Week two of the Super 8s and Qualifiers didn’t disappoint with plenty of action to get the crowds excited and pumped up for whats to follow. In this segment, I, again, look at each and every game and how it looks to affect the teams chances at making the play-offs, staying in Super League or being promoted.
WAKEFIELD TRINITY 16-36 ST HELENS
League Leaders Saints got back to winning ways on Thursday night with a convincing win over Wakefield.
After back-to-back defeats, Saints turned the style back on and managed to fend-off a spirited fightback from Chris Chester’s side with a Tommy Makinson brace and the try of the week from Jonny Lomax.
With Saints still sat eight points clear at the top with 10 points remaining, I don’t see Wigan being able to catch their closest rivals.
Wakefield’s hopes of a top four spot, despite still being mathematically possible, are all but over but have got a solid platform to build on next season as they look to go one step-further.
Both sides have a week off due to the Challenge Cup Final, but Saints will be looking to claim the League Leaders Shield when they face Wigan Warriors at home next week, and Wakefield will look to close the gap on the fifth place Huddersfield Giants.
CASTLEFORD TIGERS 28-18 WARRINGTON WOLVES
Warrington Wolves suffered a close lose to Castleford Tigers on Friday night, but that won’t dampen their spirits as they still sit in fourth place, just four points above Huddersfield.
At this stage of the season form does account for much, as the quality of each team is the reason they are in the Super 8s. Warrington know this and will still be confident of lifting the Challenge Cup trophy aloft this weekend against the Dragons.
Castleford on the other hand have now over taken the Wolves into third place as they chase second spot, for a home semi-final.
A win in two weeks time against Catalans along with a St Helens victory over Wigan could make that even more likely, as the gap currently sits at just three points.
Warrington will be looking to beat Hull FC once the Challenge Cup is out of they way as they also look to fight for the second place spot.
The top three teams have all but been decided it’s just a matter of what order they will finish as the business end of the season is now in full swing.
HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS 26-6 HULL FC
The Giants took a big leap towards a top four finish with an easy win over the Black-and-Whites.
Despite Hull being stubborn throughout the entire 80 minutes, Huddersfield claimed an 11th win in 12 games to come within 4 points of Warrington.
Under the Friday night lights at the John Smith’s Stadium, the in-form Giants and out-of-sorts Airlie Birds showed plenty of attacking endeavour in the first 40 minutes, but a combination of greasy conditions and stubborn defending at both ends ensured the half finished pointless.
However, Lee Gaskell and Alex Mellor punished Hulls handling errors after the break to win by 20 points.
Hull FC could be without Mark Minichiello and Chris Green in two weeks time, but will be looking for a win against Warrington to do all that they can to close the 9 point gap to fourth spot.
Huddersfield, on the other hand, now welcome Chris Chester’s Wakefield to the John Smiths Stadium, and a win for the Giants will end Wakefield’s chances of the play-offs.
CATALANS DRAGONS 6-35 WIGAN WARRIORS
Morgan Escare came back to haunt his former side as the Wigan Warriors moved closer to a guaranteed home semi-final with a resounding victory against an under-strength Catalans Dragons.
Remi Casty, David Mead, Benjamin Garcia and Mickael Simon were all rested by Steve McNamara as he focuses on making the Dragons the first non-English team to lift the Challenge Cup.
However, The Dragons have conceded 92 points in their last 2 matches, with 56 of those coming against Warrington last week.
Catalans are 100% focused on the Cup final, and Wigan only have eyes on reaching Old Trafford and that told on Saturday afternoon.
In the blistering sunshine of Perpignan, Wigan looked quicker and more well-prepared with Sam Tomkins lively throughout.
The loss of Liam Marshall to injury in the first half will be a concern for Shaun Wane going forward, having previously lost the services of wingers Joe Burgess and Dom Manfredi in similar circumstances.
Wigan will look to beat their nearest rivals St Helens in two weeks time, as they still look to steal top spot, but a loss will need to be avoided if they wish to keep hold of second.
The Dragons travel to Castleford after the Challenge Cup, and will be looking to end the league season on a high if their cup final glory pursuit fails.
I don’t see Saint failing to secure top-spot, even if they lose to Wigan in the next round of fixtures, and Wigan are too strong to drop out of the play-off spots. The Tigers will be confident of being able to keep the 6 point gap between them and fifth-placed Huddersfield but Warrington may have to be wary of the Challenge Cup blues as they could be looking at the League and Cup double.
TORONTO WOLFPACK 22-28 HULL KR
Toronto suffered only their second home loss of the season, as a spirited Hull KR side kept fighting back and pulled clear to pick up their first win of the Qualifiers.
However, the loss only leaves Toronto third as they have the highest points difference of all of teams on just a single victory.
A brace of intercept tries from Junior Vaivai and former Wolfpack player Craig Hall proved key for Rovers as they look to secure their Super League Status by avoiding the Million Pound Game.
Toronto’s loss means that they will be looking to beat London at the Lamport Stadium in two weeks time.
Hull KR on the other hand travel to Leeds as they try to damped Rhinos spirits and put pressure on their Super League status.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE 28-6 HALIFAX
Toulouse Olympique proved too strong for Halifax in their Super League Qualifiers clash in France on Saturday, securing a comfortable 28-6 victory.
Both teams were looking to claim their first win of the qualifiers after Toulouse lost to Leeds and Halifax missed out against Toronto.
First-half tries from Paul Marcon and Italy international Chris Centrone double saw Toulouse go in at the break with a commanding 16-0 lead and Halifax just couldn’t overcome this.
However, this loss leaves Halifax at the bottom of the Qualifiers table and Richard Marshall’s side will be looking to change that. They welcome Salford to The Shay in two weeks time and we will need to pick up a victory if they have any realistic chance of competing for a Super League place.
Toulouse entertain the struggling Widnes Vikings at the Stade Ernest-Argeles next, and a win for the French outfit will all but relegate Widnes.
SALFORD RED DEVILS 32-6 WIDNES VIKINGS
Widnes are now hanging onto their Super League position by a thread after they were beaten by a resurgent Salford Red Devils side.
The Red Devils’ half-backs Robert Lui and Jackson Hastings were once again in commanding form with one or the other involved in Salford’s five tries in the 32-6 success.
Widnes will have to now win all of their remaining five games in order to even be within a chance of avoiding relegation. That run of games starts with a trip to Toulouse, and that will not be an easy fixture for the Vikings.
Salford on the other hand will be looking to win their next two games in order to guarantee a top four spot and pretty such secure their safety.
They travel to Halifax on September 2nd and will be looking to avoid an upset to the Championship side.
LONDON BRONCOS 32-48 LEEDS RHINOS
Leeds Rhinos will be confident of avoiding relegation after beating the Broncos in this 80-point thriller.
Despite the Broncos giving the Rhinos a slight scare late on, a Joel Moon hat-trick was enough for Leeds to continue their Qualifiers run unbeaten.
This defeat will not leave the Broncos disheartened however, as last weeks victory over Widnes will give them confidence in gaining promotion. A win over Toronto in two weeks time should give them more hope as they look to regain their Super League Status.
Overall, I see Widnes being relegated as an injury to Olly Ashall-Bott leaves them without their young, energetic, free-flowing full-back for the rest of the season.
Leeds and Salford will most likely be the Super League teams to stay promoted with all the Championship sides looking at least securing a spot in the Million Pound Game. As it stands, I believe that Toulouse will be promoted, alongside Leeds and Salford and the Million Pound Game will take place between London and Toronto/Hull KR. This is one of the tightest Qualifiers campaigns that there has been. Widnes look all but relegated and Halifax could still provide a few shocks but I don’t see them finishing in an automatic promotion spot but The Million Pound Game is still a realistic target for Richard Marshall’s men.