RUGBY LEAGUE BETTING
Leeds v Hull KR
Leeds Rhinos have made a habit out of getting themselves to the Challenge Cup final in recent years, but winning them has been an altogether different matter. Until their victory last year over local rivals Castleford, the Rhinos had failed to win the cup on six separate occasions in finals spanning twelve years, which couldn’t be any different from their upcoming opponents. The last time the Robins reached the final, they lost to Castleford by a point in the 1985-86 season, with their last win coming a handful of years before that, during the 1979-80 campaign.
This year, spookily, carries many similarities to the final a decade ago, where a Leeds outfit at odds-on favourites played an up-and-coming side from Hull, with FC the opposition that day. That year, the underdogs won, in perhaps the last final in recent times where a real upset has taken place, meaning that we’re perhaps overdue another. That said, however, the nucleus of that Leeds outfit hasn’t changed all that much in ten years, and they’re a side more determined than ever to win silverware and bring success to the club.
With the likes of Kevin Sinfield, Jamie Peacock and Kylie Leuluai all set to leave the club this summer, the Rhinos look hell bent on winning as many trophies as possible to send them out with, and a treble season is far from out of the question. Sinfield and Peacock, both made MBEs for their services to the game, are club legends, with Leuluai amongst the most beloved and successful overseas players in the history of the club. Incentive and desire aren’t lacking in the Rhinos dressing room, and that’s a large part of the reason why they’re such favourites to retain the cup.
Rovers though, are perhaps the club I’ve praised the most this season, despite the fact they finished outside of the top eight in the league. Chris Chester had a huge job on his hands in the off season, with many of his best players jumping ship, so an entire squad overhaul was undertaken. Usually, replacing such a large volume of a squad, especially in key positions, results in a slow season, where not much goes right. Not for the Robins, though. They’ve gone from strength-to-strength, and would have likely cracked to top eight had Terry Campese avoided injury.
These two sides play with similar styles and ideals, wanting to throw the ball around as much as possible and focus their game around intelligent attacking play, with their defences much of an afterthought. The advantage Leeds have over KR is experience and consistency, two things that have cost the Robins dearly this season already. Although they’ve dumped out bigger teams on their way to the final, Leeds are the form side in the country, with a wealth of knowledge on how to handle the big occasions, and the men in the right positions to reinforce that.
It’s a good job this game is being televised, because a growing sport like rugby league needs as many positive adverts for the game as possible being shown to the broadest audiences imaginable. Given the game these two are likely to put on, the spectacle is bound to be far from a disappointment. Come full-time though, you should fully expect those Leeds legends to be smiling the widest, and the cup to be making its way back to Headingley for a second successive year.