Tight tussle likely in last battle for Grand Final berth
Bookmakers are struggling to split hosts Rhinos and Airlie Birds
Betfred Super League semi-final
Sky Sports Arena, 7.45pm Friday
The final invitation to next Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final is the prize on offer at Headingley and the bookmakers are struggling to split Leeds and Hull.
On the face of it, the 10-11 Rhinos hold most of the aces.
Brian McDermott’s boys have appeared in ten Old Trafford showpieces, finished five points above the Airlie Birds on the league ladder and have won nine of the last ten meetings between the teams.
Lee Radford’s men have made the Grand Final only once, in 2010, but they have proved their knockout pedigree by winning the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in the last two seasons.
The Black & Whites' solitary recent victory over these foes was in this year’s cup semi-final when they demolished the Rhinos 43-24 in Doncaster.
Leeds avenged that loss with a 38-26 Super 8s success just five days after Hull had lifted the cup at Wembley by beating Wigan.
That game was a spiteful affair with Airlie Birds captain Gareth Ellis sin-binned and Rob Burrow and Steve Michaels subsequently banned after incidents that should have produced red cards.
Leading arbiter Phil Bentham is the man in the middle on this occasion and he’s 16-1 to brandish the expulsion tool.
Much more likely is that the scoring will be opened with a penalty goal and that should be backed at 3-1 with the competition sponsors.
Hull have employed a strategy of kicking penalties whenever the chance has arisen in big games this year and it would be no surprise if the Rhinos followed suit with so much at stake.
Another boot-based bet worth taking is a drop goal to be kicked at 11-4. Airlie Birds ace Marc Sneyd has already landed two against the Rhinos in 2017 and there’s every chance of either side looking for a one-pointer in what is expected to be a tight tussle.
The visitors have been chalked up at 23-20 which is a much shorter price than they were quoted at for their previous two trips to Headingley this season and that looks fair enough given that the Rhinos' ground advantage may be slightly reduced by the demolition of the famous South Stand.
Instead of one side of the ground being jam-packed with fervent fans of the Rhinos, there is now a building site.
Morning rain is expected to clear by kick-off but points could still be at a premium so it may be worth speculating that this game follows Castleford v St Helens on Thursday in going to extra-time.
Those who like to back horses for courses in the tryscorer markets can consider Hull prop Scott Taylor to touch down at 7-1.
He has done so in all four meetings with the Rhinos this term which is a staggering stat considering he has scored in only two other games all year.
Penalty to be the first scoring play
1pt 3-1 Betfred
Drop goal to be scored
1pt 11-4 Hills
0.5pt 22-1 general
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