FROM THE outside looking in, Castleford Tigers coach Daryl Powell reckons the race to stay in Betfred Super League is too close to call.
With only three rounds remaining in the regular season, five teams – London Broncos, Hull KR, Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Trinity and Leeds Rhinos – are all in peril.
Pre-season relegation favourites London are bottom, trailing Hull KR and Huddersfield on for and against and two points behind Leeds and Wakefield.
Broncos’ three remaining games are at home to Leeds and then away against Hull KR and Wakefield.
London and Trinity boosted their survival hopes with precious wins last weekend, at Catalans Dragons and Hull KR respectively – and Giants and Hull KR are now looking anxiously over their shoulders.
Two heavy home defeats, by a combined score of 68-0, have reduced Huddersfield’s points difference advantage over London to 76 – and their next two games are at fourth-placed Hull and league leaders St Helens before a round 29 visit of Catalans Dragons.
Hull KR, who travel to Catalans and Salford Red Devils either side of the crucial home four-pointer against London, are now just 18 points better off than London Broncos on for and against,
Tigers have faced all of the bottom five over their last six games – and Hull KR, London and Huddersfield in successive matches – so Powell is in a good position to assess the relegation contenders.
Tigers lost at home to Leeds and won away against Wakefield in July. They were pipped by a golden-point drop goal at Hull KR, comfortably saw off London at the Jungle and then eased to a 24-0 victory away to Giants two days ago.
But Powell reckons the battle against relegation could still go any way. Powell observed: “I couldn’t say who will go down, it is an intriguing battle,.
“It is so tight. We were 12 points up against Hull KR and they ended up beating us in golden point. If they had lost that game they would be bottom of the pile. It is ifs, buts and maybes, but I think London have been fantastic.”
Broncos were expected to sink like a stone after securing promotion through victory in last year’s million pound match at Toronto Wolfpack.
But coached by former Leeds – where he was a team-mate of Powell’s – and Castleford player Danny Ward, they have defied all expectations to give themselves a fighting chance of staying up.
Powell said: “Wardy has done an unbelievable job.
“Everyone talked about getting rid of the Super-8s and the bottom-four because there was too much jeopardy for teams, but we have got even more now.
“There’s even more teams worried about it.
“That’s the beauty of sport and I am just glad we are not in or around that and we are at the other end, fighting for the top-five.”
Leeds visit London for their next game, followed by tough home fixtures against Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves.
Wigan Warriors at home are next up for Wakefield, followed by a trip to Warrington and the visit of London in round 29.