Super League champions St Helens have the chance to go back to the top of the table when they host Warrington Wolves in a top-four clash on Thursday night, but coach Kristian Woolf is anticipating the title fight to go down to the wire.
Like Saints, Catalans Dragons and Wigan Warriors have lost only one league game so far, but Woolf says there are a host of other serious challengers in what he expects will be the most competitive title race for years.
“I remember making a comment at the start of the season that most teams had improved and it was going to be a stronger competition,” he said.
“I think that’s exactly what we’re seeing at the moment. You look at Catalans and Warrington but there’s Hull, ourselves, Wigan. A number of teams are travelling well at the top.
“But you’re also seeing Leigh involved in a real contest at the weekend – as they were against us – and Wakefield are a bit healthier after strengthening this year and think that’s the case across the board.
“It’s obviously what you want in terms of professional sport at the elite level, you want 12 teams that are really competitive and you want six or seven teams that can all be playing finals footy.
“I think that’s what we’re getting at the moment and it’s really exciting for the fans.”
Warrington have won their last three meetings with Saints, including the 2018 Challenge Cup final, and Woolf knows his side face a tricky test at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
“It is one our blokes get really excited for,” he said. “They’re sitting near the top of the table and they’re playing some really good footy at different times this year.
“We certainly see them as a real threat. We know it’s a big game and that we’re going to have to be at our best on Thursday.”