With Warrington and Hull KR already sure of Super League in 2018 no other side could guarantee joining them in Round Six, but a loss for any of the challenges could signal the end of their quest for automatic promotion and condemn them to the Million Pound Game.
Friday night saw a crucial game for the Catalans Dragons at Hull KRs promotion party while Leigh Centurions were giving their home fixture with Halifax their full attention. Saturday saw Widnes Vikings looking to maintain third spot against the London Broncos while on Sunday Warrington took on Featherstone.
There will have been some mouthfuls of tea spat out in the Widnes Vikings and Leigh Centurions board rooms when Hull KR named their squad for tonightís clash with the Catalans Dragons. Already assured of a return to Super League in 2018 coach Tim Sheens loaded his side with junior, and out of favour, players and named a side without the lion share of his first teamers.
The Catalans Dragons camp will have been delighted when they first glimpsed the Robins team sheet as, while they were without the services of a couple of regulars, they could still call upon most of their stars as they looked to get a crucial two league points. A win could see them finish the weekend in the all-important third place and with their destiny in their own hands next week when they play Widnes in the south of France.
The Dragons had been thrown an incredible lifeline, they just needed to grasp it with both hands.
It was the game that neither side could afford to lose as Hull FC played hosts to Wakefield Trinity at the KCOM in the Thursday night game.
A win for FC would as good as guarantee them a play-off semi-final spot (Saints would need to win their remaining two games against Huddersfield and Salford, and FC would need to lose their last game at Castleford for them to slip up). A win for Wakefield would see Trinity go above FC and set them up for a play off for the play offs when they meet the Warriors in the final round.
It couldnít possibly have been tighter in terms of league positions but the bookies had FC as the favourites for the win.
The fifth round of seven in the Super Eights Qualifiers was the weekend when two sides were to guarantee their inclusion on n the Super League competition for 2018.
Warrington knew that a win over the Leigh Centurions would guarantee their safety and Hull KR were depending on a Warrington win, and their own victory, to secure a return to the top flight at the first time of asking.
Elsewhere the Catalans Dragons were desperate for a home win against Featherstone Rovers while London Broncos and Halifax both needed a win to keep alive their outside hopes of the Million Pound Game.
With Warrington Wolves and Hull KR having just booked their places in Super League 2018, all attention turned to the south of France and the battle for the remaining spot, and the two places in the Million Pound game, as a winless Featherstone Rovers made the trip to the South of France to take on a so-far disappointing Catalans Dragons.
The Dragons were without the services of the suspended Greg Bird as they went into the game desperate for the two points against the side from West Yorkshire who have struggled in the qualifiers.
A massive points win for the Dragons would incredibly see them above Widnes into third spot but a win of any description would see them go fourth and into the home berth for the Million Pound game.
The second Saturday in September promised to be a defining one in the season of our sides fighting for places and promotion in the Qualifying eights. While Warrington were hosting Leigh with a change to practically guarantee Super League rugby in 2018, Hull KR and the Widnes Vikings were meeting at the KCOM Craven Park with each looking to get the upper hand in their struggle for a top three place.
A win for Hull KR would maintain their unbeaten run and depending on the outcome at the Halliwell-Jones could guarantee promotion to Super League but a win for the visitors would lift them above KR into second spot in the table and leave both clubs needing more points.
Both sides were without a number of key first teamers and the stakes couldnít have been higher as careers and club futures were on the line.
In a repeat of the Challenge Cup Final, Hull FC were the hosts as a Wigan Warriors side intent on revenge, visited the The KCOM Stadium.
Wiganís coach Wane initially stuck with the same seventeen who were defeated by 18-14 at Wembley a fortnight ago but the very late withdrawal of Joe Burgess saw Liam Marshall come into the starting line up. FCís coach Radford made a number of forced changes for the Airlie Birds with Thompson for Tuimavave, Bowden for Ellis and three changed faces on the bench including Fash, Green and Masimbaashe Matongo making only his fifth appearance since his debut against Wigan two years ago.
A win for Hull would put them within a point of securing a play-off place and keep alive their outside hopes of second (depending on the Rhinos outcome at Castleford). A win for Wigan would lift them into the third play-off place above last nights narrow losers Wakefield Trinity and push tonights hosts into fourth.
Tonightís game at the Beaumont Legal Stadium was critical for both sides. A win for Trinity would lift them up to third place in a congested top of the table and with third placed Hull FC and Wigan playing each other on Friday night it would ensure that they retain a top four place going into the last two games of the season.
A win for Saints would leave them outside the top four but throw them a lifeline for their own scramble for the play-offs. A loss would practically end any hopes of a top four finish.
Saints had a big 41-16 win in Wakefield back in July but Wakefield won the early season game over in St Helens by 16-12.