Sky Sports pundit and former Great Britain international Phil Clarke has made a Grand Final prediction, but it came with a warning.
The 52-year-old believes Catalans Dragons are the clear leaders to reach Old Trafford following their 30-14 win over Challenge Cup winners Leigh.
With five games remaining, the Dragons have now secured their play-off spot following the Round 22 victory, while extending their lead at the top of the table with 34 competition points over next best Wigan and St Helens both on 30.
Tries from Mitchell Pearce, Paul Seguier, Tom Davies, Tyrone May and Manu Ma’u saw the French outfit claim the win at the Leigh Sports Village live on Sky Sports, exactly a week after the Leopards lifted the Challenge Cup trophy with the dramatic golden point win over Hull KR at Wembley.
Catalans reached their first-ever Grand Final in 2021 against St Helens, and former Wigan man Clarke believes Steve McNamara’s side are favourites to reach Old Trafford again two seasons later.
Speaking with presenter Brian Carney, he said: “Catalans look to be, at the end of that, the clear, leading favourite side to make it to the Grand Final of all the teams in it.”
Phil Clarke prediction comes with warning
However, his prediction came with a warning.
Both Mike McMeeken and Michael McIlorum were sent to the sin-bin in the first 40 for late and high shots respectively on opposition captain John Asiata.
The incidents will leave Catalans sweating on the match review panel’s decisions on Monday, with a crunch clash against Wigan up next.
Clarke believes the side must get their aggression levels right in order to succeed through the play-offs, which kicks off on September 29.
The likes of back-rower Ma’u, Tiaki Chan, Sio Siua Taukeiaho, Julian Bousquet, Mickael Goudemand and Tom Davies have all received cards so far in 2023.
On the Super League table, Warrington and Salford hold positions fifth and sixth respectively with 22 points, with Challenge Cup finalists Hull KR just below on points difference.
Hull FC, Leeds Rhinos and Huddersfield will also look for one final push to make the all-important play-offs, while Castleford’s victory on Friday over Wakefield sees them two points clear over the bottom side.