Seven sides have secured their place in the Super 8s with just one place remaining as there are two rounds before leagues split.
This week sees some more pivotal games as sides jostle for position ahead of the Super 8s – or try to get the most favourable set of fixtures for the Middle 8s for the sides in the bottom four.
Top spot may be assured but there is a huge race on behind them, and two sides are battling it out for that remaining place in the top eight – guaranteeing Super League survival.
Here’s our (early) look at Round 22, along with clips of their most recent Super League meetings:
Wigan Warriors v Warrington Wolves
A repeat of last season’s Grand Final kicks off Round 22 on Thursday. The two sides have already met three times this season – with Wigan winning both of the Super League and Challenge Cup meetings at the Halliwell Jones Stadium, with their Magic Weekend meeting ending in a draw.
Wigan have shown signs of improvement lately – and are unbeaten in their last three league games and look as if they have a chance of finishing in the top four if they keep improving. Last time out Warrington found their scoring touch against Leigh, and this is a must win if they are to be in the Super 8s for Tony Smith’s men.
The home side are 2/5 with Warrington available at 11/4. The visitors have been given an eight-point start on the handicap at this early stage. On that particular handicap you can get either side at Evens depending on the bookie. Given Warrington’s away form, and the way Wigan finished in Catalans, one would suggest the home side should cover that difference.
Castleford Tigers v Salford Red Devils
Castleford just keep on winning and look set to secure the league leaders shield way before the concluding week of the league season. Salford have lost three out of their last four Super League games, and the wheels may be coming off their season. Ending Castleford’s 100% home record on Friday would be the perfect boost.
Can the Tigers maintain their focus and good run? And can Salford get over having 50 points put on them by Leeds on Sunday?
The home side are favourites at 2/7 with Devils 11/4 to record a win. Salford have also been given a 10-point start at 10/11 which you’d have to think is in range for the Tigers to cover – and they’re the same price to do so.
Huddersfield Giants v Leigh Centurions
A win would secure Huddersfield’s place in the Super 8s. They are taking on bottom side Leigh who have conceded 90 points over the course of their last two games, while Huddersfield have seemingly found their stride at the right time this season.
The Giants have won four of their last six while their opponents have lost each of their last three. It’s of little surprise that Huddersfield are favourites at 1/4. Leigh are available at 10/3.
The Centurions have been given a 12-point start on the handicap at 10/11. Judging by the manner of Huddersfield’s win over Widnes last week, along with Leigh leaking points pretty freely, at this stage you’d fancy the Giants to cover that margin at 10/11.
Leeds Rhinos v Hull FC
A dress rehearsal for one of the Challenge Cup semi-finals two weeks later, and both sides will want to be in good form by that time that comes around. Leeds have recorded wins over St Helens and Salford in their last two games while Hull have lost tight contests on the road to both Castleford and the Saints.
Second-placed Leeds will look to consolidate their position while Hull look to start bridging a three-point gap that has opened up between them.
The Rhinos are favourites at 4/7 with Hull available at 13/10. The Black and Whites have been given a four-point start on the handicap. Given Hull have lost a couple on the bounce you don’t know whether their losing streak will continue or if they will bounce back with a statement of intent. At this stage, we’d probably back Leeds -4 at 10/11.
Widnes Vikings v Wakefield Trinity
Widnes have won each of their last three games at home and at the moment they seem a different beast on their own patch compared to their away games. The ever-tricky Wakefield will look to bounce back from their narrow defeat to Castleford.
Trinity’s recent defeats have been against the league’s big hitters and have beaten the sides below them. They are the slight favourites here at 4/6 with the Vikings 13/10 to record their fourth consecutive home win.
Widnes have been given a four-point start at 10/11, with Wakefield the same price to cover it. One would be tempted to back the visitors on the handicap at this stage.
St Helens v Catalans Dragons
Saints have been doing well at home of late having won each of their four home games since Justin Holbrook’s arrival as Head Coach. They welcome Catalans Dragons on Sunday, who have shown some signs of improvement under Steve McNamara but they will be playing in the Middle 8s. He’ll want his side to be competitive here as they prepare to battle for their Super League lives.
Considering their respective positions, Saints are naturally the favourites at 3/10. 10/3 is available for the Dragons with a 10-point start. You can get Evens on the Dragons with that handicap, and 10/11 on Saints to cover it, depending on the bookmaker you visit.
The statistics from recent weeks suggest that Saints will just have enough to cover the 10-point start.
We’ll have preview for each individual game later on in the week.