In terms of the middle eights the crucial game of the final round of matches in the Kingstone Press Championship was always going to be Bradford Bulls visit to Featherstone for a winner takes all clash between fourth and fifth. A draw would be enough for the Bulls with their superior points difference.

Should Batley Bulldogs slip up away at Swinton then a win for Halifax would have been enough to lift them into the top four.

We were in for a dramatic Sunday.

Wigan Warriors welcomed St. Helens for the latest instalment in the worlds oldest derby and with the Super Eights being just around the corner both sides were desperate for the two points.

Wigan needed the points to keep up the pressure on Hull FC who kicked off against Salford Red Devils at the same time. A win for Saints would see them into the top four, at least until the Dragons last game of the first phase of rounds at Widnes on Sunday.

Saints were unchanged from last weeks winning side but Wigan had John Bateman returning after a long club instigated suspension, but skipper Shaun O'Loughlin, and full-back Sam Tomkins, were back in the starting line up as over twenty thousand crammed into the DW Stadium.

Two of the teams that will end the season in the middle eights competition, kicked off the final round of the regular season as Hull KR welcomed the Leeds Rhinos. The prize on offer was four home games in the middle eights, and both sides were desperate to finish as high up the table as they could.

The Rhinos had four wins in their last five outings but KR had only managed one in their last five. The Rhinos were the bookies favourites, and after spending much of the season propping up the rest of the table, some end of season form could see them finish ninth.

The Rhinos were without McGuire, Delaney and Moon while KR were missing Thornley and Donaldson, amongst others. There was some suspicion that both sides were not risking borderline fit players ahead of the crucial middle eights.

The penultimate round of the Kingstone Press Championship came and went with us none the wiser as to which two sides will join Leigh Centurions and London Broncos in the middle eightís to take on Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants, Salford Red Devils and Hull KR for next seasonís Super League places.

The big games looked to be between Halifax and Featherstone, Bradford and Oldham and Batley and London as four sides jostled for the remaining two places.

It was to be a dramatic Sunday.

The Saturday afternoon game in the south of France was all about playing for points. Both sides were guaranteed a position in the Super Eights but both were looking to improve their position going into the second phase of the season.

The home side were looking to open up a larger gap between themselves and St Helens in fifth spot whereas the Wildcats wished to improve their league position to give themselves an unlikely shot at a top four position going into the play offs.

After beating the league leaders Hull FC last weekend the Rhinos had another high-flyer in their sights as a Wigan Warriors side looking for a win to return to the top of the pile, visited Headingley.

A win for the Rhinos could see them up to tenth, and off the bottom for the first time in weeks, as the bottom four clubs jostle for position and four home fixtures heading into the middle eights.

Both sides were without their captains, McGuire injured for Leeds and O'Loughlin suspended for Wigan. Wigan have won both meeting so far this season and were clear favourites to make it three in a rematch of last seasons Grand Final.

After their late loss to bottom side Leeds Rhinos last Friday night, Hull FC were looking for a return to the summit with an all important Derby victory over the red side of town. Any win would go hand in hand with the hope that the Rhinos could spring another surprise and defeat their nearest rivals Wigan Warriors in tomorrow nights game

Hull KR still have a mathematical chance of making the top eight but anything other than a win tonight would end those chances and leave them battling for their finishing position in the bottom four.

FC had Gareth Ellis and Leo Pryce back in their ranks and the bookies had them as favourites to take the points. Josh Mantellato was back for KR playing for the first time since these two met on Good Friday.

It was a full Sunday of Kingstone Press Championship fixtures with all eyes on the battle for the top four positions. Leigh Centurions had the chance of sealing the minor premiership with any kind of win.

Batley Bulldogs, Halifax, Bradford Bulls and Featherstone Rovers were all still in the scrap for a top four finish.

What would unfold was a high scoring round with over fifty tries spread between the six games.

It was top against bottom as Hull FC entertained a Leeds Rhinos side playing for form as they readied themselves for the middle eights.

The Rhinos gave a debut to new hooker to James Segeyaro who arrived at Headingley in a swap deal for last seasons Man of Steel, Zak Hardaker.

But all the smart money was on the Hull FC maintaining their top of the table position with just two more games left to the split.

Third placed Warrington Wolves welcomed a Salford Red Devils side who needed a win to keep alive their slender chance of a top eight finish. The Red Devils had been hoping to get some of their docked points back for a breach of the salary cap but the appeal panel upheld the original deduction and fine.

Warrington are three points off the top two, but a win tonight would guarantee them a top four place going into the super eights.

Warrington were big favourites with the bookies, but it was likely to be a determined but disappointed Red Devils side who must feel that the world is against them.
All views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the RLFANS.COM or its subsites.

Copyright 1999 - 2016 RLFANS.COM