It’s the showpiece game of the Betfred Challenge Cup quarter-finals on Saturday as St Helens travel to the South of France to take on Catalans Dragons – a tie that will be screened live on the BBC.
Saints go into the game 9/4 favourites at Betfred to win the famous old trophy, with Catalans available at 5/1.
Wigan are 3/1 second-favourites to lift the Cup in May, ahead of Castleford at 9/1, Huddersfield and Hull FC at 10/1, Hull KR at 11/1 and rank outsiders Wakefield at 20/1.
We put the Dragons to the sword in the opening round of the Betfred Super League, but we all know what happened the last time the team travelled to France…
That being said, there’s no doubting we are the better team and head into the tie in better form after a dominant win over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley last Friday. On the contrary, Catalans were convincingly beaten 28-12 by this season’s dark horses, Huddersfield Giants.
Nothing is a given in this sport though, and the form book tends to go out of the window in the Challenge Cup. So, what will decide this game?
Betfred Challenge Cup Odds
There’s no doubt the big battle is between the two forward packs. Both sides will be looking to dominate with aggressive speed of line in defence, controlling the speed of the play and giving less time and space to the players that can do you damage with the ball – Lomax and Tomkins in particular.
We saw in the opening game of the season the physicality of both outfits, with several yellow and red cards to show for it. I expect nothing different this time. However, I know Saints have the ability to outsmart the home side, using our superior fitness, athleticism and skill to move the Dragons’ big players around, rather than getting into a ‘who’s tougher’ battle.
There’s absolutely no denying there will be times to roll the sleeves up and do the hard yards to try and create momentum for the ball players to play, but the smarter we are the more successful we will be in the game.
One guy who will benefit from a dominant forward pack is that man James Roby. Robes celebrated his 500th Saints appearance in the win at Leeds, making him only the 4th player in the club’s history to do so – and the first of the summer era.
It’s a remarkable achievement by our skipper. The thing that amazes me is the consistent standard he plays at week in, week out. Nothing under an 8.5/10 from him every single time he pulls on the shirt.
In those 500 games he has won five Super League titles, four Challenge Cups, a World Club Challenge title and a Man of Steel, and he no doubt has his sights on more silverware this season, which he has said will be his last.
Honestly… I’m not so sure!
There’s no doubt his performances on the pitch have earned him another contract, but I don’t think that has ever been in question. Only James knows his body, and ultimately the decision will lie with him – and whenever he decides to hang up the boots he will go down as one of the very best to play our great game.
So, prediction time – and how can you back against the best team in the competition?
I’m going for a Saints win by more than 10 points (6/4 at Betfred), with us marching on to the semi-finals at Elland Road.
Betfred Super League Odds