The Super League play-off race is heating up with four rounds to play, with Warrington having been sucked in to the battle to secure the four spots below St Helens.
Hull moved level on points with the Wolves with a win over Wakefield at the weekend, and Wigan can join them both on 30 points if they can beat Warrington at home on Friday night.
Inconsistent Catalans have tumbled to seventh, though they are level on points with Castleford and Salford, who have the third best points difference in the league and currently occupy the fifth and final spot.
There are plenty of games between the play-off chasers between now and the end of the regular season.
The top five play-off format has returned this year – a break down of how that works is below.
Week 1 – Match A: 2nd v 3rd; Match B: 4th v 5th
Week 2 – Match C: St Helens v Winner Match A; Match D: Loser Match A v Winner Match B
Week 3: Match E: Loser Match C v Winner Match D
Week 4 (GF): Winner Match C v Winner Match E
Warrington – 30 (+221)
Fri 16 Aug – Wigan (A)
Sun 1 Sep – Salford (A)
Fri 6 Sep – Wakefield (H)
Fri 13 Sep – Leeds (A)
Hull – 30 (-43)
Fri 17 Aug – Salford (H)
Fri 30 Aug – Huddersfield (H)
Sun 8 Sep – Castleford (A)
Fri 13 Sep – St Helens (H)
Wigan – 28 (+86)
Fri 16 Aug – Warrington (H)
Sun 1 Sep – Wakefield (A)
Fri 6 Sep – Catalans (H)
Fri 13 Sep – Castleford (H)
Salford – 26 (+139)
Fri 17 Aug – Hull (A)
Sun 1 Sep – Warrington (H)
Fri 6 Sep – Leeds (A)
Sun 15 Sep – Hull KR (H)
Castleford – 26 (+54)
Sun 18 Aug – Huddersfield (A)
Fri 30 Aug – St Helens (A)
Sun 8 Sep – Hull (H)
Fri 13 Sep – Wigan (A)
Catalans – 26 (-125)
Sat 17 Aug – London (H)
Sat 31 Aug – Hull KR (H)
Fri 6 Sep – Wigan (A)
Fri 13 Sep – Huddersfield (A)
Points difference could prove crucial, and that’s bad news for Catalans, but good news for Salford. If the Red Devils make the top five, it would be one of the stories of the season, given their well documented problems and lack of resource, especially in comparison to Catalans, who yet again have disappointed with their lack of consistency through the league campaign.
Castleford haven’t really got going at any stage of the season, yet you still feel like they could be a threat to anyone.
Wigan have recovered from their early season issues and are ominously creeping up the table with many fancying them to spoil Saints’ likely parade at Old Trafford.
Warrington’s dismal run of form – six defeats in eight league outings – has remarkably seen them sucked in to a battle that they should never have faced; confirming their top five spot.
Looking through the fixtures, my individual predictions have a top five finish of St Helens, Wigan, Warrington, Hull, Catalans – but my gut fancies Salford to edge out Catalans in the race.
The order of the top four might change within the next couple of weeks – but I think it’s safe to say that St Helens, Warrington, Hull and Wigan aren’t budging out of that top five.
I agree with James on Castleford – they’ve been nowhere near the “Classy Cas” tag in 2019 but no teams will be confident when coming up against them.
For me, it is out of Castleford and Salford who claim the fifth and final spot for the play-offs. Catalans are just too inconsistent to be booking a place in the finals.
And I reckon it will be the Tigers who claim fifth. Daryl Powell’s men have the slightly more favourable run-in than Ian Watson’s side. Castleford face Huddersfield and St Helens the week after Wembley, whereas Salford face trips to Hull and Leeds, along with Warrington at home.