Castleford Tigers (1st): A
It’s been a season to remember for Castleford so far – and although they go into this weekend’s game with Wigan on the back of two consecutive defeats, they remain top of Super League. The Tigers have not just been winning games, but they’ve been dazzling rugby league fans with their stylish brand of play. Is it their year? Time will tell, but at the halfway point of the regular season, the signs look good.
Leeds Rhinos (2nd): B+
Surely nobody would have predicted that Leeds would sit joint-top of Super League come the halfway point of the regular season after their hammering at Castleford way back at the start of the season. Since then, the Rhinos have been seriously impressive, and they look to be on course to bounce back into the top four at the first attempt after last year’s annus horribilis.
Wigan Warriors (3rd): A-
The Warriors may sit a point behind Leeds and Castleford, but they earn an A- grading after not only winning the World Club Challenge, but fighting through a whole heap of injuries to be right in the mix at the top of the table. The Warriors have certainly done it the hard way – and they will continue to do so after losing Thomas Leuluai last weekend. But if you’d back anyone to deal with injuries, it’d be Shaun Wane and the reigning champions.
Hull FC (4th): B
There have been blips and disappointing setbacks for Hull so far this year but, on the whole, it’s been a good start from Lee Radford’s side. They, like Wigan, sit just a point off the top and with Albert Kelly in imperious form, they look a good bet to make the top four again this season come the play-offs.
Salford Red Devils (5th): A-
It may seem strange to give Salford a better grading than Hull above them, but the Red Devils have defied expectations of themselves this year – and are certainly one of the surprise packages of the season. Ian Watson has transformed Salford from relegation candidates to play-off contenders in the space of a few short months: if he can keep it up all season, he’ll be right in the running for coach of the year.
Catalans Dragons (6th): C
Inconsistency continues to be the hallmark of Catalans Dragons as they enter the second decade of their existence. There are occasions where they look hopeless; while there are others where they look like title contenders. Recent victories on the road against Leigh and Huddersfield suggested the fighting spirit associated with a side capable of making the top four – but too many disappointing defeats will see the leading pack hold them at arm’s length, you feel.
Wakefield Trinity (7th): B-
With 20 points widely perceived to be the magic number to guarantee a top eight finish, Wakefield are already halfway there with 12 games still to play. However, the fact they have suffered three straight defeats will be of some concern – although in-form Warrington, Wigan and Castleford being the three teams in question offers some mitigation. They are punching above their weight once again.
St Helens (8th): D
With sides like Salford and Wakefield looking good bets to avoid the top eight, it means there is set to be a surprise package in the Qualifiers again: surely it can’t be St Helens? The three games since the dismissal of Keiron Cunningham has been their nutshell; they fought hard but lost against Wigan, were superb against Castleford before capitulating against bottom side Widnes. They have to improve: and fast.
Warrington Wolves (9th): D-
Warrington could have easily been sitting on an F grade three or four weeks ago – but there are potential signs of revival at the Halliwell Jones Stadium of late. The Wolves have won four games in succession and Tony Smith looks to have found the magic formula at last year’s Grand Finalists. Those who backed against him doing so have been proven wrong – but they still have a way to go to fulfil their potential.
Leigh Centurions (10th): D+
A few weeks ago, Leigh looked anything like a bottom four side. They started the season really well and took to Super League like a duck to water – but since their second-half collapse at Wakefield, the going has been very tough indeed. They now sit three points adrift of the top eight and as the weeks roll on, wins will become more and more priceless for the Centurions.
Huddersfield Giants (11th): E-
It’s been a catastrophic 2017 for Huddersfield thus far. Forced to deal with newspaper reports linking star man Danny Brough away from the club, plus the departure of half-back Ryan Brierley to Toronto, their miserable year continued on Sunday with a Challenge Cup defeat at the hands of Swinton. Rick Stone needs something fast to turn the tide – a game away at joint-top Leeds on Thursday is probably not what he had in mind.
Widnes Vikings (12th): E-
Credit Widnes for their determined effort against St Helens last Friday – but the Vikings still find themselves cut adrift at the bottom of Super League. For large periods of the year they have looked anything like a top eight side – although Widnes fans can take some comfort and encouragement from the performances against the Saints and Leigh to suggest all is not yet lost.