We take a look at the permutations ahead of the penultimate weekend of Qualifiers action, with one Super League promotion place still to play for and four sides in the mix for the Million Pound Game.
The top three
Last weekend’s results saw Warrington secure their place in next season’s Super League with a narrow 32-30 victory over Leigh, while Hull KR also booked an immediate return to the top flight.
Tim Sheens’ men posted a superb 12-6 home win over Widnes to keep their 100 per cent record in the Qualifiers intact amid dramatic scenes at KCOM Craven Park.
The result could have dire consequences for Widnes, however, as though the Vikings currently sit in that third promotion slot, they only hold six points and may be demoralised after their costly defeat to the Robins.
Catalans and Leigh are all still in the mix with Widnes for that last spot, while the London Broncos have a place in the Million Pound Game within reach, dependent on results over the next fortnight.
It is set to make for sensational viewing!
For Widnes, the situation is quite simple. Win their games and they will remain in Super League.
Unlike the other three sides competing, Widnes really do have their destiny in their own hands, starting with a home clash against the London Broncos on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Arena, and finishing with an away trip to the south of France to face Catalans.
The Vikings currently sit on six points, but a victory over the Broncos at the Select Security Stadium would effectively end the Broncos’ campaign.
Denis Betts and co will also hope already-promoted Hull KR can beat Catalans at home on Friday, to give them a bit of breathing room in third spot.
After two consecutive victories in the last two weeks over Halifax and Featherstone Rovers, the Dragons are level on points with Widnes, placing huge significance on their trip to Hull KR on Friday, live on Sky Sports Arena.
If the Catalans can win away at Hull they will not only put huge pressure on Widnes the next day, but could potentially set up a winner takes all clash with the Vikings on the final weekend in Perpignan.
Can Steve McNamara, Remi Casty and co travel away to Hull KR and come away with the points? Could Tim Sheens’ men potentially have their eye off the ball with promotion confirmed? Friday’s clash is one of the biggest in the history of Catalans.
Widnes’ loss at Hull KR last week was great news for Catalans and leaves the door ajar for them to potentially claim third.
Two wins and they could avoid the Million Pound Game altogether, which after their heavy defeat at home to Leigh three weeks ago, would be some turnaround.
Should the Dragons succeed in Hull, they will be baying for a Broncos win at Widnes. Otherwise the Centurions would need to rack up ta massive score to eclipse Widnes’ far superior points difference. They have a chance, though.
Hull K R vs Catalans Dragons
September 15, 2017, 7:30pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass Leigh Centurions
Speaking of Leigh, all seemed fine for Neil Jukes’ men after that 30-6 victory over Catalans in France, but they are a long way from that now.
Sitting on four points, the likelihood for Leigh is that they will play in the Million Pound Game, with chances of finishing in the automatic spot slight and there is still a chance they could be demoted to the Championship.
Indeed, they might not even get the chance to save themselves in the Million Pound Game with relegation via the table still possible.
One suspects Leigh will beat winless Halifax at home on Friday night, which would take them to six points, before they travel down to the capital to face the Broncos on the final day.
Leigh’s potential route to third is vastly convoluted and heavily dependent on the results of others. Providing they win their last two games at home to Halifax and at the Broncos they will finish on eight points and then must wait and see.
The Centurions will hope Hull KR beat Catalans this weekend, leaving the Dragons on six points, and the Broncos win away at Widnes to keep the Vikings on six and the Londoners on five.
Leigh must then win at the Broncos and hope that Catalans beat Widnes. This would leave Leigh and the Dragons level on eight points, but the Centurions’ superior points difference would see them place higher.
Such a situation would leave Catalans facing Widnes in the Million Pound Game.
Unfortunately for the Broncos, any dreams of finishing third basically evaporated with Catalans’ victory last week, as with the Dragons to face Widnes on the final day, one side should finish on at least eight points, while the Broncos’ maximum finish is now seven.
A draw between the pair would likely not even be enough, with Widnes’ points difference of +68 dwarfing all around them (the Broncos’ is +13).
Last weekend’s maiden Qualifiers victory over Halifax in Ealing was critical to their hopes of a Million Pound Game slot, though, and with their final two games against direct rivals in Widnes and Leigh, the Broncos still have a chance to earn promotion to Super League!
To start with, the Broncos must travel to Widnes on Saturday and win, otherwise it’s curtains. Win or bust. They will also hope Hull KR can see off the Dragons on Friday.
A win would take them to five points, one behind Widnes, Catalans (should they lose at Hull) and likely Leigh too, providing the Centurions win at home to Halifax.
Widnes Vikings vs London Broncos
September 16, 2017, 3:10pm
Get Sky Sports Get a Sky Sports pass
Going into their final clash at home to Leigh, the Broncos would move above the Centurions with a win and above the loser of the fixture between Catalans and Widnes, leaving them in fourth and with home advantage for the Million Pound Game.
Such a situation would see Widnes finish third and secure their safety, the Broncos face Leigh in the Million Pound Game and Catalans suffer relegation to the Championship.
Two wins is a big ask, but the Broncos have shown signs of outstanding rugby even in defeat this year. As Brian Carney said last week, the Londoners have been “really exciting to watch” and “Andrew Henderson is certainly going to emerge out of these Qualifiers as a winner”.