2011 Super League Play-Offs - Round 1
The time for talking is over. The months of sweat, toil and bone crunching tackles have all been worthwhile for the eight teams now preparing for the climax of domestic rugby league...the Super League play-offs.
Warrington Wolves more or less secured the League Leaders' Shield with a magnificent home win against nearest rivals Wigan a fortnight ago but sealed top spot, for the first time since 1973, by blowing away Hull FC last weekend with a comprehensive first half of attacking rugby. All this means that the Wolves will commence the play-offs in pole position with a home fixture against the Huddersfield Giants. And the Giants will certainly be no pushover at the Halliwell Jones stadium. The Giants have defeated the Wolves on two of the three occasions that they have met this season , including the annual Millennium Magic curtain raiser in Cardiff in match week one. The Giants face a tough, tough task if they are to progress through to week three straight away but the experience of having beaten the Wolves stands them in better stead than most in the Super League.
Match betting: Warrington 1/8 Huddersfield 9/2
Handicap betting: Warrington -14 10/11 Huddersfield +14 10/11
Sam Latus' two tries helped Hull KR secure the last available play-off place in Justin Morgan's final match at Craven Park against the Castleford Tigers. In what turned into a winner takes all, sudden death clash, the Robins triumphed to take and earned a play-off spot by winning eight of their last nine fixtures, meaning they end the campaign in credit with 14 wins and 13 losses. Their reward for that victory is a trip to sixth placed Catalans. Rovers won in France just last month whilst in the middle of that barnstorming run and may have the impetus and confidence to see off a Dragons side that lost three of its final four regular season games.
Match betting: Catalans 3/10 Hull KR 12/5
Handicap betting: Catalans -8 10/11 Hull KR +8 10/11
Possibly the most appetising fixture in the first week of the Super League play-offs is the mouth-watering clash between rivals Wigan Warriors and St Helens. Wigan were edged into second place in the league table by Warrington, just one place above the visiting Saints, meaning that we have a repeat of last year's Grand Final and of this season's Challenge Cup semi-final. The Warriors emerged victorious on both those occasion but in the most recent coming together had to survive a stunning St Helens comeback, eventually progressing by 18-12. St Helens were able to rest a number of key individuals last week ahead of this trip to the DW and should need no motivation to want to take their nearest rivals down a peg or two.
Match betting: Wigan 1/3 St Helens 9/4
Handicap betting: Wigan-8 10/11 St Helens +8 10/11
Eight placed Hull really have a fight on their hands if they are to make it through this elimination play-off, never mind through to the Grand Final. They must negotiate a Yorkshire derby against a revitalised Leeds Rhinos team at Headingley on Sunday, and will be smarting after being put to the sword by Warrington in their final league match. The Rhinos finished this campaign in fifth, their lowest league position since 2001. That said, on their day they are a force for any team in the country and looked in great nick when overcoming Huddersfield in a hard fought last game of the season.
Match betting: Leeds 1/6 Hull FC 7/2
Handicap betting: Leeds -12 10/11 Hull FC +11 10/11