Challenge Cup Final 2015 Tips

BBC1 Saturday 29th August / 3.15pm

Leeds Rhinos (-14)HandicapEvensLadbrokes
Kallum Watkins (ew)First Tryscorer9/1Paddy Power
Ken SioFirst Tryscorer16/1Ladbrokes, BetVictor

After ending their 15-year wait for success in the Rugby League Challenge Cup last year, Leeds Rhinos are firm favourites to lift the trophy for a second consecutive year when they face Hull KR in the cup final at Wembley on Saturday.

Ladbrokes are offering the best price on the favourites in the match result betting, quoting 2/9 compared to odds of 1/5 or 1/6 elsewhere. Sky Bet offer the best odds of 9/2 about a Hull KR win, while the draw can be backed at 33/1 with Bet365.

Since winning the cup in 1999, the Rhinos endured six final defeats – including three in a row between 2010 and 2012 – before beating Castleford 23-10 to claim their 12th victory in the competition last August. By contrast, Saturday’s opponents Hull KR have tasted glory only once in the Challenge Cup, and that was way back in 1980. The last of their five final defeats came five years later.

Leeds come into the final as Super League leaders and 5/4 favourites (BetVictor) to win that competition for the seventh time and the sixth in nine seasons. They have won two more matches than any of their rivals and after three rounds of the Super 8s they top the standings by four points. There is a real sense that they have timed their run to perfection and have been getting stronger through the year.

Rovers missed out on the Super 8s after finishing 10th in the regular season, but are well on course to retain their place in the competition after winning their first three matches in the Qualifiers section. They lost both league meetings against Leeds, losing by 10 points at home on the opening weekend of the season and by 20 points at Headingley in May. Looking a little further back, Leeds have won the last four meetings since a shock 16-12 reverse at Headingley in August 2013.

As far as recent form goes, Leeds have won their last six matches in league and cup since suffering a narrow defeat to Wigan in the Super League in July. A fortnight ago they gained revenge over Wigan with a seven-point home victory and it is the Warriors who are currently their nearest challengers in the Super 8s.

Hull KR finished the regular season with four successive defeats, but they have since beaten a well-fancied Leigh side as well as Halifax and Widnes in their three Super 8s matches, to follow on from their impressive 26-18 Challenge Cup semi-final victory over Warrington in Leeds. They reached the last four by putting out Catalans Dragons, having shocked Wigan away from home in the Sixth Round. All three wins came against teams who finished above them in Super League.

That fine run to the final suggests that Rovers should not be overawed by facing the league leaders on Saturday, although it might have been preferable to face them in last year’s showpiece as they tried to erase the memories of six final defeats.

However, if the underdogs are to prosper they must find a way to stop a team who are far and away the leading try scorers in this year’s Super League. Leeds have scored 142 tries in the league – 30 more than any other side – and have run in a further 15 in cup wins over Huddersfield, Hull and St Helens. Their additional firepower should ensure that they can take the game away from Rovers and it’s worth noting that in their eight wins in the last nine games, only Wigan have kept their margin of victory down to single figures.

The handicap line for the final is set at 14 points and although only six of the last 15 have been won by a greater margin, if Leeds can get their noses in front early on they could get well beyond it. They have scoring threats from all across the pitch, with nine different players touching down in their cup run, while the kicking of Kevin Sinfield remains unrivalled. Back the Rhinos in this market at Evens with Ladbrokes.

Kallum Watkins has scored four tries in the Rhinos’ run to the final and is available at 9/1 to score the first try on Saturday. Leeds’ leading scorer in Super League with 15 tries, you can back Watkins each-way with 1/3 odds for 3 places with Paddy Power – if he scores any of the first 3 tries.

Also with four tries in three cup games, Ken Sio has been Rovers’ main threat and he is a tempting 16/1 (BetVictor, Ladbrokes) to cross first at Wembley.

Leeds Rhinos (-14)HandicapEvensLadbrokes
Kallum Watkins (ew)First Tryscorer9/1Paddy Power
Ken SioFirst Tryscorer16/1Ladbrokes, BetVictor