The heat is on in the Qualifiers while the top four jostle for position. Here are my predictions…
Castleford Tigers vs Huddersfield Giants (Super 8s, Thu, 7:45pm)
Castleford sealed a top four place with a routine win over Hull last week, while any lingering hopes of a play-off push by Huddersfield were laid to rest with a narrow defeat at Warrington – with those two results leaving us with next to nothing to play for in the remaining rounds of the Super 8s.
The Giants won here last time out as their remarkable run gathered pace, and while they pushed hard last week it looks like things are fizzling out a little with injuries taking hold. By contrast Castleford are on the up and building momentum as key players return, so they should claim the win in this one.
Prediction: Castleford Tigers 32-20 Huddersfield Giants
Leeds Rhinos vs Salford Red Devils (Qualifiers, Fri, 7:45pm)
Leeds took a heavy beating when they met in the final round of the regular season, and that proved to be a good indicator of what has come since as Salford continue to breeze through the Qualifiers while Leeds make heaver work of things.
After some high-scoring games Leeds at least tightened up the defence at Widnes, but there were surely few other positives to take from that nervy win.
Salford made things a little less comfortable than need be against Toronto but always looked like holding on, but the worry this week will be the effect of bans for Luke Burgess and particularly Jackson Hastings, who has been so influential in such a short space of time. This looked a dead cert last week, but Leeds will fancy their chances now.
Prediction: Leeds Rhinos 30-18 Salford Red Devils
St Helens vs Hull FC (Super 8s, Fri, 7:45pm)
A comfortable defeat was considered a success last week for Hull, which is a measure of how far they have fallen, certainly since playing their part in an epic Challenge Cup quarter-final battle on their last visit to this ground.
Saints played their get out of jail free card at Catalans after some generous calls, and now need just a point to make the Shield safe. Things aren’t all steady and some selection decisions still need to be made ahead of the play-offs, not least on a certain number 23 who was a notable absentee in France, but they should have no problem getting the win here.
Prediction: St Helens 38-4 Hull FC
Wakefield Trinity vs Catalans Dragons (Super 8s, Fri, 7:45pm)
The season is effectively over for both sides, but recent performances suggest that they remain motivated for the final games of the season as they scrap for position.
Catalans felt aggrieved last week and I think they will travel strongly for this one, against a Wakefield side who sometimes seem impossible to predict. At their best they are simply brilliant, but if not the Dragons will come out on top.
Prediction: Wakefield Trinity 16-36 Catalans Dragons
Find out the rest of my predictions on page 2…