St Helens meet Warrington on Friday knowing they could well meet each other in both the Super League Grand Final and the Challenge Cup Final this season.
The two teams, separated by only a few miles, have been by far and away the top two in the league this season.
Traditional contenders like Leeds and Wigan have fallen by the wayside and the Super League race has developed into a two-way battle in the same way the Premier League season ended up as an incredibly tense duel between Manchester City and Liverpool.
But unlike the Premier League race, the two protagonists here have shown they are fallible. Saints paid the price for resting seven first teamers for the trip to lowly London Broncos - losing by a point - while Warrington tripped up at a Hull KR side inspired by former Wolves boss Tony Smith.
In both cases, a preseason signing from the NRL has helped define their seasons. Saints brought in Lachlan Coote while the Wolves were able to tempt Blake Austin from Canberra. They may play in different positions, but both have been pivotal to the success of their respective teams.
Saints beat Warrington comfortably when the teams last met in April, 38-12, but tonight’s game is not expected to be so one-sided.
A near-capacity crowd - including around 3,000 from St Helens - will be at the Halliwell Jones Stadium and the local rivalry has been stoked by Warrington’s marketing team in the last few days. Warrington flew a plane over Saints’ last game with the banner: “The Wolves are waiting 28.06.19”.
Wolves have not been afraid to poke the beehive this season, angering opposition coaches and rival teams. Championship side Widnes - who were in Super League this time last year - were targeted by the Wolves as well but were burned in response when the Vikings asked how their wait for a Championship was going. Warrington have not won a title since 1955 - in that time Widnes picked up silverware on more than one occasion.
Warrington have named former England rugby union winger Luther Burrell in their squad and it would be his debut should he play. Burrell was a high profile recruit from Northampton Saints and this seems a big game to throw in an untested player.
Justin Holbrook has brought Joseph Paulo in for the injured Zeb Taia and the battle in the forwards promises to be something else. Saints boast Alex Walmsley and Luke Thompson who have been the competition’s stand-out props while Warrington are not short on power here either with Chris Hill and Mike Cooper enjoying stellar campaigns.
Whatever happens tonight, it’s a fair bet these two will clash again when the stakes will be even higher.
A rivalry for the ages. Time to write the next chapter..
THIS. IS. PURE. DRAMA.