With John Yates
Head for the medicine cupboard and bring out the vallium ... the battle for top spot in the First Utility Super League regular season is going right down to the wire.
And I defy anyone to confidently forecast which of the two title contenders, Saints and Castleford Tigers, will emerge as top dogs after this weekend’s final round of fixtures.
Both clubs face unpredictable and tough outings – St Helens travelling to Huddersfield Giants on Friday and the following evening Cas facing the Catalan Dragon in the south of France
It could be all done and dusted if Saints avoid defeat at the John Smith’s Stadium but Huddersfield will also be desperate to pick up maximum points to improve their current fifth spot in the table and at the same time avenge a controversial 17-16 Challenge Cup exit earlier in the season.
A St Helens setback will, however, open the door for Cas to clinch the League Leaders’ Shield at the Stade Gilbert Brutus for the very first time on points difference. It could be as close as that!
Don’t know about you but I was a little disappointed by the attendance at the crucial First Utility Super League clash between Saints and Warrington Wolves on Thursday.
A crowd of 12,854 didn’t reach the expected level – even on a night blessed by fine weather – and I was left wondering why. Admittedly it was the fourth highest turn out for a home fixture this season and only trailed in term of numbers the visits of Wigan Warriors (17,980), Leeds Rhinos (13,788) and Hull FC (13,488).
But there was so much at stake – the possibility of Saints lifting the League Leaders’ Shield and Warrington vying for at least second spot – that I didn’t anticipate seeing quite a few empty seats and the visitors’ end far from being packed to the rafters.
There is a possibility that the two teams will meet again in the play-offs, depending on results, and if so I will be interested in how many fans pass through the turnstiles.
Putting the boot in
Talk about putting in the boot when someone is down!
Like many fans at the Warrington match, I thought Sky TV’s decision to show the League Leaders’ Shield being packed away after it became clear that Saints hadn’t a hope in hell of picking it up that night was a little insensitive.
Others, however, may share the view of one eminent RL journalist who described its screening as “sheer sporting theatre”.
At the same time it also begs the question as to why the trophy was brought to Langtree Park in the first place with no guarantee it would be collected on the night.
Surely it would make more sense to present the trophy once the winners are known – ideally in front of the home fans ahead of their first play-off fixture and adding an extra buzz to the occasion.