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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Catalans could push St Helens harder than odds suggest

Tyrone Roberts is the star for Warrington

St Helens centre Mark Percival
1 of 1

St Helens v Catalans
BBC1, 12.30pm Sunday
Warrington v Leeds
BBC1, 2.45pm Sunday

There were huge cheers at the Totally Wicked Stadium when St Helens were paired with Catalans in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup semi-finals minutes after Saints' nail-biting quarter-final triumph over Hull. 

A draw against the Dragons looked a virtual bye nine weeks ago when Steve McNamara’s men were among the Betfred Super League cellar dwellers and Saints fans could have been forgiven for booking the hotels for their first Wembley trip in a decade. 

Since then the French club have moved into mid-table with a run of just two defeats in eight games. Those two losses were by a combined margin of just six points.

The arrival of Antipodean aces Josh Drinkwater and Kenny Edwards has helped transform their season.  

Saints have won all seven games since their quarter-final victory but four of those wins have been single digits and even when Catalans were struggling early in the season they were competitive against the league leaders.

The Dragons failed to convert any of their three tries when going down 26-12 in the away meeting two months ago and were beaten 21-12 by Saints in France in February. 

It’s a negative that the influential Greg Bird is banned for this tie but even so the underdogs look a decent bet in receipt of two converted tries. 

Warrington are 3-1 second favourites to lift the trophy for the fourth time in nine years and go off at 4-9 to see off Leeds in the second leg of the Bolton double-header. 

The teams have split their two game Super League series this season but the Wolves look like the ones to be on this time.

They finished the regular season 11 points ahead of the Rhinos, who have won just once in their last 11 league outings. 

Bringing in Headingley legend Kevin Sinfield in as director of rugby to replace sacked coach Brian McDermott has made little difference with Leeds going into this match after a 38-22 hiding at Salford, who played most of the match with 12 men. 

Leeds are set to welcome back up to eight players from injury absences including scrum-half Richie Myler, but their match fitness has to be taken on trust. 

Warrington were unlucky to lose at St Helens last time out and punters have latched on to the Wolves, forcing the handicap line up from six to eight.

It’s also worth chancing that Warrington half-back Tyrone Roberts is named man of the match.

The Australian has been an underwhelming marquee signing but was brilliant in the quarter-final rout of Wigan and Sky Bet’s 12-1 looks too big. 

Catalans +12
3pts Evs Betfair, Betfred
Warrington -8
2pts 11-10 Betway
T Roberts man of the match in Warrington v Leeds
1pt 12-1 Sky Bet

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The French club have moved into mid-table with a run of just two defeats in eight games
E.W. Terms
Sky bet