Catalans take on Leeds Rhinos on Sunday 10 July 2011 @ 16:45 the game is live on Sky Sports HD 2. So far this season backing against Leeds on the betting handicaps has been a fairly profitable exercise. This has especially been the case when they have faced up against so called lesser opposition. Defeats by Bradford, Hull KR and Harlequins serve as examples.
Last week against Wigan, however, despite failing to improve on their position in the league table by picking up the two points, Leeds did manage to part me and some of my ‘hard earned’ by restricting Wigan to a two point win after backing Wigan in running at half time to clear a four point handicap! Leeds resistance and spirit in that second half was very impressive, in spite of my money inspired encouragement of the Warriors.
Now, cricket captains are often criticised for ‘chasing the ball’ when fields are quickly manoevered in order to place a man exactly where the ball has disappeared to the boundary and I am wary that the same can happen when searching for a winning punt. However, on this occasion I believe that there is ample justification for doing just that and I will be placing my dollars exactly where would have been successful last weekend by backing leeds to beat the catalans with the generous aid of a widely available six point handicap.
The regular superleague season is already in its final third and it has historically been the case that the best sides produce their best teams produce their best form in order to gain territory in the top eight. Leeds find themselves in unfamiliar territory at the moment as they currently trail the top two not only in terms of points but significantly in terms of class. I am backing Leeds to finish in at least fifth position this season. They themselves will be pushing for fourth and the benefits that this bring for the playoffs. Beating the Catalans on Sunday is central to Leeds’ ambitions of achieving this spot.
It is an easy conclusion to reach and one which will no doubt be churned out by Sky’s ever resourceful commentary team, whom I am normally loathe to agree with, but I do think that Leeds’ performance against Wigan last Friday will prove to be the turning point of Leeds’ season. When I checked the betting handicaps on Thursday I expected to see the Rhinos given a scratch handicap against the Cats. Don’t forget that Leeds were only a dubious video refereeing decision away from taking a late lead against Wigan when THAT Danny Maguire ‘try’ was ruled out after his grubber was adjudged to be a knock on. Does anyone think that the bookmakers would have been as generous if Leeds had come away from that game with the victory?
My ‘informed’ decision to back Leeds on Sunday also comes from what I perceive to be an imminent dip in form from the Catalans. The Catalans also graced our screen last weekend in what, for the most part, was a fairly uninspiring game away at Bradford. On paper the Catalans seem to be in a good vein of form after a convincing win against Castleford followed up by the away win at Bradford. However, it seems that Castleford are in steep decline and I think that any team in superleague (Quins and Wakefield aside) would have turned over the Bulls that day. I don’t think that any neutral who watched the game would have been impressed by the Catalans’ performance, other than the ageless Steven Menzies (who was performing at stand off) and the ever impressive Clint Greenshields. Credit must be given to the Catalans for their resiliant display after losing their aggressive forward David Ferriol to a red card with over half an hour remaining in the game. However, I put this down more to Bradford’s inadequacies than to any Catalan heroics, I am sure that Mick Potter would agree.
One thing that has encouraged my anti Leeds betting this year is their lack of half back who can kick the ball effectively in attacking areas. Danny Maguire is most effective, as he was in the last 20 minutes against Wigan, when he plays instinctively rather than when he is the lynch pin in planned moves. He must be crying out for an orchestrating half back partner to accompany him such as his opposite number on Sunday, Scott Dureau. Brian McDermott has recognised this by shifting Sinfield to half back but I am not convinced that this has quite worked as yet, although there were signs of better link up to the centres under his guidance last week. McDermott seems to have recognised that Leeds’ strengths are on the outside flanks. It was noticeable last week how urgently Leeds shipped the ball out to their gallopping three quarters. One player who will benefit from this is Ben Jones-Bishop. Nobody could have failed to be impressed by Jones-Bishop’s rounding of Pat Richards on Leeds right hand side on Friday. Hopefully there will be more of the same on Sunday!
Had the bookmakers obliged my expectations by offering a scratch handicap for this game then I may have been looking elsewhere on the fixture list for value, however the buffer of six points in a game that Leeds will be desperately seeking to win seems to be too good to turn down. I am further encouraged by Leeds preparation for the game as they have been in France acclimatising for a few days already. For those with a more ambitious mindset, Leeds are generally available at 9/5 to beat the Catalans outright.
Good luck with all your rugby punting this weekend!