Crunch time has arrived in the Betfred Super League. With just two weeks left of the regular season, three play-off places are still available with five clubs in the hunt and potential permutations running into double figures. For Wigan Warriors, Leeds Rhinos, Castleford Tigers, Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull FC, it’s now or never.
It feels as though Hull KR hold the key to the outcome in many ways. Their final two games come against Castleford and Leeds. Win them both, and they qualify for the top six. A loss to either and they are definitely out of the race, their opponents definitely in.
Rovers host the Tigers at Hull College Craven Park on Saturday night buoyed by their 44-6 Magic Weekend win against Leigh Centurions which ended a three-game skid. It wasn’t just that they beat the Super League’s bottom club, it was that they did so with a display of controlled dominance. The return of Jordan Abdull for Saturday’s key game is also a massive boost to Tony Smith, who has been without the star half-back for the last five weeks due to a broken thumb.
“There are still some things we need to fix up,” said Smith after last week’s win. “We’re fighting hard at the moment. Our focus is to go out and build on Sunday. We’ll go against a really good team in Castleford who have found some form.”
Cas are looking to send coach Daryl Powell out on a high before he heads to Warrington Wolves in the winter. The 2017 minor premiers are used to being a part of the end-of-season play-off picture, and victory in east Hull would give them a chance to fight for a home tie in the first round of this year’s finals.
Leeds get the first stab at securing a top-six spot when they head to the home of champions St Helens on Friday night. While Rhinos coach Richard Agar is without 10 players through injury, including Konrad Hurrell, Luke Gale, Mikolaj Oledzki and King Vuniyayawa, Alex Sutcliffe is available to play his first game since Round 4 of the season back in April.
Wigan have named an unchanged 21-man squad for their Saturday afternoon trip to Hull FC following a narrow 10-6 loss to Warrington in Newcastle last time out. Defeat for the Black and Whites will be enough to end their season after their heartbreaking golden-point loss to Leeds a week ago, but a victory for the Warriors would keep them in line for another visit to the Grand Final a year on from their dramatic late defeat to St Helens in the 2020 showpiece.
Coach Adrian Lam will want to have another good run at the title in his final season in charge at the DW Stadium, and he was upbeat after the loss to Warrington despite seeing his team being edged out. “I was proud of the performance,” he told reporters. “We didn’t win but I felt we got to being like the team we were last year… that was the positive.
“We’re empty handed but I felt it was the exact game we needed to get back to what we were. They are the sort of games we want to play in. These dare the games where we learn and know what we need to do next time. They are necessary for your improvement. Hopefully you’ll see us improve against Hull.”
Friday 1945: St Helens v Leeds (Live on Sky Sports Mix)
Saturday 1500: Hull FC v Wigan
Saturday 1500: Warrington v Salford
Saturday 1800: Catalans v Huddersfield
Saturday 1945: Hull KR v Castleford (Live on Sky Sports Arena)
Sunday 1500: Leigh v Wakefield
Images courtesy of SWPix.com