Brian Carney reflects on round 22 of Betfred Super League as Wakefield closed in on a top-four finish at the expense of a stuttering Hull FC.
Trinity capitalised on Hull’s loss at Headingley to leapfrog the Airlie Birds into fourth place, Bill Tupou starring for Chris Chester’s men .
Mark Percival again impressed as St Helens overcame Catalans, Greg Eden’s injury took the gloss off Castleford’s win against Salford, while Wigan and Warrington served up a turgid contest at the DW Stadium on Thursday night.
It’s a good week in what is a big year for Percival. Last week he made the headlines for his spectacular try against Hull, and backed that up against Catalans with another dominant performance at centre.
All eyes are on whether Percival gets that left centre spot for England in the World Cup. Zak Hardaker started there against Samoa but Percival has got to be in the pole position.
It was a big win for St Helens against Catalans because it sets up their round 23 game with Wakefield beautifully.
Saints are three points behind fourth-placed Trinity and if they can register another win on Sunday it would give them further momentum heading into the Super 8s.
In popular perception, St Helens are not in the reckoning for the semi-finals, but that changes if they beat Trinity.
Speaking of Wakefield, top four and four home games in the Super 8s is now theirs to lose.
With the big win over Widnes and yet another outstanding display by Bill Tupou – someone we spoke about in this column earlier in the season – they leapfrogged Hull FC into the top four.
Sunday’s clash with St Helens is a big game for the club. Four home games in the 8s and yet again the biggest ‘overachievers’ of the year march on.
They had a big win away to Featherstone in a weekend where Toulouse upset Hull KR. Halifax remain two points ahead of Toulouse in fourth and it sets up a tense final round.
Toulouse host Featherstone on Saturday so Halifax will know what is required when they tackle leaders Hull KR a day later.
Richard Marshall’s men remain in the box seat to be in the Qualifiers and now it’s looking at what teams they can upset. They have built upon being one of the most defensively sound sides in the Championship this year.
It will go down to the wire but Halifax have put themselves in a great position.
Wigan v Warrington
Thursday’s game at the DW Stadium was as disappointed as I’ve been coming away from a ground in a long time.
Admittedly I should not have gone to the match with big expectations, given the form of both sides, but recently I have seen signs of a Wigan revival.
This was as ugly a game as you’re likely to see, two clubs that gave a performance so far below what we’ve come to expect from them.
Well done to Warrington on getting the win – although Huddersfield’s victory over Leigh consigned them to the Qualifiers – but in terms of entertainment in sport, this had none of it.
Warrington’s defence kept Wigan out for the last 60 minutes but I’d put a large amount of that down to a Wigan attack that was way off. Warrington’s wasn’t much better.
Eden has finished moves and scored tries this season that others can’t do, and the images of him leaving the ground with his arm in a sling were very sad.
I feel for the guy. He has had a career of up and downs but this is his best, most consistent season. I’m not just talking about tries but all-round performances.
Eden’s loss is massive for Castleford but I still think they can survive without him. However, they will be less of a potent attacking force.
Tigers fans will have their fingers crossed they will see Eden again before the end of the year, and that they don’t lose another key player to injury. Their fantastic season goes on but it was a bad picture.
We have mentioned Hull losing in clusters earlier this season, and yet again they suffer three defeats on the spin.
Lee Radford said after Friday’s loss to Leeds that they’re going to strip things back, although they don’t need to start from scratch. Going to Headingley and losing 10-7 is no disgrace.
That defeat in isolation, you wouldn’t look too deep into it. And of Hull’s last three losses, two have been against Castleford and Leeds.
It’s just they’ve shown a habit of consecutive defeats this season and they have big games coming up against Huddersfield, as well as the Challenge Cup semi-final.
What side does Radford pick for round 23? Does he have one eye on the cup semi-final?
I won’t say it’s worrying times for Hull but that squad is going to sit down and have some deep and meaningful conversations this week.