The race for the play-offs

The race for the play-offs continues to hot up as eight sides strive to make the end of season competition.

St Helens look fairly assured of finishing in the top two despite the occasional shock result (v Salford), whilst Leeds are on course to join them as both sides look likely to re-create the Grand Final from last season.

But it is the remaining six places which look interesting with Huddersfield in third, down to Bradford in 12th all capable of finishing within the eight positions, although the Bulls’ chances look increasingly unlikely the more the season progresses.

ST HELENS:

CURRENT POSITION: 1ST

LAST SIX RESULTS: WWWWWL

REMAINING FIXTURES: WARRINGTON (A), WAKEFIELD (H), HARLEQUINS (A), WIGAN (H), HULL KR (A), HUDDERSFIELD (H), LEEDS (A), CATALANS (H).

VIEW: St Helens continued to be the pacesetters of the Super League table, although they were given a shock defeat by Salford recently. Look on course for another League Leaders Trophy, as well as pursuing their Challenge Cup dream once more. Favourites for play-off final and fixture on 4th September versus Leeds could be a dress rehearsal.

LEEDS RHINOS:

CURRENT POSITION: 2ND

LAST SIX RESULTS: LWWWWW

REMAINING FIXTURES: HULL KR (H), WIGAN (A), WARRINGTON (H), CASTLEFORD (H), CELTIC CRUSADERS (A), ST HELENS (H), SALFORD (A)

VIEW: Leeds have not been that particularly outstanding this season, but still manage to occupy second place thanks to a mid-season purple patch. They seem to be heading in the right direction form wise, and look on course to attempt to retain their Champions title.


HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS:

CURRENT POSITION: 3RD

LAST SIX RESULTS: WWLLWW

REMAINING FIXTURES: HARLEQUINS (A), WARRINGTON (H), CATALANS (H), HULL (A), BRADFORD (H), ST HELENS (A), CELTIC CRUSADERS (A), WIGAN (H).

VIEW: Nathan Brown has done a wonderful job with the Giants this season and are almost certain of reaching the end of season play-offs. Seem to lack the consistency of going all the way, although a decent bet to upset the applecart at some point.

HULL KINGSTON ROVERS:

CURRENT POSITION: 4TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: WLLWLL

REMAINING FIXTURES: BRADFORD (H), LEEDS (A), HULL (H), CASTLEFORD (A), ST HELENS (H), SALFORD (A), WARRINGTON (H), WAKEFIELD (A).

VIEW: Justin Morgan’s men began the season in superb fashion and quickly found themselves fighting with St Helens and Leeds at the pinnacle, however recent run of results has found them on the slide following their Challenge Cup exit. Will make the end of season play-offs but a retention of their early season form needs to be found quickly to ensure their slump is not too detrimental to their excellent season.

WIGAN WARRIORS:

CURRENT POSITION: 5TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: LWLWWW

REMAINING FIXTURES: BRADFORD (A), LEEDS (H), ST HELENS (A), WARRINGTON (H), CASTLEFORD (A), HULL (H), HUDDERSFIELD (A).

VIEW: Brian Noble has got his men firing at the right end of the season once more, but will be slightly worried with injuries that appear to be hindering his side. A couple of tough games could see his side slide down the table though.

HARLEQUINS:

CURRENT POSITION: 6TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: LWWLLL

REMAINING FIXTURES: HUDDERSFIELD (H), CATALANS (H), ST HELENS (A), BRADFORD (A), SALFORD (H), HULL (A), CASTLEFORD (H), WARRINGTON (A).

VIEW: Brian McDermott surprised the media by saying he wanted his side to win the play-offs, not just make them. While that was overly ambitious, his side have performed well above expectations this season. A slump has seen them fall slightly though, and this needs to be rectified or they could soon find them outside the top eight. Fixtures against rivals Salford, Hull and Castleford could provide an impetus and springboard going into the play-offs.

WAKEFIELD WILDCATS:

CURRENT POSITION: 7TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: WLWWLL

REMAINING FIXTURES: ST HELENS (A), CASTLEFORD (H), SALFORD (A), CELTIC CRUSADERS (H), WARRINGTON (A), CATALANS (A) HULL KR (H).

VIEW: An inconsistent side in the making. Started the season well, but look to have gone into mid-season slump mode. A few tough games could see them fall out of the play-offs.

WARRINGTON WOLVES:

CURRENT POSITION: 8TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: WWLWWW

REMAINING FIXTURES: ST HELENS (H), HUDDERSFIELD (A), SALFORD (H), LEEDS (A), WIGAN (A), WAKEFIELD (H), HULL KR (A), HARLEQUINS (H).

VIEW: Tony Smith has done a fantastic job at the Halliwell-Jones Stadium and they look on course to make the play-offs, whilst also in with a chance of making the Challenge Cup Final. A few hard games, but should pick up enough points to make the eight.

CASTLEFORD TIGERS:

CURRENT POSITION: 9TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: LLLWLW

REMAINING FIXTURES: HULL (H), SALFORD (A), WAKEFIELD (A), HULL KR (H), LEEDS (A), WIGAN (H), HARLEQUINS (A), CELTIC CRUSADERS (H).

VIEW: Poor mid-season form has seen the Tigers fall from the top eight to as low as tenth in recent weeks. A much needed victory last week against Bradford restored hope, but a couple of wins in the next few weeks should put them back in with a shout. Outsiders, but they may sneak in – just.

CATALANS DRAGONS:

CURRENT POSITION: 10TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: WWLWWL

REMAINING FIXTURES: HARLEQUINS (H), HUDDERSFIELD (A), CELTIC CRUSADERS (H), SALFORD (A), HULL (H), BRADFORD (A), WAKEFIELD (H), ST HELENS (A).

VIEW: Have performed well below expectations and really need to win at least 2 of their next four games to get back in the play-off picture. Too inconsistent really, but may just scrape a place should they continue to win games like recent form and other results go their way.

HULL FC:

CURRENT POSITION: 11TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: LLLWLL

REMAINING FIXTURES: CASTLEFORD (A), CELTIC CRUSADERS (H), HULL KR (A) HUDDERSFIELD (H), CATALANS DRAGONS (A), HARLEQUINS (H), WIGAN (A), BRADFORD (H).

VIEW: How the Black and Whites have fallen! Good start to the season completely eradicated over the middle of the season. Look outsiders for the play-offs. Need a win on Sunday to restore much needed hope, but playing clubs around them that also desperately need the points.

BRADFORD BULLS:

CURRENT POSITION: 12TH

LAST SIX RESULTS: LWWLLL

CURRENT POSITION: HULL KR (A), WIGAN (H), CELTIC CRUSADERS (A), HARLEQUINS (H), HUDDERSFIELD (A), CATALANS DRAGONS (H), SALFORD (H), HULL (A).

VIEW: Defeats in their next two games will see the Bulls out the play-offs race, a disappointing result for a side that has almost dominated rugby league over the last decade. Need at least six wins to be in with a chance of a place.

Final View: Leeds and St Helens are assured of their place in the top eight. Huddersfield and Hull KR are good bets to consolidate their position in the top eight. Warrington are on form and should – permitting they continue their excellent progression – join them in the top eight. The remaining places will be fought over by Wigan, Wakefield, Harlequins, Castleford and Hull, the latter of which are the outsiders at the moment.

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