St Helens could seal another record-breaking League Leaders’ Shield away at derby rivals Wigan.
Their 60-6 win at Hull, coupled with Wigan’s defeat at Wakefield last weekend, means the champions have all but sealed top spot.
They could have a tenth League Leaders’ Shield in the bag this weekend if they beat Hull KR and Wigan lose to struggling Toulouse.
But if Wigan win this weekend, that means St Helens can seal top spot by beating their arch rivals at the DW Stadium on Friday week.
A tenth table-topping success would be a third in five years, and would mean they’ve got double anybody else; with Wigan next best on five.
Play-off scheduling controversy
Typically, finishing top of the table would mean you’re at home in the first play-off semi-final.
However, there is controversy building over a stadium clash involving Wigan and Huddersfield.
Both of their respective football clubs are in action on Saturday September 17.
That would in theory rule them out of playing on the Saturday, when the semi-final is due to be televised by Channel 4.
If that was the case, it would force Saints to play on the Saturday – with the other semi-final being played on the Friday in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
It seems unlikely that the Channel 4 broadcasting slot is moveable.
A Super League statement said: “St Helens have now guaranteed a top two finish in the Betfred Super League table and consequently secured a home semi-final.
“Discussions on scheduling with all concerned stakeholders, including both of Super League’s broadcast partners, Sky Sports and Channel 4, are ongoing.
“We anticipate that these discussions will be concluded in the next few days to allow stakeholders the maximum amount of planning time.”
The play-off schedule and order
The regular season finishes on the weekend of September 3, with the play-off eliminators taking place the following week.
That sees the team finishing third host sixth, and fourth welcoming fifth, with the two winners going on to the semi-finals.
There the lowest ranked winner will travel to the top team, likely to be Saints, and the other to the second placed team.
The winners of the two semi-finals go through to the Grand Final on Saturday September 24.
Not playing in the first semi-final would mean one less day to prepare for the Grand Final.
Local newspaper reporter Mike Critchley, of the St Helens Star, pulled no punches in his assessment of the situation.
He wrote: “On principle the team finishing top – and Saints are not there yet – should get what they deserve. That is the nature of competitive sport.
“If Saints have done the right thing in building their own stadium at some considerable cost, then it would be a perverse sort of upside down logic that they should be punished for their forward planning and investment.
“Worse still that the club who sold off their own historic Central Park home to Tesco to become tenants of the town’s football club should then be the beneficiaries.”
St Helens have won the last three Grand Finals, including beating Catalans 12-10 at Old Trafford last season.
Catalans finished top of the table last season and played their play-off semi-final 24 hours before Saints beat Leeds.