It was difficult to over-exaggerate the importance of this afternoons clash between the struggling Catalans Giants and a Leigh Centurions who suffered a setback at the hands of Hull KR last week. Both sides knew that a loss today could signal an end to automatic promotion and condemn the losing side to the dreaded Million Pound Game.
Leigh Centurions came into the game sitting third, despite last week’s loss, but the Catalans Dragons are already in all sorts of trouble in fifth spot, the away position for the end of season sudden death play off.
It was top against bottom in the Super Eights Qualifiers as Warrington Wolves looked to make the best out of a poor season as they took on a Halifax side with no wins in their first two games.
Halifax lost heavily to Widnes in round two but got much closer to causing an upset against Hull KR in round one. The Wolves have been confident in their two comfortable victories and are clear favourites with the bookies to finish at the top of the pile.
The Wolves were massive favourites to take the spoils with no-one giving ‘Fax any chance of even getting close to the Super League outfit.
It was to be a night of emotion as the Leeds Rhinos said goodbye to the iconic South Stand, the home of the hardcore of the Rhinos supporters since its construction in 1932. While the Leeds players were undoubtedly aware of the emotion of the occasion, coach McDermott had spent the week focussing his side to get the victory to keep them on track for a top two finish.
But Saints were also keen for a win which woudl lift them into the top four as they jostle for a play-off position and a shot at the Grand Final.
There is one change for the Rhinos who lost heavily to Wakefield Trinity last weekend with Walker stepping into the full back berth in place of Golding. For Saints there were no changes to the seventeen who lost 8-6 to Hull FC last weekend.
Tonight's game at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle was billed as the inauguration of the Castleford Tigers as the 2017 League Leaders. The League Leaders trophy was waiting in the wings to be presented in the case of a draw or victory for the home side, but Trinity were in town and determined to spoil the party, just as they had last week when the Rhinos visited Wakefield last week.
The last time that the two sides met it was the Tigers who recorded a 25-24 victory, thanks to a late Luke Gale drop goal, but in the early season meeting at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle it was a far more comfortable 42-24 win.
The bookies had the Tigers as clear favourites but would nerves get the best of them and allow Trinity to postpone their moment of glory.
Tonight's Game at the Mend-a-Hose Jungle is heading for a sell-out as Castleford Tigers look to secure their first Minor Premiership of the Super League era, and top the table for the first time in their ninety-one year history.
The club have reported that there are less than 500 tickets still available for the clash with Wakefield Trinity and the RFL have confirmed that either a draw or a victory tonight would see Daryl Powell’s side being presented with the League Leaders Shield.
Halifax are counting the cost of their 36-12 defeat to Widnes on Sunday afternoon which could see them without Simon Grix and Will Sharp for Saturday afternoons crucial trip to the Halliwell-Jones where they will take on the Warrington Wolves.
Still looking for their first points in the Qualifiers, defeat at the weekend could signal the end of their quest for Super League in 2018.
Round two of the Super Eights Qualifiers took place over Saturday and Sunday with two games on each day.
Saturday saw the mouthwatering prospects of Hull KR travelling to Leigh Centurions with both sides desperate for 2018 Super League action. Over at the Halliwell-Jones the Warrington Wolves were taking on fellow Super League side the Catalans Dragons.
On Sunday Widnes Vikings travelled to Halifax while London and Featherstone met at the Trailfinders.
After banishing all thoughts of the loss to York with last weekends win over Workington, the Toronto Wolfpack were on the road again, this time to Keighley Cougars who themselves beat York last weekend.
Both sides came into the game without some key players. The Cougars were without Nicholson and Lynam while the visitors are missing the services of Dixon, Wheeler, Bailey and Penkywicz who are all injured.
The bookies unsurprisingly had the Wolfpack as big favourites and they won 48-21 when the two sides met earlier in the season, but the Cougars were looking for their fourth consecutive victory.
The second round of the Qualifying Eights brought the much anticipated matchup between Super League’s Leigh Centurions and the Hull KR side that they replaced for the 2017 season. This would be a clear indication of which of these two sides might be playing their rugby in the elite competition in 2018 and it was a game that neither side could lose.
Just two places separated these two sides at the split with the Centurions finishing Super League in eleventh while KR were the runaway leaders in the Championship with just one loss.
Both sides sat in the top three after wins last week, Leigh after a 38-12 victory over Featherstone while KR had a fright in their 26-22 win against Halifax.