With reigning champs Leeds out of this year’s Super League picture, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will lift the trophy at Old Trafford in October.
While fans are still figuring out exactly how to feel about the Super 8s system in just its second year, it’s still a given there be will unforgettable matches and shock upsets no matter the format. This is part of the reason why Super League, and especially the 8s, has become such a popular thing for punters all around the UK to wager on.
For comparison’s sake, here are five of the best Super League games of all-time that could be bested in terms of excitement over the remainder of the season.
October 19, 2002: St Helens 19-18 Bradford Bulls
Arguably the greatest Grand Final of them all, Bradford and St Helens renewed their acquaintance at Old Trafford three years after the Saints nipped out a controversial 8-6 win over the Bulls in the final game of Super League IV. Up 18-12 with 25 minutes remaining, it looked like Bradford was on their way to exacting revenge.
But in a span of less than 10 minutes, St Helen’s would get a try and then convert a penalty to tie the match at 18-18. A drop goal from Sean Long with a minute remaining would then the Saints the point they needed to take the lead and hopefully the title.
But the thrilling contest was tainted by an incident in the final seconds when St Helens captain Chris Joynt fell to the pitch uncontested on what was a blatant voluntary tackle. That should have given Bradford a penalty from 40 metres out, but the offense was ignored by the referee, winning St Helens their third title in four years.
September 30, 2011: Warrington Wolves 24-26 Leeds Rhinos
The semi-finals of Super League XVI felt much more like a championship game than the actual Grand Final itself. Less than 10 minutes from the death, it looked like the title would be Warrington’s when winger Matt King dove past the line for what he thought was a try.
The video referee said that King was mistaken, and minutes later the same official also overturned a try he determined came as a result of a knock on.
Matters looked like they would need extra time to be settled, but Warrington’s Richie Myler was over-ambitious pursuing an attempted drop. He was whistled for offside, and Leeds would punch their ticket to Old Trafford thanks to a Kevin Sinfield penalty make from 30 meters.
September 2, 2012: Hull Kingston Rovers 36-42 Wigan Warriors
Down 26-0 with four minutes remaining in the first half, it looked like Wigan was going to finish Super League XVII’s regular season in second or third.
Dealing out this thrashing was a Hull club that was out of the playoff picture, but still wanting to put forth an inspiring performance for the last home match of several beloved players.
KR definitely made sure those players would remember their last home game, however not in the fashion they would have hoped. Despite being ahead 36-22 with 17 minutes remaining, Wigan fought back to claim the match, the League Leaders’ Shield, and the record for biggest comeback in a Super League Match ever.
July 22, 2013: St Helens 22-16 Wigan Warriors
Even though Wigan was resting a number of their key players ahead of a Challenge Cup semi-final, they were still the betting favourite at Langtree Park. But the match was back and forth from the beginning with the underdog Saints jumping out to a 12-0 lead that would be cut to four by halftime.
Wigan’s momentum carried on after the break when Josh Charnley would score his second try of the day to tie the game. After the score advanced to 16-16 with five minutes to play, St Helens’ Tommy Makinson took a break nearly the length of the pitch that would lead to the winning try, preventing Wigan from going atop the table.
September 25, 2015: Huddersfield Giants 16-20 Leeds Rhinos
The new Super 8s system was introduced to mix reactions, but after the final match in its inaugural year there was only one reaction: astonished. That night, three teams were in contention to lift the League Leaders’ Shield, and before the matches were over to whom the honour would go had changed six different times.
With Huddersfield leading Leeds by eight in the waning minutes of the game, and Wigan winning their game handily, it looked like the shield was going to the Warriors and a home semi-final match to the Giants. But a Tom Briscoe try gave Leeds a breath of life.
A penalty to Leeds would tie the match with 60 seconds to play, and then in what has been called rugby league’s “Sergio Aguero moment”, Leeds would work the ball from deep in their own half into the arms of winger Ryan Hall who would take in the Shield-winning try at the death.