Thu, Feb 15, 8:20am by Staff Writer
The World Club Challenge pits the best of the NRL against the best of the English Super League. In recent years the format has included several teams from each, but the 2018 edition will only see the champions of both with Melbourne Storm representing the NRL and Leeds Rhinos representing England at AAMI Park.
Melbourne Storm v Leeds Rhinos, Friday 16th February 2018, 8pm (AEDT)
2017 saw the Storm dominate the NRL virtually from start to finish, they even impressed during the Origin period when their reserve players stood up to the test. They will be looking to add the World Club Challenge to their already stocked trophy cabinet that holds the Minor Premiership and Premiership from last season.
Heading into this game they are overwhelming favourites priced at $1.05. Historically the NRL sides have had the better of their English counterparts in this competition, although Wigan did win it last year over Cronulla Sharks. Despite being a pre-season run out for the Storm they are likely to have too much quality for the Rhinos to contend with.
Suliasi Vunivalu excelled at the Rugby League World Cup for Fiji to continue his try scoring form. The Melbourne winger has topped the rankings for tries scored in the last two NRL seasons and will be looking to make his mark on Friday. He will be a major threat to the Rhinos’ hopes of returning home with the World Club Challenge trophy.
Leeds have made the trip to Australia in the midst of the Super League, one major flaw in the concept of the competition. Wins over Hull KR and Warrington Wolves means that they have left England in buoyant spirits to take on the Storm. They are, however, on collision course with the best side for several years in the NRL and their price reflects that as they stand at $10 to beat the Storm at AAMI Park.
Whilst Vunivalu will be a handful for the Rhinos defence, the Storm will be wary of Leeds and England winger Ryan Hall. Throughout a World Cup campaign for England that ended in heart break losing to Australia in the Final, Hall was one of the standout players. His power and pace could light up Melbourne on Friday if Leeds can find a way into the match.
A big win for the Storm stands as the favourite margin with a 13+ point victory priced at $1.33. In contrast the same for the Rhinos is at $51 with the best hope for the English side a win of 1-12 points at $11. If Leeds can keep the game close, then that score line for the Storm is at $4.50.
The Storm and Rhinos will be representing their nations on Friday night with the battle lines drawn for a thrilling encounter ahead of the NRL season.
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