Boss Richard Agar welcomes expanded Super League play-offs as Leeds Rhinos get set for Catalans Dragons

Leeds Rhinos boss Richard Agar says Betfred Super League has done the “sensible” thing by ending the regular season this weekend and expanding the play-offs from four to six teams.

By Peter Smith
Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 5:45 am
Leeds Rhinos - under coach Richard Agar - are back in contention to add the Super League title to their Challenge Cup win. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos - under coach Richard Agar - are back in contention to add the Super League title to their Challenge Cup win. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

Rhinos will finish fifth and their next game is now an elimination play-off against fourth-placed Catalans Dragons on Friday, November 13.

The winners of that tie will be away to either Wigan Warriors or St Helens in a semi-final the following week.

Initially it seemed the season would be completed as planned, but that changed when 17 Castleford Tigers players contracted Covid-19 and Hull KR announced they would not play again this year because of a coronavirus outbreak.

Agar said: “I think, given all the circumstances, it is a sensible decision.

“The big thing for me is what the competition is going to look like over the last month.

“Instead of teams getting overloaded with fixtures and games getting cancelled, there is some certainty about it now and over the next few weeks we should get some really good play-off football, rather than a congested fixture list with a lot of uncertainty in it.

“I think it was probably the only solution they could arrive at after the events [of yesterday].”

The other first round match will see Warrington Wolves take on Hull.

The 15-game qualification mark for clubs to enter the play-offs - which Catalans were in danger of missing - has been scrapped and the French side’s home game against St Helens, scheduled for tomorrow, is cancelled.

Leeds’ derby with Castleford on Friday had already been called off and next week’s meeting with Wigan Warriors is now also axed.

The final two games of the regular season will take place at Emerald Headingley on Friday when Wakefield Trinity meet Salford Red Devils and Wigan face Huddersfield Giants.

Wigan will secure the league leaders’ shield if they win, but a defeat would hand top spot to Saints.

Agar stressed he would have had no complaints if the top-four format had continued, but added: “My position all along has been they need to take everything into account and come up with the fairest solution for as many clubs as possible.

“We were comfortable whichever way they went, but this way, there’s some really compelling fixtures over the rest of the competition.”

Four Rhinos players - Richie Myler, Tom Briscoe, Konrad Hurrell and Matt Prior - are currently self-isolating, but will be available to face Catalans.

Agar said Rob Lui and Kruise Leeming, who were injured in the win at Wakefield three days ago, will also be in contention.

Fifth place is Rhinos’ best finish since 2017 and would have secured a play-offs spot under the format at the beginning of the season.

“It has obviously been a different sort of comp’, but - apart from round one - I thought we started the season well and played some pretty good football,” Agar said.

“We established ourselves as a top-four team and we have been there or thereabouts since.

“Last year we successfully avoided relegation and this year we have found ourselves with some silverware and in the play-offs.

“We know we have plenty to do, this is still part of our journey and we’ve got to build for the future.

“There’s still improvements to make if we want to be challenging year in year out and challenging for the title, but I think over the course of 12 months we’ve made good progress and hopefully we can make a bit more yet still.”

Remaining fixtures:

Friday, November 6 (at Headingley) - Wakefield Trinity v Salford Red Devils (5.30pm), Wigan Warriors v Huddersfield Giants (7.45pm).

Thursday, November 12 (venue to be confirmed, 7.45pm kick-off) - third (Warrington Wolves) v sixth (Hull FC).

Friday, November 13 (venue tbc, 7.45pm) - fourth (Catalans Dragons) v fifth (Leeds Rhinos).

Thursday, November 19 - first at home to lowest-placed play-off winner.

Friday, November 20 - second at home to highest-placed play-off winner.

Friday November 27 - Super League Grand Final (KCOM Stadium, Hull).

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