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3/10/2008 No.20
rendspotting Football/Rugby
Dan Roebuck
Friday Oct 3, 2008
St Helens' backers are showing few signs of caution ahead of the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford tomorrow even though their team may not be the certainties to defeat Leeds that the odds imply. Rewind 12 months and St Helens, having beaten the Rhinos in the qualifying semi-final, were 1-2 favourites to repeat that victory in the final. However, Daniel Anderson's team failed to justify that short price, losing 33-6.

This time around St Helens are even shorter in the betting - William Hill offers a standout 4-9 they come out on top in 80 minutes with Leeds quoted at 5-2 (Stan James) - and most layers are hoping for a Rhinos win, having accumulated significant liabilities on this season's Challenge Cup winners. "St Helens are by far the worst result in the book, with the biggest bet taken on the Saints £5,000," said Hill's spokesman Rupert Adams. The spread betting firm IG Sport's supremacy market is trading at 6-9 in St Helens' favour, and they have seen mainly buyers, including one of £1,000 per point.

Notwithstanding last year's result, it is easy to see why the bookmakers are siding with St Helens. Anderson's team are unbeaten in 23 matches and have been the dominant club in recent meetings with their opponents tomorrow. In the qualifying semi-final a fortnight ago, Saints routed Leeds 38-10 at Knowsley Road (last year they scraped past them 10-8), while the previous two matches between tomorrow's finalists were also won by the Lancashire club. Saints' record of four Grand Final wins from five appearances also bodes well.

As with all forms of rugby betting, the handicap market is expected to be the most popular among punters on tomorrow's game. Saints are asked to give up an eight-point start on the handicap with most firms, although only Bet365 and Totesport are prepared to offer evens about both teams in the handicap market (with 16-1 available about the tie). The recent results between the two sides suggest St Helens, who enjoyed a week off while Leeds had to defeat Wigan last Friday, should be able to cover the handicap - but the consensus is that this game will be closer than previous meetings.

Saints failed to win the handicap market in their Challenge Cup win over Hull (as predicted in these pages) but rather than side with the underdogs again, a better bet might be to snap up the 9-4 that Ladbrokes offers for St Helens to secure victory by a margin of 1-10 points.

Few firms are offering betting on the total points in the final - probably due to bad weather forecast in Manchester this weekend; wind and rain nearly always result in fewer points. Sporting Index offers a spread of 37-40, which looks worth selling as, even if the weather is not as bad as forecast, Grand Finals are historically low-scoring affairs - only two of the 10 finals to date have generated more than 40 points.

First-tryscorer betting is a notoriously difficult market to predict - the fact that Ade Gardner and Scott Donald head the betting at a massive 12-1 (general) should tell punters all they need to know. Still, wingers are the most likely source of tries in tight games and the St Helens man, who went over 26 times in the Super League regular season, should be backed in the "anytime tryscorer" market at 11-10 (Bet365 and Sky Bet).

The Saints pair of Sean Long and Leon Pryce are joint favourites for the Harry Sunderland (man of the match) award at 7-1 (general). Last year's winner, Rob Burrow, is 12-1 (general) while the recently voted Man of Steel, James Graham, trades at 16-1 (Blue Square). Paul Wellens is 9-1 (Sky Bet) to be the first player to win this award and the Lance Todd Trophy in the same season.

Ade Gardner to score a try at any time at 11-10 (Bet365 and Sky Bet) .
St Helens to win by 1-10 points at 9-4 (Ladbrokes)
Sell total points in the match at 37 (Sporting Index)
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