The last 7 teams to top Super League after Easter – & what happened next

Aaron Bower

Easter is often seen as the period in the Super League season when the table officially begins to take shape: and we have now passed that point in the 2024 campaign.

As such, it’s starting to become clear what the aspirations and ambitions should be for all 12 teams this year. This season, it’s St Helens who sit top of the pile with five wins from their first six games, level on points with Catalans Dragons, who also have five wins from six.

But who has topped the table after Easter in recent years – and how have their seasons panned out post-Easter? We’ve taken a look at the last seven sides to be top at this stage of the season* and looked at what happened next.

*Note: we have excluded the 2020 campaign as the season had been suspended by Easter that year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For reference, the 2021 season is perhaps an outlier too, as a late start, again due to the pandemic, meant there had been just two games.

2023: Warrington Wolves (6th, lost in play-offs)

Daryl Powell, Warrington Wolves. PA.
PHOTO: Richard Sellers/PA Wire/PA Images

The one side from the last seven seasons to be top at Easter and not finish inside the top two? Warrington Wolves, who were also the only side in this list – excluding St Helens in 2021, who had only played two games – to have won every single fixture by Easter.

That underlines what a dramatic collapse it was under Daryl Powell last season, as they hurtled down the table to finish in sixth, scraping into the play-offs before unsurprisingly going out in the first round. They will hope for much better this season.

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2022: St Helens (1st, won Grand Final)

A familiar trend at Easter in recent years has been the sight we see today: St Helens top of Super League coming out of the Easter weekend.

In 2022, they were top of the pile with eight wins from their first nine games in what would prove to be Kristian Woolf’s final season before returning to the NRL. They went on to finish top, and win the Grand Final too.

2021: St Helens (2nd, won Grand Final)

The one anomaly in this list in terms of the amount of games played at Easter is 2021. Due to the season starting later than normal thanks to he pandemic, there had only been two fixtures played by the time the first Bank Holiday weekend arrived.

That year, the Saints beat Salford and Hull KR in the first two rounds – with no Good Friday derby against Wigan Warriors. They finished the season second, but went on to win the Grand Final at Old Trafford.

2019: St Helens (1st, won Grand Final)

Justin Holbrook of St Helens
St Helens coach Justin Holbrook lifts the trophy after the final whistle during the Betfred Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford, Manchester, 2019

There had been more games played by Easter 2019 than in any other year – with the double-header the 11th and 12th fixtures of that campaign.

The Saints, under Justin Holbrook, were outstanding at the beginning of that year, winning 11 of their first 12 with the only blot on their card a defeat in Perpignan against Catalans. That was just one of four defeats all year in all competitions though, with the Saints finishing far and away clear at the top, before beating Salford in the Grand Final.

2018: St Helens (1st, lost in play-offs)

The last season before the Saints went on a run of four successive Super League titles, they were once again top of the tree at Easter. Under Justin Holbrook, they won eight of their first nine games to sit top, a position they would remain in all season.

However, they failed to reach the Grand Final after losing in the play-off semi-finals at Warrington: one of only two occasions in the seven years in question where the team top at Easter didn’t reach the Grand Final.

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2017: Castleford Tigers (1st, lost Grand Final)

Castleford Tigers 2017
Castleford Tigers lift the League Leaders’ Shield in 2017

Arguably the most unforgettable side to top the table in any Super League campaign, Castleford would end Easter in the same position they ended the whole season: ahead of every other team.

Daryl Powell’s side won eight of their first ten to set a blistering pace at the summit by the end of Easter 2017, and they would go on to reach a maiden Grand Final, where they came up short against Leeds Rhinos.

2016: Warrington Wolves (1st, lost Grand Final)

Tony Smith’s Wolves won seven of their first eight games in 2016, but didn’t actually go top until the Good Friday victory over local rivals Widnes Vikings. Their first loss of the season came three days later on Easter Monday against Hull FC, and the Wire spent the remainder of 2016 switching positions inside the top four.

However, they were top by the end of the Super 8s and made it all the way to the Grand Final: but they were beaten 12-6 by Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford.

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