Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
5 days ago
This weekend should give some clarity over the final order of the top six as well as the identity of the club facing relegation, as there are only two rounds remaining before the play-offs and a maximum of four points up for grabs for each club. Getting close to the end of a long season for some clubs and with other clubs jockeying for positions, this week could very well be the week of the upsets? Game on!
Friday ? Bradford v Wakefield (televised) The Bulls have the chance to consign Wakefield to relegation with a victory at home under lights at Grattan Stadium. The Bulls are assured of 4th spot regardless of other results, but will want to work themselves into form following last week?s loss at the hands of Wigan. Desperate Wakefield went down to Cup Champions St Helens last week and will need to step up the intensity of performance over 80 minutes to compete here against Bradford. Bradford are without injured back rower Jamie Langley, while Wakefield have Duncan Macgillivray and Ned Catic back in the squad. Tip: Bradford by 18.
Friday ? Salford v Castleford At the same time Castleford Tigers can ensure their place in Superleague for 2007 with a win at Salford. Castleford managed a vital win over Harlequins last week, and may again look to evergreen half Brad Davis who made a contribution last week from the bench. Salford will be without Karl Fitzpatrick but have included Stephen Myler in their squad, having decided this week that he will play rugby union next season. Unless something dramatic happens Salford should be ensured a play-off spot, but having lost their last two games will chase a win here to keep ahead of Warrington and hopefully gain the easier play-off opponent. Tip: Castleford by 4.
Saturday ? Catalans v Huddersfield The final home game of the season for the new French club, and they?ll be looking to finish they way they started with a win. Pascal Jampy, the only Catalans player dating back to the original Paris Superleague days is attempting to return from injury to play a final game before retirement, and with the confidence that comes from winning their recent home game over the baby Saints, the stage could be set for a hometown upset in Perpignan. However the Giants bounced back well from their Cup campaign with a win over Salford last week, and will want this win as well, as it would make sure they are completely safe from a now unlikely relegation. Jerome Guisset is also available for the Dragons following the reduction of his suspension on appeal. Tip: Catalans by 4.
Saturday ? St Helens v Leeds (televised) First versus third place at Knowsley Road, as both sides come off some good form last week, looking to establish their credentials ahead of the play-offs. Leeds are still a chance of taking second place if Hull were to lose their remaining games, so will want to go for the result here. Lee Smith, Nick Scruton and Bradford-bound Chris Feather are under consideration for the Rhinos, with no sign yet of stand-off Danny Maguire. For Saints there has been speculation over GB captain Paul Sculthorpe?s knee injury but he has still been named in their 20-man squad. St Helens are guaranteed first place due to their large points difference. Tip: Leeds by 4.
Sunday ? Harlequins v Wigan Harlequins will be looking to make completely sure they can escape the clutches of Wakefield?s desperate attempts with a win at home against the resurgent cherry and whites. Despite their two-point penalty for a previous season?s salary cap breach, Wigan are still a mathematical chance of making the play-offs, but would need a significant win here and other results to also go their way. Wigan coming into the game in better form, but should really only be interest for the die hard fans in this match. Tip: Wigan by 12.
Sunday ? Warrington v Hull Another game whose significance will have already been determined by earlier results. Hull will be assured of the coveted second place if Leeds fail to win, otherwise they will have to get a result here to make sure they have earned a first week bye come play-off time. For Warrington this game will be a chance to grab fifth place if Salford lose to Castleford, or to guarantee sixth spot with a win or a competitive loss. So perhaps plenty to play for - or perhaps not? All quiet from both camps so far, Hull going into this on the back of a second half victory over Catalans, Warrington comprehensively beaten by Leeds last start. Tip: Hull by 12.
Competition Ladder St Helens 44 Hull 40 Leeds 36 Bradford 30 Salford 24 Warrington 24 Wigan 20 Huddersfield 20 Harlequins 19 Castleford 19 Wakefield 16 Catalan 16 (immune from relegation)
Play-off structure Week 1: 3 v 6 (loser eliminated) Week 1: 4 v 5 (loser eliminated) Week 2: 1 v 2 (winner to grand final, loser to week 3) Week 2: W1 v W2 (both from Week 1) Week 3: L (from 1 v 2) v W (from W1 v W2) Week 4: W (from 1 v2) v W (from week 3) ? Grand Final