The Saints points difference is worth an extra point, standing at +315 compared to the Rhinos +213 and the Bulls +200. The Rhinos and Bulls will therefore need to win one more match than the defending Champions, a feat that only one of them is likely to attain as they have to play each other in three weeks time at Odsal.|
The first question is; Will the Saints win all of their remaining games? If the answer is affirmative then they have the hub cab sewn up. Their remaining games are as follows;
It is, without doubt, the toughest run-in of the three. Injuries suffered to key players at Catalan on saturday (or perhaps just an excuse to rest players for the Challenge Cup Final) coupled with an eye on Wembley, may make it slightly easier for a determined Salford side to spring what would still be a major upset on friday night. The home games against the 'Quins and Wolves do look a formality but the Saints and their supporters will not be looking forward to travelling to the JJB for the last game of the season. At that point it may be that Wigan need a win to make the play-offs, or that they are simply playing for some end of season pride against the side that has dominated them in the Superleague era. Either way, the Saints will be in for one hell of a battle.
I have a suspicion that the Saints will lose one of their last four, and I suspect that it may well be the round 27 game. That will make things a bit interesting.
Leeds and Bradford, whichever one remains undefeated could still pip Saints to the top, although Bradford would have to work miracles on the points difference as they trail by an extra two points.
Looking at the remaining games;
|Giants (A)||Hull KR (H)|
|Rhinos (H)||Bulls (A)|
|Dragons (H)||Hull FC (H)|
|Hull FC (A)||Wildcats (H)|
Leeds have three distinctly winnable home games and you'd expect that the Bulls would win on their travels to Huddersfield and Hull. The Catans are likely to be on a downward spiral after their anhialation in the Challenge Cup Final and therefore the crunch game, and possibly the Hub Cap decider is the game at Odsal on the 2nd September.
A win for the Rhinos, at a ground where Tony Smith has an exemplary record, will see the Rhinos four points clear of the Bulls and hoping that the Warriors can do the business on the final day of the season.
It looks like a tight finish, with all eyes on Odsal in three weeks time, but I think that there is more than a glimmer of hope that we can finish top of the pile in this most extraordinary of seasons.