LEEDS RHINOS will have to improve on their regular-season results to be sure of securing the league leaders’ shield.
Rhinos are two points clear of Wigan Warriors with three games remaining in the First Utility Super-8s.
Leeds travel to Catalans Dragons on Saturday, before a home derby against Castleford Tigers five days later and a final trip to Huddersfield Giants on Friday, September 25.
Rhinos have a points difference advantage of 96, so two wins from their three remaining matches should be enough to see Leeds finish top for the first time since 2009.
Leeds are one of only two visiting teams to win at Catalans this year, after a 38-22 success in March, but they lost 31-24 to Castleford at Headingley in June and drew 24-24 away to Huddersfield two months earlier.
If those results were repeated in the play-offs, Leeds would finish with 42 points – one fewer than Wigan’s maximum total.
But Wigan also need to do better than they did in the regular rounds.
They beat Hull 13-12 and Castleford 28-0 at home earlier in the year, but slipped up 30-14 at Saints – which, if repeated, would leave them on 41 points.
The situation is clearer for Castleford Tigers, who are fifth, one place outside the play-off zone.
Tigers are four points behind third placed Huddersfield Giants and St Helens, who are fourth and both their rivals boast a better points difference.
Tigers play host to St Helens tomorrow and anything less than a win would – barring a mathematical miracle – end their semi-final aspirations.
Even if they repeat their league victory earlier in the year, Tigers would still need to win at both Leeds and Wigan –or win one and draw the other – to have a chance of sneaking into the play-offs.
Five points could be enough for Tigers to finish third, should Saints and Huddersfield lose all three of their remaining matches. Giants are at home to Warrington Wolves on Sunday and visit Hull the following weekend before finishing off against Rhinos and Saints’ final game is at home to Warrington, after the meetings with Castleford and Wigan.
It is all to play for in the Qualifiers, with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats currently fourth. If the table stays as it is, they would have home advantage in a one-off tie against Bradford Bulls, who are fifth, for the final place in Super League next year, with Hull KR, Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils all staying up automatically.
Wildcats are at home to Widnes on Saturday and finish off with two fixtures against Championship opposition, at home to Halifax and away against Sheffield Eagles. The sides immediately above and below Wakefield – Salford and Bradford Bulls – both face a tough run in and on present form Wildcats should be at least set for home advantage in the million pound match, while a win this weekend would make them favourites for a top-three finish. Catalans’ Louis Anderson has been suspended for two matches, including Saturday’s visit of Leeds, by the RFL disciplinary tribunal. He admitted Grade C kicking out at Wigan Warriors’ Sam Powell.