Leigh Leopards vs. Salford Red Devils Betting Tips: Reds to spoil the party for Leopards
After a massive pre-season recruitment drive, Leigh are back in the big time of Super League once again and have a new moniker to match. The Leopards have embarked on an extensive rebrand both on and off the pitch since winning the 2022 Championship Grand Final and securing promotion back to the top flight, with their new monstrosity of a kit drawing more attention than the shrewd signings they have made.
Going into a season not as relegation favourites will be all new for the Leythers but with quality across their squad they should be good enough to survive. Surviving used to be the aim for Salford but they have loftier ambitions these days and the Red Devils, with former Leigh boss Paul Rowley has head coach, are a difficult test for Leigh in their first game back. Billy Grimshaw thinks the Leopards could be more prey than predators in this one and has a couple of tips...
Leigh Leopards vs. Salford Red Devils Odds
Salford Red Devils are enjoying a golden period in the club's history right now, despite as of yet not quite managing to bag a trophy. Under the tutelage of Ian Watson the cash strapped club rose from basement dwellers to final contenders and on the back of an outstanding individual season from Jackson Hastings, made their first ever Grand Final in 2019. After Hastings left for a bigger club in Wigan many thought the Reds would be back to the same old but in 2020 made the Challenge Cup final at Wembley, agonisingly beaten in Golden Point by Leeds.
Watson soon followed Hastings out of the exit door at the end of 2020 in defecting to Huddersfield, with even more neutrals believing that was the end of the Red Devils' hopes of challenging for major honours. If anything though, the present day Salford are even better than the 2019 and 2020 vintage with a brilliant style of rugby league masterminded by Paul Rowley. They spread the ball more than anyone else in the league and are exceptionally well drilled, and have an heir to Hastings as a cult hero half back from Australia in Brodie Croft.
On the back of new contracts for star players in the reigning Man of Steel Croft and England dummy half Andy Ackers, Salford will be expecting to challenge again in 2023. Leigh on the other hand have recruited well but question marks remain over Adrian Lam the head coach after an iffy spell in charge of Wigan and plenty of the recruits being cast offs from other teams. This game could be a rude awakening for the Leopards in front of an expected packed crowd.
Leigh Leopards vs. Salford Red Devils Tips
I was surprised to see the most common line in the handicap markets giving Leigh just a two point start against a side who last season arguably should've beaten eventual champions St Helens away from home in the play-offs. The Red Devils are actually my tip for Grand Final glory this year as I believe with the attacking structures they have in place and the cohesive spine combined with individual brilliance they will outscore their opposition at most opportunities. Leigh blitzed their way through the Championship in 2022 but this will be a much stiffer task and I think the new look Leopards may take a few weeks to acclimatise and learn how their teammates play.
Salford's pack isn't stacked with big names but is hard working, whereas Leigh have perplexingly picked up five forwards from the undersized pack of Warrington last season. The Red Devils are a team you want to avoid letting build up a head of steam and if they win the pack battle expect Ackers from dummy half to have a field day and have Brierley and Croft ready to profit just behind him. Salford's backline has two Samoan stars in Ken Sio and Tim Lafai and I'd back these two to be able to handle what the Leopards can throw at them out wide with their danger men of Zak Hardaker, Ricky Leutele and Josh Charnley.
The key battle in rugby league is often up front but the half backs are also vital and Salford's combination of Croft and Sneyd works perfectly. Lachlan Lam is talented at scrum half for Leigh but not at the level (yet) of his opposite numbers and I'd expect Salford to clear this -2 handicap line with ease. They could be worth backing to win by bigger margins too but for the main tip, 10/11 looks a brilliant price.
Backing Brodie Croft to cross the whitewash is my second tip of the game and although it is not exactly a huge price as we like for the longshots, I think he is a fair bit overpriced if the game goes as expected. Salford are one of the best teams in the league for making clean breaks both around the ruck after a quick play the ball and out wide. When these breaks occur the player in possession is usually spoiled for choice when it comes to supporting Red Devils and one of the main threats is Croft.
The Australian has rediscovered his love for the sport since heading to Super League and is a tireless runner and deceptively strong so has plenty of pathways to potential points. Croft can go solo and score on his own or back up a break he created, along with former Leigh man Ryan Brierley at full back. I see this game becoming fairly one sided as it progresses and with Salford known to put the foot on the throat when they build up a lead, gaps will appear and Croft can profit.
As always with try-scorer bets it is the punters' choice whether they want to back the scorer for more than just anytime (first, last, 2+ etc) but at 11/4 to grab a try on seasonal debut the reigning Man Of Steel Croft can start as he means to go on and give us a winning bet.