Wigan Warriors and Hull KR kicked off another action-packed Rugby League weekend with a fantastic 14-14 draw on Thursday night, and set the platform nicely for another weekend full of drama, twists and turns.
With Super League back for just one week before taking another break for the Challenge Cup final, it is already shaping up to be a massive weekend of action. And it isn’t just Super League which will no doubt see plenty of action – as both Championship and Championship One have some pivotal games taking place. So, as always, here’s the five biggest things we can probably expect to happen from the Rugby League weekend ahead!
1. A thriller at The Shay in the ‘£250,000 game’
Whilst the new league restructure next year will see the self-dubbed ‘million pound game’ make an appearance at the end of the year, there’s a fantastic warm-up for that this weekend in the Championship. Halifax and Featherstone are still locked in battle for second spot in the division, with the victor of that mini-battle receiving an extra £250,000 in central funding. So with Halifax currently occupying second spot on the league table, a win for Karl Harrison’s men could just about tie up the position for the Shaymen. However, one thing is for certain – if your team aren’t playing this Sunday, get down to The Shay and watch what is set to be a fantastic spectacle for Championship rugby.
2. Differing types of Wembley warm-ups
Castleford and Leeds are now both a week away from stepping out onto the Wembley Stadium pitch, as they look to both end their Challenge Cup hoodoo by lifting the trophy next Saturday. And whilst the Rhinos are likely to stick with the bulk of their squad for the trip to London on Sunday, Castleford have played things very differently – leaving out almost all their big names for the trip to Warrington on Friday. However, Cas did something very similar on Easter Monday against the Wolves – and handed Tony Smith’s men a heavy defeat. Which strategy will pay dividends? Leeds’ or Castleford’s?
3. The race for the eight to stay alive
It’s been a difficult week for Widnes Vikings – after losing their Challenge Cup semi-final to Castleford last Sunday, they’ve been dealing with the backlash of that unfortunate pitch invasion after the hooter, too. It will probably be a relief for Vikings fans to just get back to concentrating on rugby matters – but a tricky trip to Huddersfield is far from the ideal fixture. And if Denis Betts’ men slip up, it could seriously open the door for a number of teams to get back into contention for the eight. Is there still hope for Salford, Hull KR et al? This weekend will give us our biggest clue yet.
4. A new look Hunslet Hawks outfit
Signings at the back end of a season can often prove pivotal in Rugby League, and the Hunslet Hawks are certainly doing their best to ensure they’ll be playing Championship rugby next season. After signing Luke Briscoe and Ross Peltier last week, the Hawks backed that up this week by signing Leeds’ James Duckworth, and former Wakefield man Richard Moore. All four are expected to play this weekend as Hunslet tackle table-topping York, with top spot not yet out of reach for Hunslet. Will their new signings fire them to promotion?
5. Saints to keep up the pace at the top
After injuries to the likes of Jonny Lomax and Luke Walsh in recent weeks, many are expecting it to be when, not if, St Helens surrender top spot in Super League. However, Nathan Brown’s men are made of stern stuff, and their quest for the League Leaders Shield was made slightly easier on Thursday after Wigan could only manage a point against Hull KR. A home tie against Wakefield presents the Saints with an opportunity to open up a healthy lead at the top – providing other results go their way involving Warrington, Castleford and Leeds. Is this finally going to be the year of the Saint in Super League?