Super League Season XIII comes to its penultimate weekend with Friday night's sudden death Final Eliminator clash between second-placed Leeds Rhinos and fourth-placed Wigan Warriors. For the winning team a Grand Final meeting against St Helens awaits, but for the losing team there will be only the hollow feeling of a season coming to an end a week too soon.
This game will be broadcast live into Australia on Fox Sports 3 on Saturday between 4:30-7:00am, replayed on the same channel between 3:30-5:00pm on the same day.
Leeds Rhinos go into this match having lost last week's major semi final play-off against top of the table St Helens. Leeds managed to compete with Saints in the first half, only to be outclassed through the second half as the Challenge Cup holders and competition favourites notched up a convincing 38-10 win.
Wigan Warriors are coming off an emphatic win over third-placed Catalan Dragons deep in enemy territory last week. A tightly fought first half had the visitors ahead 14-10 at the break, and the French club came back to draw level at 20-20. But from there it was all cherry and white, as Wigan raced away in the final 25 minutes to record a 50-26 victory.
So we come to this final meeting of two sides that have already met four times this season. In Round 10 Wigan claimed a close 14-10 win at Leeds' home ground of Headingley in April, with a scoreless second half. In May's quarterfinals of the Challenge Cup, Leeds gained their revenge running out 23-16 winners in front of their home crowd. In July's Round 20, another close match saw the Warriors again take the spoils 23-22 in front of their home crowd at the JJB. And just one month ago in Round 26 the Rhinos went to the Warrior's den and plundered an impressive 52-16 win.
Wigan have a decent record at Headingley and seem to be hitting a good patch of form, showing that they can compete in the close matches and also pile on the points when the opportunity arises. Leeds have shown as a team they are capable of anything on their day, and after a disappointing showing last week will be looking to recapture their form of Round 26 - but this time in front of their own fans in the famous South Stand.
For Brian McClennan