Movement at the top, Golden Point drama, Play-offs still hang in balance – What we know after Friday night’s Super League action

Ben Olawumi
Gareth O'Brien (Leigh Leopards) kicks a drop goal to send Wakefield Trinity down

Half of the games have now been played out in Round 26, with wins tonight for three of the top four in Wigan Warriors, St Helens and Leigh Leopards.

Following tonight’s action, just nine fixtures remain of the regular season. Six of those, of course, come next Friday night as the season is rounded off, with all Round 27 games to get underway at the same time as confirmed earlier this week.

The remaining three from this penultimate round come tomorrow, with Catalans Dragons v Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR v Salford Red Devils being shown back-to-back on Sky Sports after a non-televised dead-rubber affair between Hull FC and Huddersfield Giants.

As things stand, here’s what we know – and what we don’t – about how things are going to end up in 2023.

Current top two will take some stopping

Both Wigan and St Helens were dumped out of the Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage back in July, but have been absolutely formidable ever since, winning every one of their respective Super League games since.

The Warriors remain top on the ladder on points difference after tonight’s thumping 48-6 win over Castleford Tigers on home soil, their eighth straight victory in the league.

Winger Abbas Miski is flying having crossed for five tries against the Tigers, grabbing a fourth hat-trick in his last seven outings. He’s not on his own either, Matt Peet has got his side ticking like clockwork, and they will take some stopping.

So though will a Saints side, also on a winning run of eight after tonight’s hard-fought 18-6 victory at Warrington Wolves. They’re the bookmakers’ favourites to win the Grand Final, and if they do it’ll be the first time any club in history has done that five years in a row.

The current four-peaters have gone under the radar for much of the year, but now now. They’re back with a bang, and tonight’s hard-fought win exemplified exactly why that’s the case. Paul Wellens’ side have moved up into 2nd, leapfrogging Catalans ahead of their game tomorrow, and the Red Vee will hope to stay in that top two to get themselves a week off when the play-offs come around.

Wakefield relegated from Super League

Wakefield Trinity’s relegation to the Championship has now officially been confirmed, but their survival bid didn’t fail for the want of trying.

Trailing for most of the game, Mark Applegarth’s side took Leigh Leopards all the way to golden point extra time, and Max Jowitt even had a stab at a drop goal to win it, albeit way wide of the mark.

Looking dead and buried before four wins in six between June and July, Trinity have made the battle at the bottom with Cas interesting and a win tonight would have taken it to the last game next Friday.

It ended a 25-year stay in the top flight for Wakefield, and we’re sure the words of consolation won’t feel as they’re intended to at the moment, but Cas boss Danny Ward backed them for an immediate return to Super League earlier this week. The Tigers have survived by the skin of their teeth.

Tomorrow night’s games grow in importance

At this point in the season, with the way the table has shaped up, not many games don’t have significance to them, but tonight’s results have made the two televised clashes tomorrow even more important than they were before a ball was kicked – or thrown – this evening.

At the top, Catalans have to beat Leeds on home soil to ensure they keep up with the pace-setters in Wigan and Saints. The Dragons have stumbled in recent weeks, and even when they’ve got results, performances haven’t set the world alight.

There’s two competition points and one point in terms of points difference between them and Saints, who at present have leapfrogged them into 2nd. A big win for Steve McNamara’s side against a Rhinos side low on confidence would be more than welcome, and it would officially bring an end to any far-fetched hopes that the visitors still hold of a top six berth.

And if that’s important, the significance of tomorrow night’s second game is simply massive. As 5th takes on 7th, a win for either Hull KR or Salford would be huge.

Because Warrington have lost tonight, it’s not ‘do or die’ for either, but the Robins know two points tomorrow night would see them cement a top six spot. Added to that, because Leigh only won by the one point tonight, they’re still in with a shout of pipping the Leopards to 4th on points difference, providing they can get the job done in their own two games and hope Wigan beat Leigh next week.

Salford meanwhile could get themselves back into the play-off spots ahead of the final round with a victory at Craven Park. As it stands, they’re only outside on points difference, though Warrington have a much better figure in that column than they do, so you get the feeling the Red Devils need to get in there on competition points if they’re to take their campaign beyond next Friday.

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