It’s official. The run-in is here.
With just four games of the regular season remaining, clubs are still jockeying for position from the top of the league all the way down to the bottom.
While the race for the top four continues to provide twists and turns, it is teams in the bottom half of the league who are starting to feel the heat more than anyone else.
The six clubs all have a very similar objective going into the final games of the campaign: avoid the bottom four. But the reality is that six teams do not fit in two league places.
A run in the Qualifiers would be damaging for any of the clubs in the mix, from a recruitment standpoint beyond anything else. With their Super League status in doubt, clubs who are in the top eight and safe for 2018 naturally have a big pull in attracting new recruits.
But which clubs are likely to survive? We’ve had a look at their fixtures.
HUDDERSFIELD GIANTS (17 points)
July 2 – Salford (A)
July 7 – Widnes (H)
July 14 – Leigh (H)
July 21 – Hull FC (A)
With a three-point cushion above the chasing pack, the Giants can be content with their league position after an impressive turnaround.
They’ll be confident of securing a top-eight finish with their remaining fixtures, too. Away fixtures against Salford and Hull are tough, but with home fixtures against Widnes and Leigh sandwiched in between, you can guarantee they’ll be targeting those games to provide the league points that will secure their place in the eight.
WIGAN WARRIORS (17 points)
July 2 – Widnes (H)
July 8 – Catalans (A)
July 13 – Warrington (H)
July 21 – Leeds (H)
The world champions are on their worst league run since 1903, but that hasn’t stopped Shaun Wane believing they can still defend their Super League crown.
First and foremost they must ensure they make the eight, and with three consecutive games against teams below them in the league, they could all but do that with two wins in those games.
But they’re without a league win in eight matches, and further defeats would really put them in a precarious position.
WARRINGTON WOLVES (14 points)
July 1 – Wakefield (A)
July 7 – Leigh (H)
July 13 – Wigan (A)
July 20 – Widnes (H)
Warrington are running out of time, but they still hold hope after their recent win over Catalans.
On paper, their fixtures are winnable, too. Home clashes against Leigh and Widnes will be seen as games they should win internally. Meanwhile, they come up against a Wakefield side that has lost its last three games, while Wigan’s recent troubles have already been documented. Three wins may get them out of trouble.
CATALANS DRAGONS (13 points)
July 1 – Leigh (H)
July 8 – Wigan (H)
July 16 – St Helens (A)
July 22 – Castleford (H)
Steve McNamara has some work on his hands, and getting them out of the eight is only the start of it.
Back-to-back home clashes are pivotal for the Dragons, as they entertain Leigh and Wigan. Should they get four points from those two games, they’ll be in the mix.
But with a trip to Saints and the visit of runaway leaders Castleford beyond that, it’s going to be tough for McNamara to ensure his side aren’t competing with Championship clubs come August.
WIDNES VIKINGS (11 points)
July 2 – Wigan (A)
July 7 – Huddersfield (A)
July 14 – Wakefield (H)
July 20 – Warrington (A)
It’s quite simple for Widnes – they must win their four remaining games.
That is a very tough task indeed, but with three wins from their last four games, they’ve hit some form, even it if is just a bit too late.
However, they face three teams still in the bottom four fight along with a home tie against Wakefield, who have hit a blip. It’s unlikely, but not impossible for the Vikings.
LEIGH CENTURIONS (10 points)
July 1 – Catalans (A)
July 7 – Warrington (A)
July 14 – Huddersfield (A)
July 21 – Salford (H)
Leigh’s position in the Qualifiers is almost locked in.
One defeat from their last four will guarentee that, while even four wins would still leave them needing results to go their way elsewhere.
With three consecutive away games up next, and then a clash with Salford, things are made all the more difficult. But the plus for Leigh is that the three away trips are against sides in the bottom half, and victories could pull them back in it.