It’s a four day weekend for round twenty-two of Super league and a potentially critical one in the race for the remaining two places in the Super Eights. Losses for either Hull KR or the Leeds Rhinos will confirm their places in the middle eights with victories for Catalans, Wakefield or Huddersfield securing their Super Eight spot.
It is equally crucial in the Championship where a loss for the Leigh Centurions could effectively end their middle eights campaign should Featherstone, and Halifax get wins in their tough games with London and Toulouse respectively.
On top of all that there is plenty going on in Championship one , most notably the Sunday afternoon game when the runaway top two meet at Odsal as the Bulls take on the City Knights.
Wigan Warriors and St Helens meet in the oldest derby at the DW Stadium on Thursday night as the top two clash. Wigan will be looking to overcome their early season defeat to the old enemy and guaranteeing entering the Super Eights in second spot while Saints will want to open up a ten point gap over their neighbours. Wigan have Dan Sarginson and Joe Greenwood back in contention for places and also name new signing Chris Hankinson in their nineteen man squad. Justin Holbrook makes just one change to the Saints side, who are clear favourites with the bookies, as Jack Ashworth replaces the injured Zeb Taia.
The first of three games on Friday night is the televised encounter between the Castleford Tigers and Huddersfield Giants, one side looking to improve their Super Eights standing, the other to guarantee themselves their position in the top competition. Jamie Ellis and Nathan Massey return for the Tigers after missing last week while seventeen year old second rower Lewis Peachey could be in line to make his debut. The Giants have just one change to the side which demolished the Wigan Warriors last weekend as Ukuma Ta’ai replaces Jake Wardle in the squad. The bookies favour a Tigers win.
Many neutrals will be cheering on the Widnes Vikings as they visit Headingley looking to inflict yet more misery on the Champions who are staring at seven crucial games in the middle eights. The Rhinos are massive favourites to win the game over Super League’s whipping boys but new boss Kevin Sinfield won’t be taking anything for granted in this must-win game. The Rhinos will be without Brett Ferres but have named Matt Parcell, Luke Briscoe and Jimmh Keinhorst in their squad. Ex-Rhino Francis Cummins is without Stefan Marsh who picked up an injury last week as they prepare for life in the middle eights and their fight for Super League in 2019.
The third Friday night game has bookies favourites Warrington Wolves travelling to Hull KR with the Robins knowing that they must win to keep their feint hopes of Super Eights alive. Tim Sheens makes two changes to the KR line-up with Junior Vaivai and Lee Jewitt both named in his squad as Tommy Lee and Justin Carney miss out. Fourth placed Warrington also make two changes to their squad with Morgan Smith and Pat Moran replacing Bryson Goodwin and Ben Westwood in their nineteen.
The Catalans Dragons face the Salford Red Devils on Sunday afternoon at what is becoming fortress Stade Gilbert Brutus. A win for the Dragons guarantees them Super Eights and they are strong favourites with the bookies to achieve that with a week to spare. The Dragons are undefeated in their last six home games with Salford, and come into the game on the back of a four game unbeaten run having also won their last five games at home. Salford have lost their last two games but did record a 32-16 win over the Dragons at the end of March in the game played at the AJ Bell.
The final game of the weekend is on Sunday when Wakefield and Hull FC play, the home side favourites with the bookies for the win which would guarantee them their Super Eights position. Without a win in their last three outings Trinity came close last week with a draw against the Rhinos and they will be looking for revenge for the one point loss at the KCOM back at the start of April.
With top side Toronto playing bottom side Rochdale in Saturday night all attention in the Championship will be on three of the Sunday afternoon games as Featherstone play London, Halifax host Toulouse and Leigh are at home to the Swinton Lions. The outcome of those games should give us a better idea of the likely make up of the middle eights. Sunday also has the heavy woollen derby as Dewsbury play Batley and ninth hosts eighth as the Sheffield Eagles look to step over Barrow.#
The games in Championship One take place over Saturday and Sunday, all three o’clock kick-offs unless stated;
Coventry Bears v. Keighley Cougars (14:00)
West Wales Raiders v. Workington Town
Bradford Bulls v. York City Knights
Hunslet v. Doncaster
Newcastle Thunder v. Hemel Stags
Oldham v. North Wales Crusaders
Whitehaven v. London Skolars
Wherever you watch your rugby league this week, enjoy.