The quest for Grand Final glory at Old Trafford on Saturday October 5 steps into overdrive this week with the start of the 2013 Super League play-off series featuring the sport’s eight strongest clubs.
The Sky Sports cameras will capture all the action, thrills, spills and heartbreak of the Super League play-offs and Grand Final as it happens with every match televised live, starting with the mouth-watering clash between Huddersfield Giants and Wigan Warriors on Thursday September 12.
Huddersfield, who finished top of the pile for the first time in 81 years when they clinched the 2013 League Leaders’ Shield last week, host the Tetley’s Challenge Cup holders looking for the victory that would give them a bye to Week 3 and the right to select their opponents in ClubCall.
Wigan, for whom victory who would secure a bye (but not ClubCall after they finished in fourth place), can be expected to take a massive following to the John Smith’s Stadium as they hunt what would be a famous double.
Thursday night action will become a regular feature on Sky Sports throughout the Super League play-offs, which continue on Friday at 8.00pm with a match between Challenge Cup beaten finalists Hull FC and Catalan Dragons, who narrowly missed out on a home tie after losing to Warrington Wolves on Saturday night.
Rugby League fans have a double treat in store on Saturday when Sky Sports will be at The Halliwell Jones Stadium for Warrington Wolves v Leeds Rhinos at 3.00pm and Langtree Park for St Helens v Hull Kingston Rovers at 5.00pm.
The first match is a repeat of the 2012 Super League Grand Final and both clubs know victory would see them secure a hard-earned week off and - should the Giants slip - earn ClubCall.
As with Hull FC and Catalan Dragons, St Helens and Hull KR go into their elimination play-off looking to avoid the defeat that will end their season, and the do-or-die nature of the fixtures will guarantee two matches to savour.
“With the Super League title decider and the Kingstone Press Championships Finals Day taking place just a few short weeks before the must-see Rugby League World Cup 2013 opening ceremony at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday October 26, fans are now facing the most exciting period in the sport’s history,” said RFL Communications Manager John Ledger.
“Many of the player involved in both the Super League and Championships play-offs will be hoping for RLWC2013 selection and the stakes have never been higher.
"The World Cup is already giving a whole new dimension to the end of the domestic seasons and the next few months promise to be an epic era for Rugby League fans everywhere.”
In the Kingstone Press Championship, Featherstone Rovers and Halifax earned a rest next week following their wins against Leigh Centurions and Sheffield Eagles, respectively, setting up two must-win play-offs this weekend.
One sees defending champions Sheffield host Dewsbury Rams in a preliminary semi-final, details of which will be confirmed on Monday due to issues surrounding Don Valley Stadium, which is unavailable on Thursday, Friday or Saturday due to other events.
The other preliminary semi-final sees Leigh face Batley Bulldogs in front of the Premier Sports cameras at 3.00pm on Sunday.
The battle for a second promotion spot from Kingstone Press Championship One alongside champions North Wales Crusaders hots up on Sunday at 3.00pm with two ties, the highlight being Oldham v Rochdale Hornets, the winners of which will go straight through to the Play-off Final at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday September 29.
The other elimination final sees London Skolars face Hemel Stags, who extended their remarkable first season as a professional club with a thrilling 30-26 win against Oxford.
This weekend’s confirmed play-off fixtures are as follows:
THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 12
Qualifying play-off: Huddersfield v Wigan Warriors (8.00)
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 13
Elimination play-off: Hull FC v Catalan Dragons (8.00)
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 14
Qualifying play-off: Warrington Wolves v Leeds Rhinos (3.00)
Elimination play-off: St Helens v Hull Kingston Rovers (5.00)
SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 15
Kingston Press Championship
Elimination play-off: Leigh Centurions v Batley Bulldogs (Premier Sports, 3.00)
Kingstone Press Championship One
Qualifying semi-final: Oldham v Rochdale Hornets (3.00)
Elimination semi-final: London Skolars v Hemel Stags (3.00)
Sheffield Eagles will confirm the date and kick off time of their Kingstone Press elimination play-off against Dewsbury Rams on Monday – Don Valley Stadium is unavailable on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The 2013 Super League Grand Final takes place at Old Trafford, Manchester, on Saturday October 5 (6.00pm) when tickets cost from just £20. Family tickets giving entry to two adults and two children are also available for £70 and can be purchased by visitingwww.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk/ or calling 0844 856 1113.
The Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final and the Championship One play-off final will take place at Leigh Sports Village on Sunday September 29, when the action commences with the Rugby League Conference Challenge Trophy Final, Leigh Miners v Wigan St Patricks. Tickets cost from just £15 for adults, £10 for concessions and can be purchased by visiting www.rugbyleaguetickets.co.uk/ or by calling the RFL Ticket Office on 0844 856 1113.
Tickets for the RLWC2013 opening ceremony, which includes the England v Australia and Wales v Italy opening double-header, and all other tournament games can be purchased by visiting www.rlwc2013.com or calling the RLWC2013 Ticket Line on 0844 847 2013. Tickets represent fantastic value with 55 per cent of tickets priced at £20 or less.