The Red V rolls on

St Helens have saved the Super League season.

Two seasons in, and already the new era format looks like a damp squib.

If not for Saints’ impressive recent upturn in form, then the top four would have been boxed off some time ago.

As it is, Saints have at least managed to fire a bit of interest in to the top eight, which would have basically been condemned to seven rounds of nothing otherwise.

Of course, they’ve been slightly helped by Catalans’ implosion, but credit must be given to Keiron Cunningham for getting his charges in a position now where even top spot isn’t beyond the realms of possibility with six games to play.

Far be it from me to say I told you so, but there were plenty of people who had identified that the Super 8s format would not be the saving grace that it was marketed to be.

Rugby league struggles to sell tickets as it is, let alone when it barely gives a few weeks notice for seven rounds of the regular season.

There are no more or fewer meaningless games than there were in any other format, though at least Widnes and Wakefield fans will be grateful that their dead rubbers are a much more comfortable ending to the season than the Middle 8s.

The Middle 8s and the subsequent jeopardy are the only real place where drama sits in these Super 8s.

In many ways, the format is desperate for a Championship team to make the step up.

If a Championship team loses the Million Pound Game again this year, then maybe there will be further calls for reform (again).

If all the energy and resource that went in to reforming the game went in other areas, then maybe we could have moved forward. Simplicity is key. Instead we get confusing gimmicks, integrity damaging innovations and still no more sponsors.

Leigh look like they have learned a lot from last year, much like Warrington did when they floundered in the play-offs having won the League Leaders Shield in 2011, and are the more likely to pose a threat to the Super League quartet.

Of that quarter, Hull KR and Huddersfield look the most vulnerable, with Leeds having found some form at last and Salford still licking their wounds over the points deduction that condemned them to the bottom four in the first place.

No matter what happens in the next six rounds, at least one Championship team will get a shot over 80 minutes at a place in Super League and that could well be the saving grace to the ridiculous format that we must suffer year in year out now.

As for Saints, a home draw in the semi-finals which looked very much well out of reach just two months ago, will now be the target.

With Hull and Warrington distracted by Wembley, and Wigan hardly firing on all cylinders, maybe Cunningham’s charges may well be peaking at the right time.

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