Catalans set to cover
Former Super League-winning coach Ian Millward provides a preview of this weekend's Challenge Cup action.
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It's Challenge Cup weekend and Ian previews the ties which take place over Saturday and Sunday as well as providing the lowdown on two games from the NRL.
Leeds v St Helens +4 (1430)
I had these two teams down as my finalists for this year's Challenge Cup so will lose one on Saturday. I think it could be Leeds.
St Helens gave their all in the derby with Wigan then rested several key men for the trip to Widnes. That can be the key to victory here. Luke Walsh will need to have his kicking game just right as the back three of the Rhinos are the best in the competition at returning the ball. There's not much between the two but Saints had the edge in an earlier league meeting and can repeat the feat at Headingley.
Wigan v Hunslet +56 (1500)
It's a tough week for the punter with the Super League teams potentially fielding weakened sides against lower league opponents. The potential wet weather is a factor too,
I'd still expect Wigan to cover the points here - I don't see Hunslet scoring against a well drilled defence and you're looking at ten converted tries over 80 minutes to reel the start in. I just think the Wigan structures will be too much for the Hawks to cope with.
Leigh v Featherstone +2 (1400)
This is a fascinating game between two of the big sides in the Championship. Featherstone are in something of a transitional stage at the moment with a new coach and new players. Leigh have started well, have a good record at home against Rovers, and with a big pack and two in-form halves, can win and cover.
Warrington v Doncaster +52 (1500)
This is a game where the visitors can cover. Warrington come into it on the back of a drubbing at Castleford. They've been struggling for consistency this season and haven't dominated in the forwards as has often been the case in the past. Doncaster are much improved under Paul Cooke and while they won't win - they can get closer than 52.
Salford v Widnes +8 (1500)
Salford strike me as being a cup team this season. They struggle week in, week out, for consistency with so many new faces but have plenty of big-game players who can rise to the occasion. We saw that at Hull in the last round and I take them to win and cover. It won't be easy against a very good, efficient, Widnes side but Iestyn Harris is settling in as head coach it's Salford for me.
Bradford +14 v Catalans (1500)
Bradford conceded 84 points at Wigan last week - and must respond to that debacle - but Catalan were impressive in beating Hull KR on the same day. They have Jeff Lima back, Leon Pryce in form and look to be building towards something. I had them down as lively outsiders to reach Wembley and they can take another step towards the final by winning and covering the start.
Castleford v Sheffield +40 (1530)
This season Castelford have played 11 games - and in ten of those covered the handicap. That's an incredible achievement, no other side has done that in my time writing this column. That shows just how well and consistently they've been playing.
The line usually catches up with a side and it might just do on Sunday. Sheffield coach Mark Aston loves this competition and while Castleford will win, they could look to coast home and won't care by what margin.
Cowboys v Eels +6 (0830)
The home side are still seething over what they saw as an injustice from the video referee that cost them the game against Manly last week. They can bounce back by covering here. Paramatta are backing up after only a five-day turnaround, North Queensland have had eight, and that's a factor. Also the Eels like to play a high energy, expansive game which won't be easy in these hot and humid conditions. Jonathan Thurston looks back in form and he can be the catalyst for the Cowboys to win - and win by more than one score.
Tigers v Titans +2 (0600)
The Titans have been the surprise package this season - finding a way to win tight games. Their players have been very gritty and brave but they could come unstuck here. The West Tigers have an outstanding record at the Leichhardt Oval and in half-back Luke Brooks have one of the most exciting talents in the Australian game. He has an old head on young shoulders and is already being labelled the new Andrew Johns. It's the home side for me.