St Helens could win League Leaders’ Shield at Wigan amidst play-off controversy

St Helens pair Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and James Roby
Photo: David Greaves/News Images

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.

READ: Nathan Brown highlights the differences between Super League and NRL

About James Gordon 7158 Articles
Love Rugby League editor. Founded the website back in 2005. Worked with a range of clubs and sponsors during that time. Also commentates for BBC.

8 Comments

  1. Why does it have to be played at Wigwam or Rudderless? It seems that the powers that be have decided that all of these types of fixtures are played in the west. If it ain’t either of those two it’s Warrington or Leigh. Are these the only stadiums that have a right to hold these events? Have the Club’s in the rest of the country upset someone? It can’t be capacity based ‘cos we can’t fill stadiums as it is.I hate to say it, but there is a perfectly good stadium in Hull. You know, that strange place with TWO super League teams, at the other end of the motorway.
    But, if you go down that route, St Elsewhere and Wigwam loose home advantage as the usual grounds are a spit away from them.
    Oh well, I certainly won’t be travelling to them. Am sick of traipsing all over the west side of the country. Even the World Cup games worth watching are too far away again. But I suppose we will have to be content that they gave us one game, even if it is only second rate Aussies playing each other.
    Maybe one day I’ll take my grandson to see Great Britain play in our home City.

    • Hull would have to get in the playoffs first!

      Whoever finishes second – realistically Wigan or Huddersfield – gets home advantage in the semi. It’s not at a neutral venue, as in the Challenge Cup, for example.

      England actually played and beat New Zealand in Hull in 2018. I think the last time England (or GB) played a proper test in Wigan was 2015.

      • Apologies – didn’t quite read it correctly. Still don’t understand what Wigan or Huddersfield have got to do with St Helen’s playing at home tho. It appears to be the TV companies running our sport again.
        Really I guess it comes down to the “why do they do this?” question. Maybe we should just say It’s finished top, they won, let’s all go on holiday.
        Still, they won’t, so that’s that.

        • The team who wins the league normally plays their qualifying final on the Friday meaning that they get an extra day’s rest before the final.

    • If you live in Hull you have a World Cup QF and NZ v Jamaica, not sure those two teams qualify as being full of 2nd rate Aussies. Lots of games in the East and Yorkshire, England playing in Sheffied and Newcastle.

  2. As it happens it is not the tv companies ruling it’s the fairyball, 2teams out of the 3 vying for the top 2 spots share a ground with the lesser game! As for the semi finals, it was known at the beginning of the season that the top 2 would have the home advantage whoever they were so no one can complain if both end up in the west. Now for the England games, I was all set to travel to Leigh to watch an England game, now that fixture is in Newcastle…………..

  3. I’m sorry but, I dont see why St.Helens should be penalised for something that isn’t their fault. As we all know at the start of the season before a ball is kicked, whatever team finishes 2nd play their home semi final on the Saturday, if they share a ground with a football team and the football team get first dibs for the date then if it isn’t possible to play the game at their ground on the Saturday, they should look to play it on a neutral ground if it cant be changed to play on a Sunday because of Channel 4.

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