorers and the shortest priced Rhino to score at the Theatre of Dreams (5/4). Youngster Liam Sutcliffe, who scored the winning try for Leeds against Hull FC in the playoffs, is 11/4.
Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow
Saturday’s final will be an emotional one for Leeds pair Danny McGuire and Rob Burrow, who play their last game for the club after notching up an incredible 32 years of service at Headingley between them. The legendary Rhinos duo have scored more than 450 tries in the process, and if you fancy either player to make it a fairytale farewell, they’re both priced 7/2 to touchdown at any time .