Race to the Grand Final
It’s Grand Final week! At least it would have been in normal circumstances.
Super League’s two best sides were due to meet at Old Trafford this Saturday to decide the 2020 champions.
That was until Covid-19 forced a five-month break in the season and a new Grand Final date for some time in November, which is yet to be decided.
Instead, we are at a crucial juncture in the 2020 season.
The number of teams in the end of season play-offs has been reduced from five to four and final positions will be decided by win percentage.
With this in mind, we analyse the Grand Final prospects of each Super League club.
St Helens remain on course to defend their Super League crown. The 2019 champions have not been beaten in Super League since the restart and have a 75% win record.
Kristian Woolf’s side face Wakefield Trinity, who are rooted to the bottom of Super League, in back-to-back matches in the next week. Saints will be heavy favourites to pick up victories in both of those games.
After that, their fixture list does get harder as the season reaches its conclusion. They are scheduled to take on all of the other play-off contenders. However, you would still expect them to pick up the wins required to secure a semi-final berth.
All I can say is, thank you @ReganGrace5 🙌🔥
Greatest hat-trick you've seen? Unstoppable from the @Saints1890 winger on @SkySportsRL #SuperLeague #SLLeeStH pic.twitter.com/ffuuCDN3Dp
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) August 9, 2020
A run of eight Super League wins in a row came to an end for an understrength Warrington Wolves against Salford Red Devils last week. It was a result that saw them lose top spot to Saints.
Wire’s next three matches – Wigan Warriors, Catalans Dragons and Leeds Rhinos – are a test of their play-off credentials. They need at least two wins out of three to consolidate their position in the top four.
A poor run of results, however, would allow the chasing pack to close up on Steve Price’s Wolves.
Due to their involvement in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, Warriors put out a youthful squad for the derby defeat to a strong Saints outfit last week. The loss saw Wigan fall to third.
There isn’t a cause for concern at the moment for Adrian Lam. Although a defeat to Wolves on Friday could leave them looking over their shoulders, especially with another contest against Saints to come later this month.
Dragons face a mammoth month of action. They still have nine matches left to play because of postponements earlier in the season.
They do have the benefit of being the only side in Super League playing their home games in front of supporters. Local government rules mean up to 5,000 fans can watch matches at the Stade Gilbert Brutus.
With five of their remaining matches being played in Perpignan, Dragons will fancy their chances of securing a play-off spot.
Rhinos have an identical record to Dragons.
They also face a busy month of rugby league, including the Challenge Cup final. You have to wonder how the trip to Wembley might impact their Super League results.
Either side of their match against Red Devils, Leeds face Wolves and Saints and may go into both matches missing first-team players.
They could be playing catch up on the top four in the final few rounds of the season.
Huddersfield Giants looked down and out after their second one-point defeat of the season to Rhinos last month. Since then, Simon Woolford has left the club and been replaced by Luke Robinson.
The interim head coach has inspired his team to three wins on the bounce and Giants, although still off the pace, are genuine play-off contenders.
Their fixture list is also encouraging. With their next four matches coming against teams below them in the table, don’t be surprised if they make a late run for the play-offs.
We have a new leader 👊
The best of Aidan Sezer's performance against Rovers as he moved to the top of the @StevePrescott1 #ManOfSteel standings 🤩#SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/KQZcJo3wWC
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) October 6, 2020
The last team that can hope to make the play-offs. Even so, at this stage, it looks unlikely. Hull FC would probably need to win all seven of their remaining matches to have any chance.
Such a scenario would take them to 65%, which may not even be enough.
The fixture list isn’t particularly daunting. All of their next five matches are winnable; however, even if they did triumph in all five, they would have to overcome Saints and Warriors in their final two games of the season.
Daryl Powell has cut a frustrated figure since restart. Castleford Tigers have only won once – a 37-30 win over Red Devils – and their hopes of reaching the play-offs are all but over.
If they can win seven games in a row, they can still reach 60%. On current form, a run of such magnitude seems unlikely.
Salford Red Devils
Red Devils booked a trip to Wembley with a win over Wolves in the Challenge Cup semi-finals on Saturday. Having won four of their last six, their recent Super League form is also good.
Despite this, they have little hope of getting back to the Grand Final. Ian Watson will surely rest players ahead of their final at Wembley, too. Not that it will bother Red Devils fans too much if they triumph on October 17.
The 2020 campaign has been a struggle for Hull KR. Only two wins have come all season.
At least there have been some signs in recent weeks that the future is bright under Tony Smith. The victory over Warriors in September was one of the best performances any side has put in this season, and they ran Saints close a week later.
It’s hard to see them finishing any higher than 10th based on what we’ve seen so far. But there is still plenty to play for, including a derby later this month.
Rugby league from another planet 🤯🔥@hullkrofficial were so good against @wiganwarriorsrl 👏#SuperLeague pic.twitter.com/vSegzdNevt
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) September 5, 2020
Trinity are without a win since lockdown and could do with a few decent results just to make sure they go into 2021 with some momentum.
They face Saints twice in their next two matches, which is hardly an enticing prospect for Chris Chester. After that, things should get a little easier. Their match against Rovers could yet decide who finishes bottom of the table.