And just like that, we’re at the end of the regular season. Whilst most of the playoff teams are sorted out, there’s still a bit of positioning to be dealt with.
Bradford Bulls beat Hull FC by 8
I can’t believe this now, but Bradford might just have managed to sneak their way into the playoffs (especially since the Airlie Birds’ season lost purpose some time ago). If they manage to do this, it’s an absolutely remarkable turnaround by Steve McNamara. Of course, there’s always the question of why they needed a miracle turnaround, but let’s not ruin the occasion now.
Leeds Rhinos beat Salford City Reds by 22
Salford should put up a good fight, but I think that the Rhinos have started to look ominous going into the playoffs. They should be able to cope with the loss of a few of their bigger name players to suspension, and I think the idea of capturing the League Leader’s Shield (shouldn’t that have a proper name, like the Mal Reilly Shield or summat?).
St Helens beat Catalan Dragons by 16
Saints actually managed to keep up with Leeds for the most of their game last week, so I think the idea that they’re a spent force doesn’t hold water. The main advantage for Catalan will be the absence of James Graham, but I doubt that creates enough of a dent in a Saints side still holding onto some outside hope of a fourth League Leader’s Shield in a row.
Wakefield Trinity Wildcats beat Hull KR by 4
Two sides with fairly long winning streaks heading into this game. This game should also affect both teams’ final position in the table and it’s not out of the question that they’ll meet in the playoffs. I’m picking Wakefield mainly because of home advantage, but I expect it’ll be a tough one for both sides.
Huddersfield Giants beat Wigan Warriors by 8
A lot of what I wrote in the above preview also directly applies here, as Huddersfield are trying to overtake Hull KR whilst Wigan are trying to hold off Wakefield. Indeed, if results go the way I predict, then we’ll see two sides make minor surges up the table to finish the season. Again, I’m picking the Giants mainly because of home advantage (although Wigan are definitely a team in form right now).
Warrington Wolves beat Harlequins by 26
Any hope Harlequins had of making the playoffs probably evaporated with their home mauling by the Tigers last week. Warrington have been pretty mediocre (Cup final apart) but I think they’ll give the home fans something to cheer about for their final home game of a bizarrely mixed season.
Castleford Tigers beat Celtic Crusaders by 46
Did you know there are two teenage debutants in the Crusaders’ match squad? They’re limping to the finish line and I think the Tigers will want to protect their position in the playoffs far too much to squander a gift like this at home. The Crusaders will simpl want to get this season over and done with, whilst Cas will have the exact opposite attitude.