Super League is back as are Super Leeds
The Crusaders RL face the toughest possible start to their second season in the Engage Super League, a visit from the reigning champions Leeds Rhinos. No one has been able to impede the Rhino's rampaging to three consecutive league championships and the bookies cannot see past a comprehensive away victory at the Racecourse Ground.
The odds on a Rhinos victory at 1/20 reflect the massive gulf in class between the two sides. Indeed, Leeds destroyed the Crusaders 68-0 on their home turf in August which was the third game in to an eight match winning run that the Rhinos will hope to continue on Friday.
Leeds are able to rest England captain Jamie Peacock while giving Super League debuts to centre Brett Delaney and world cup winning Kiwi Greg Eastwood. Aged just 22, the Rhinos have a player with incredible talent and experience far greater than his years, already earning 12 caps for New Zealand. His skilful play will provide even more opportunities for the likes of Webb, McGuire and Burrow to cross the try line. This addition plus that of Delaney will complement 15 members of coach Brian McClennan's Grand-Final winning squad.
Adversely, the Crusaders could field up to eight debutants in this season's curtain raiser. Brian Noble's squad has been disrupted by injuries to centre Tony Martin and second rower Ben Flower so a price of 8/1 to win the match still won't appeal to even the most optimistic Crusaders fans. The Welsh club's preparation for the upcoming season could not really have been any more turbulent with off field wrangling affecting the team. The squad now having somewhat of a threadbare look to it.
Therefore, the shrewd betting could take place on the various handicap markets on offer at William Hill.
The 80 minute handicap sees Leeds -24 priced at 10/11. Given the 68 points difference in the last meeting between these teams this price seems pretty generous and could be where some money is exchanged.
If you feel that Leeds could inflict a more sizeable defeat on the Crusaders then our Away Team Winning Margin is worth a look. Leeds (26-30) and (31-35) are 11/2 and 7/1 respectively. A repeat of last season would pay out at 80/1 with Leeds winning margin being between 66 and 70 points.
Those Welsh fans looking for lucky omens for their team will be disappointed. The Rhinos have not lost an opening day fixture in the Super League for over a decade. A 22-18 defeat by the Wakefield Wildcats in 2000 was the last time that full points have not gone to Leeds.
Regardless of the how high the odds are stacked against the Crusaders, Leeds coach McClennan is refusing to take the tie lightly, "Their players will be out to impress a new coach and win over the local fans in Wrexham and we have to be ready to match that." If the Leeds coach's concerns are proved right and the Crusaders do manage to overpower the champions a bet on Crusaders to win by 1-5 points pays out a huge 14-1.