The Challenge Cup Final Preview
Leeds are appearing in their second Challenge Cup final in as many years, but they haven't lifted the trophy since 1999 while Wigan are ending a 13 year absence from the silverware match.
The 2000's have not been kind to the Rhino's they are appearing in their fifth final since the turn of the millennium and they have yet to win a single title, but will this change against the highly fancied Warriors.
Wigan dominated the Challenge Cup from the late 80's to the early 90's and in a run of an unprecedented eight wins they beat the Rhinos twice in a row. They will have the added incentive of wanting to give their beloved coach Michael Maguire a fitting send off as he hangs up his boots at the end of the season.
Leeds (11/4) are the underdogs heading to Wembley and after a rather poor semi-final performance they will really need to up their game if they are to worry Wigan. The Rhinos looked to be on the end of a massive shock when a dogged Castleford side took the lead and held it until the final few minutes when Leeds managed to take it to sudden death. But it was a truly magnificent kick from Kevin Sinfield which saved any blushes and secured a berth in the final.
The Warriors (1/4) also had a difficult semi-final to contend with, overcoming Jamie Foster eventually 18-12. The St Helens fullback scored two tries and two goals as he racked up Saints' 12 points on his own. Sam Tomkins produced a dazzling display of defence and attack to keep hold off Saints and drag his side to Wembley. Tomkins was a spectator the last time that Wigan reached the pinnacle of the competition and on that day he saw his side get beat by Sheffield Eagles. So he will certainly be using that as motivation when he takes to the pitch.
The handicap is set at 12 points and when you look at previous finals there are no discernable patterns in terms of winning margins. But on a personal level, I think this is a tad too big and backing Rhinos plus the points at 10/11 could be a safe bet. They say form goes out the window in a game like this, but for those that are interested their two meetings in the Super League were a narrow win for Wigan at the DW 26-24 and a draw 22-22 at Headingley.
Pat Richards and Sam Tomkins are both 8/1 to score the first try of the game and these will be the men that Leeds need to target and stop if they are to have a chance in the final. You can back them at 8/15 to score a try at anytime and I would be taking Tomkins over Richards any day of the week. We have a match bet on the try scorer market whereby Richards takes on Tomkins. Both are 5/6 and again I would be siding with Tomkins.
Tomkins is having the season of his life and he was the favourite to land the Man of Steel award and you would have to fancy that at 9/4 if he were to replicate his semi-final performance then he would certainly land the Lance Todd Trophy. At 10/1 Leeds' Kevin Sinfield would be an outside bet, his kicks are going to be crucial and it could well come down to a last minute penalty to decide matters.
In a bizarre twist, the replay venue, should there be a need for one, has been announced with it due to take place on Wednesday September 7 at Bramall Lane. Maybe an indication that the powers that be are expecting a close affair.
As official betting partner of the Rugby League Challenge Cup we guarantee to be Top Price on every player in the first try scorer market. This offer begins at 16:00 on Friday and will run right through until kick-off at Wembley. Top Price means we will match or better the price offered by Ladbrokes, Coral, Totesport, Betfred and Paddy Power.
I would like to see Leeds cause an upset and lift the Challenge Cup, but my head can't see past Wigan which is why I would back the Rhinos plus the points and be siding with Sam Tomkins to beat Pat Richards in the try scorer match bet.