All the fun starts now we’ve entered the business end of the season!
Thursday sees the first of the eliminator games as fourth-placed Wigan face fifth-placed Leeds, before Friday’s do or die game between Warrington and Hull KR.
I think Wigan, who have a tendency to up their game when it matters, will have too much for the inconsistent Rhinos. The Warriors are coming off a confidence-boosting win against League Leaders’ Shield winners Catalans Dragons, who surprisingly fielded a strong side despite having nothing to play for.
Leeds themselves come in to the playoffs on the back of a good win against Hull KR, but I’m still to be convinced they’ve got enough to challenge for silverware.
The Robins, who snatched the sixth and final spot, will travel to Warrington, hoping to find themselves just 80 minutes away from their first ever Betfred Super League Grand Final.
However, I’m backing a Wolves win which would set up an almighty semi-final visit to the Totally Wicked Stadium to face the current champions, who this week have been enjoying a well-earned week off.
Also enjoying a little break are the Catalans Dragons. The French side will play the lowest-placed elimination winners, which if my predictions are correct would see the Warriors travel to Perpignan next weekend.
One player the Dragons will be sweating on being fit for that is their best player Sam Tomkins. The full-back limped off in the 12-6 defeat against his former club with a medial knee injury and now faces a race to be fit for the finals. This would be a huge blow for his side if he doesn’t make it.
So, if my tips are correct and we do get a Saints-Wire and Catalans-Wigan in the semi-finals, I’m going to say we will see Saints and Catalans, the two most consistent teams this season, in the big one at Old Trafford on October 9.
What a game this would be, especially after that unimaginable golden point finish the last time these two teams met at Magic Weekend in Newcastle.
Catalans have looked the real deal this year, only losing four games all season and deservedly topping of the table after the regular season. However, two of these defeats have come in the last two weeks and with the potential loss of their talisman Tomkins the question is: are the wheels starting to come loose?
One player who will be looking to steer them to victory is the vastly-experienced James Maloney, who has announced his retirement from the Betfred Super League at the end of this year.
I still think the Saints will have too much for all-comers if they perform. This is something that title sponsors Betfred agree with in their latest odds for Grand Final success.
Saints remain favourites at 11/10, with Catalans 3/1, Warrington 7/2, Wigan 10/1, Leeds 20/1 and Hull KR 25/1.
Wigan are priced at 1/2 to topple the Rhinos on Thursday. Despite looking far from fluid on attack, I think the Warriors resilience on defence will get them through.
Warrington are clear 1/6 favourites against Hull KR, and although I totally agree it won’t be an easy night for the home aside at the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
Hull KR have produced some great rugby and shock results this year already and must have their performance of the season if they are to win this!