Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils will walk out at Wembley Stadium in front of an empty stadium to contest the Challenge Cup Final. Get Bettingpro.com's best bets from this weekend's action in the Challenge Cup Final.
Challenge Cup Final Predictions & Tips: Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils (Saturday 15:00 BST)
Leeds Rhinos and Salford Red Devils both head into Saturday’s Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium on the back of Super League defeats, something they will gleefully accept if they walk away with silverware this weekend.
Both teams opted to name under-strength teams on Tuesday, as Leeds went down 32-6 against Warrington Wolves with the Red Devils losing in the last minute 24-22 against struggling Hull Kingston Rovers.
In the past, teams have rested players before big games, and it has horribly backfired – take Wigan Warriors in the semi-final against Leeds for an example. Rhinos coach Richard Agar opted to rest all his big-name players and has already admitted that he probably knows 16 of his matchday squad.
Salford coach Ian Watson already made the decision to rest the likes of Dan Sarginson, Tui Lolohea, Kallum Watkins, Gil Dudson and Joey Lussick, but for reasons beyond their control they had to make more changes before the game kicked-off.
The squads for the Challenge Cup Final have not yet been revealed, so I will just assume that both teams will be at full strength. The battle between Salford half-back Kevin Brown and former Man of Steel winner Luke Gale will be crucial. The player who wins this battle will most likely guide their team to victory.
Salford have not won the Challenge Cup since they beat Barrow 7-4 in the 1938 Final to win it for the first time, while Leeds have lifted the famous piece of silverware 13 times – six less than leading trophy holders Wigan Warriors.
Salford have been boosted with the news that Lee Mossop and Mark Flanagan have been cleared to play, while Niall Evalds returns after a month out to replace Dan Sarginson. The loss of Sarginson is massive for the Red Devils, but as long as Evalds is fully fit they will not be hampered as Evalds is one of the best support players in the game.
Rhinos winger Tom Briscoe is expected to start in what will be his fifth Challenge Cup Final, while Bodene Thompson is cup-tied after already playing in the tournament this season with Toronto Wolfpack.
With no disrespect to Leeds, I feel it would be great for the game to see another name on the trophy and therefore I am backing Salford to win this one in a close battle by a margin of 1-12 points.
Brown and former Leeds stand-off Tui Lolohea have built up a great partnership during their short time together, if these two are on the same page then they could take full advantage of the wide Wembley pitch and continuously turn the Rhinos around. Lolohea will also be looking to win a personal battle against his former club, the Rhinos dumped Lolohea off to Salford to sign Robert Lui, and the 25-year-old will be eager to show them they were stupid to let him go.
Lolohea and Brown will be involved in everything Salford do in attack, and I am backing the former to grab a rare Challenge Cup try. The Challenge Cup Final brings the best out of some players and I am backing Lolohea to score at any time during the 80 minutes.
The Man of the Match award is named the Lance Todd Trophy and is the one award that most players want to win. The usual suspects to be in the running this year will be Gale, Brown, Lolohea, Richie Myler and Konrad Hurrell – but I am opting for Niall Evalds.
Evalds has not played for a month due to a calf injury, and although he was probably not expected to play, he will add some quality at the back. He is safe under a high bomb, he tackles well and if the Red Devils make a break you can guarantee he will be there to finish it off under the posts. He will take his chance with both hands and be crowned the best player at Wembley on Saturday.
Leeds Rhinos v Salford Red Devils Challenge Cup Predictions & Tips
- Winning margin Salford Red Devils to beat Leeds Rhinos by 1-12 points 11/4
- Any time try scorer Tui Lolohea 4/1
- Any time scorecast Tui Lolohea to score at any time & Salford to win by 1-5 points 13/1