After the excitement of the Challenge Cup Final we return to the league competitions as the fight for places hots up across the divisions. There is a full programme of fixtures across four days as the sides jostle for play off places or to gain or retain their Super League status.
The televised domestic games include Thursdays Warrington v. Hull FC clash as the losing Cup Finalists try to lift themselves to gain entry to the Grand Final while Saints and Wigan meet on Friday night. Leeds Rhinos take on Hull KR on Saturday afternoon in front of the SKY cameras and later in the evening it is Toronto against London.
First up are the Wolves and FC at the Halliwell-Jones as the Warrington try and salvage something from the dashed hopes and dreams of last weekend. Coach Steve Price has named two changes to last weekend’s nineteen man Wembley squad with Ben Pomeroy and Bodene Thompson replacing Ben Murdoch-Masila and Morgan Smith. The Wolves are big favourites with the bookies against a Hull side which hasn’t won a game since the end of June and who have eight losses in their last nine outings. FC have made three changes to their squad from a fortnight ago with Jez Litten, Hakim Miloudi and Masi Matongo all coming into the squad. The trio replace forwards Chris Green and Mark Minichiello, and half-back Marc Sneyd, who are all missing through injury.
Friday night delivers the oldest derby as leaders St Helens host second placed Wigan Warriors in the knowledge that a win will secure them the minor premiership. This is the third meeting in 2018 with Saints having secured the win in the previous two meetings being strong favourites to make it three. Ryan Morgan and Luke Thompson are back in the side with Matty Smith and Aaron Smith missing out. Sean Wane has been able to add skipper Sean O’Loughlin to his squad and also brings in Oliver Gildart to his named nineteen.
Also on Friday evening the Huddersfield Giants face Wakefield Trinity as the home side look to turn up the play-off pressure on the Warrington Wolves. The Giants have been installed as favourites for the win as Michael Lawrence, Aaron Murphy and Jake Mamo all return to the squad, taking the places of Oliver Roberts, Daniel Smith and Jake Wardle. Wakefield Trinity make two changes to the side which lost to Saints last time out with Chris Chester replacing Davis Fifita and Chris Annakin with Jordan Crowther and Keegan Hirst.
In a rare Saturday evening fixture, the Castleford Tigers take on the Cup winning Catalans Dragons and with the travelling Dragons likely to have one hell of a cup hangover, the bookies have made the Tigers the favourites for the win. With the Challenge Cup sitting nicely in their trophy cabinet, the Dragons have nothing to play for as they can’t make the play offs but the Tigers know that a win will go a long way to securing their play-off place.
Three of the four Super League qualifiers are on Saturday afternoon. First up are Leeds Rhinos who face Hull KR at 15:15. The Rhinos are favourites to maintain their unbeaten record while KR have their eyes on a top three place. Slight favourites Toulouse host the Widnes Vikings at 17:00 with the visitors painfully aware that a third loss in the qualifiers competition would almost certainly spell out their relegation from Super League. The third game of the afternoon kicks off in Toronto at 17:30 as the London Broncos are in Canada, the two sides currently in third and sixth but only separated by points difference. The bookies are confident that Toronto will get the win.
The final qualifiers game is on Sunday afternoon when bottom side Halifax host table topping Salford Red Devils. The visitors are big favourites to get the win and maintain their place at the right end of the table.
There is one Championship Shield game on Friday night as Sheffield Eagles play the Dewsbury Rams with the remaining games taking place on Sunday afternoon. Barrow play Batley, Featherstone entertain the Leigh Centurions in the match of the day, and Swinton are at home to Rochdale.
The entire Championship One fixture list is played out on Sunday afternoon with all games kicking off at 15:00 unless stated;
Hemel Stags v. Whitehaven (14:00)
Crusaders v. West Wales Raiders (14:30)
Bradford Bulls v. Keighley
Doncaster v. Newcastle Thunder
Hunslet v. London Skolars
Oldham v. Coventry
Workington v. York
Wherever you watch your rugby this weekend, enjoy!