The Super League season is reaching a climax and after an arduous nine-month campaign there is just two teams left standing – Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves.
Wigan finished second in the table and their spot in the grand final is no surprise after clinically battering Castleford 14-0 at the DW Stadium.
Warrington, on the other hand, stunned League Leader’s Shield winners St Helens 18-13 away from home in their semi-final.
Saints had been the best team all year and had seven players in the Dream Team, but a late fight-back from the Wolves ensured they booked their place at Old Trafford against their near neighbours.
Both clubs have their own motivations for claiming glory this Saturday. Wigan will say goodbye to a host of players and staff after the grand final with stars Sam Tomkins, John Bateman and Ryan Sutton all departing.
They will be joined by head coach Shaun Wane, who has spent more than 30 years at the club, as well as head of performance Mark Bitcon and head of youth Matty Peet.
Born and bred Wiganer Wane has been everything from fan to player to scout, assistant coach and then head coach during his long spell with the Warriors. It is the end of an era with Wane and co exiting and Adrian Lam taking over in 2019.
Wigan will want the fairytale finish for their departing six this weekend. It would be the perfect send-off and the one they are all craving. But Warrington have no shortage of motivation themselves.
Twice these two sides have met each other in Grand Finals in the past five years. In 2013 Wane and his men prevailed 30-16. In 2016 it was a similar story, Wigan winning 12-6. The Wolves will have their eyes on revenge and a repeat of their meeting in the Challenge Cup earlier this year.
Historically, Old Trafford has not been a happy place for Warrington. Since the dawn of Super League in 1996 the Wire have made three Grand Finals and not won one of them.
In comparison, Wigan have won four of the 10 deciders they have reached. The Cheshire outfit has in fact not many a championship since 1955. Warrington has claimed Challenge Cups and other trophies, but a championship title has eluded them.
Sixty-three years is a desperately long time to wait and Steve Price’s charges are bursting to end that drought.
Wigan have a settled line-up that is filled with quality players and big-match experience, a point to note when looking at the best Rugby League betting markets.
Fullback Sam Tomkins leads from the back, while they are captained by England skipper Sean O’Loughlin.
They have an exceptional back-row in Bateman and Joe Greenwood, and flair paired with stability in the halves in George Williams and Thomas Leuluai. Ben Flower, Tony Clubb, Romain Navarette and Ryan Sutton provide the grunt up front.
They also have a pair of finishers in recently returned from injury winner Dom Manfredi and young gun Tom Davies.
Warrington are evenly-matched and like Wigan, have a clutch of current and past internationals. Stefan Ratchford offers X-factor in the number one jumper, and they have strike with ex-Wigan winger Josh Charnley and Tom Lineham out wide.
Kevin Brown and Tyrone Roberts provide the organization and creation, while hooker Daryl Clark will get them moving around the field. Expect a fiery battle in the middle of the field when the big forward pack of Chris Hill, Mike Cooper, Ben Westwood and Ben Murdoch-Masila get going.
Unsurprisingly, Wigan are the slight favourites because of their history of success and better finals track record. William Hill has the Warriors winning at 8/15, while Betway has them at 8/13 and Unibet at 13/25.
There is some value, but not a lot for a Warrington victory. William Hill is offering odds of 7/4, Betway 13/8 and Unibet at 8/5.
There is much better action when you look at the first try-scorer markets, with Tom Lineham an excellent option with William Hill at 10/1 and Stefan Ratchford generous at 18/1.
Considering Ratchford scored 15 tries this season, and is averaging one every two games in 2018, he is a solid bet. There are also good options with Sam Tomkins at 12/1 and Tom Davies at 10/1.
If try-scoring anytime is more your thing, then you can’t go past Davies at 5/4, and Charnley and Lineham both at 6/4 with Betfair. Betway has Tomkins at 13/8, while Dan Sarginson is unusually high-priced at 15/8. The centre may be worth a punt when you take into account his pedigree.
With the First Scoring Play option Betway have Warrington at 9/4 and Wigan at 17/10.
If more exotic markets take your fancy, then Man of the Match might be the way to go. William Hill has some terrific choices with Clark 10/1, Brown at 12/1 and Ratchford at 11/1.
If you’re backing Wigan, there are still some options with Tomkins priced at 6/1, Williams at 9/1 and Bateman at 7/1. All six are definitely in with a shout.
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