Could this be the weekend that St Helens finally mathematically seal the minor premiership with a win on Saturday afternoon in Perpignan? The bookies think so with Saints installed as big favourites to pick up the all-important two points. Should Wakefield Trinity spring a surprise and beat Wigan tonight then the race for top spot will be over and the Warriors second spot will be under threat if Castleford Tigers beat a Hull FC side who are in an awful run of form.
In the Qualifiers Salford could get to within a whisker of retaining their Super League spot with a win over the Toronto Wolfpack while a Leeds Rhinos win at pointless Widnes will make them breathe much easier. The game of the weekend is the clash between the London Broncos and Toulouse which could give us a better indication of which sides will end up in the million pound game in a months time.
First up in Superleague is Thursday nights encounter between the Wigan Warriors and Wakefield Trinity at the DW Stadium with both sides coming into the game off big wins over local rivals last weekend. Wigan have Dominic Manfredi back in the squad after a long injury lay off and coach Wane will also be hoping that Sam Tomkins is fully recovered from the knock which forced his late withdrawal at St Helens last week. Wakefield coach Chris Chester knows his side go into the game as big underdogs and makes two changes to last weeks squad with Chris Annakin again named after a late call up last time out and joined by Joe Arundel. Max Jowitt and Anthony England miss out.
The first of two Friday night games is the televised encounter between a battered and broken Hull FC and the Castleford Tigers who know that a win mathematically guarantees them a top four place and a chance in the play-offs. Only a fool would back Hull on their current form and the bookies odds reflect this. Coach Radford has made just one change to the side which was hammered at Warrington last week with Cameron Scott in for the injured Mickey Paea. Castleford have the luxury of retaining the same squad who beat the Cup Winners, the Catalans Dragons, last week.
Also on Friday night is the Huddersfield Giants trip to Warrington where the Wolves know that a win would guarantee their top four finish and end Huddersfield hopes of making the four and the play-offs. The Wolves make just one squad change with Morgan Smith replacing Ben Murdoch-Masila. The Giants have an ever growing injury list and as a result Oliver Roberts, Daniel Smith, Jake Wardle and Innes Senior all make it into the 19-man squad with Aaron Murphy, Dale Ferguson, Darnell McIntosh and Colton Roche all dropping out. The bookies can’t see beyond a home win.
The final Super Eights fixture is on Saturday evening as St Helens look to clinch the Minor Premiership when they travel to a Catalans Dragons who are still partying following their Challenge Cup victory. This is likely to be a totally different game to the last meeting between the two sides which saw the Catalans win convincingly in the Challenge Cup semi-final in Bolton. The bookies agree with St Helens firm favourites.
There is one game in the Qualifiers on Saturday as the Salford Red Devils look to go four points clear at the top, maintaining their winning start to the competition, with a win over the Toronto Wolfpack. The Red Devils seem to have saved their best for of 2018 for the Qualifiers and look strong favourites to maintain their Super League status. The bookies have them as favourites for the win over Toronto which could see the Wolfpack drop into the Million Pound game slots.
The remaining Qualifiers games are all on Sunday afternoon with 15:00 kick-offs. Leeds Rhinos go to second-bottom club Widnes Vikings looking to revitalise their campaign but the home side know that a loss will be the end of their hopes of maintaining their Super League status. Ex-team mates Kevin Sinfield and Francis Cummins meet for the second time, the Rhinos winning the last encounter by 34-0 in mid-July.
Hull KR, buoyed by last week’s win at Headingley are at home to strugglers Halifax and are massive favourites for the victory. Halifax have mustered only ten points in their three defeats so far in the competition while conceding over a hundred. Depending on the other results a win could lift KR as high as second and ease their concerns over where they will be playing their rugby in 2019.
Finally, the London Broncos are at home to Toulouse in what may be a dress rehearsal for the million pound game. A London win by nineteen points or more will lift them above Toulouse but a victory for the French side could lift them into the top three, depending on other results. Toulouse are the bookies favourites for the win.
The race for Super League in 2019 is certainly hotting up.
There is a Full programme in both the Championship Plate and Championship one with the following fixtures;
Friday – 19:45
Sheffield Eagles v. Featherstone Rovers
Sunday – (all 15:00)
Batley Bulldogs v. Rochdale Hornets
Dewsbury Rams v. Barrow Raiders
Leigh Centurions v. Swinton Lions
London Skolars v. Hemel Stags (15:00)
Newcastle Thunder v. Workington Town (17:00)
Sunday (all 15:00)
Coventry Bears v. North Wales Crusaders
Keighley Cougars v. Doncaster
West Wales Raiders v. Bradford Bulls
Whitehaven v. Hunslet
York City Knights v. Oldham
Wherever you watch your rugby this weekend, enjoy!