Even tighter at the top

Following their scintillating start to the season, Leeds were red-hot favourites to run away with top spot in Super League XIII. The key word is “were”.nnHaving sauntered away from the chasing pack earlier in the season, Brian McLennan’s side were nailed-on to wrap up first place come play-off time.nnHowever, the current champions have seen a seemingly unassailable six-point cushion shredded to just two points in only a fortnight.nnThey looked simply invincible, but slipped up at Harlequins two Saturdays ago, before Friday night’s 26-12 defeat at Headingley to main rivals St Helens, and now look anything but convincing.nnMeanwhile, St Helens‘ sensational eight-game winning streak in the league has seen them charge to within a win of their Challenge Cup semi-final opponents.nnWith nine rounds of Super League awaiting, Leeds now know any more slip-ups could prove them costly in their bid to retain the League Leaders Shield, with Daniel Anderson’s St Helens ready to pounce on any dropped points from the leaders.nnLes Catalans also lie patiently in third, just one point below Saints and three below Leeds. They inflicted James Lowes’ first defeat as the new Warrington boss on Saturday night, with a 52-14 drubbing in the south of France, and now wait patiently to exploit any mistakes from the two above them. nnThe French outfit have won four on the bounce now, and have pretty much wrapped up third place. They sit a comfortable five points above Wakefield in fourth, and it would require a major implosion for them to throw away third place.nnAnother side buzzing at the moment are Wakefield, who picked up their fourth win from six with a marvellous comeback at the expense of Hull KR on Saturday night.nnJohn Kear’s side trailed 18-4 with just 12 minutes to play, but turned the game on its head with four late tries to come out on top 26-18 at Craven Park.nIf they keep up this form they’ll take precious momentum into next month’s Challenge Cup semi-final against Hull FC.nnQuite the opposite are Hull KR. A fortnight ago, Rovers were right in the thick of the play-off pictures but, after three straight losses, have been cast three points adrift of sixth-placed Bradford.nnRovers appear to be running on empty, and have run into a proverbial brick wall in the mid-season. The play-offs now seem like a fading dream for Justin Morgan’s men, and the east Hull club will need a serious pick-up in form if they want to make something from the season’s remainder.nnFrom east to west Hull, FC were just edged out at Odsal on Sunday, as Bradford picked up their first Super League win in four games. The 36-22 win eases the pressure on Bradford head coach Steve McNamara, as John Agar’s FC appear to be running out of time to lodge a realistic play-off challenge.nnJust down the road in West Yorkshire, Huddersfield were winning their first match in three with a 26-16 defeat of Harlequins. As stated in this weekend’s Super League Preview, Harlequins are capable of upsetting the big teams one week, and then not showing up against one of the lesser teams the next.nnThe London side did just that this weekend, missing the chance to stay level on 18 points with Bradford and Warrington.nnTo complete a day of three games in West Yorkshire, Wigan travelled to Wheldon Road, and were held 22-22 by a gutsy Castleford side, in only the third draw of the season.nnThe point kept Wigan in fifth with a game in hand of the teams around them, as Brian Noble labelled his side a “difficult squad to coach” and expressed his disappointment at recent performances.nnCastleford stayed four points adrift of Huddersfield and Hull FC, and seem destined to finish bottom of the pile when the regular season ends in September.nnIn yet another topsy-turvy weekend in the engage Super League, the table seems to have taken on a shape to scope the rest of the season.nnHuddersfield, Hull FC and Castleford are cast aside at the wrong end of the table, with only pride to play for. Just three points separate the top group of Leeds, St Helens and Les Catalans, and finally Wakefield, Wigan, Bradford, Warrington and Hull KR make up the group of play-off challengers, with just five points in between.nnAs it always was, it’s still all to play for, and until the season’s conclusion it always will be.

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