Super 8s permutations: Wigan, Hull FC, Wakefield, St Helens and Salford
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 12/09/17 4:23pm
Last week's Super 8s results turned the table around completely as two sides who needed to win to keep their top-four challenges alive, St Helens and Wigan, did so, and sides who were well placed in Wakefield and Hull FC slipped up.
The Black and Whites and surprise package Trinity had looked in prime position to seal up the remaining two semi-final spots, with Castleford and Leeds guaranteed as first and second, but now will have to pick themselves back up and go again.
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With Wigan having jumped above Wakefield and Hull in the table to third with their win at the KCOM, and Saints breathing down the neck of the Dreadnoughts and Hull, it's a case of four into two doesn't go as the season reaches an exciting climax.
Who needs what to finish in those precious two spots? We look at all the permutations below...
Last season's champions have put together a fabulous late run which has seen them explode into the top four.
Their dramatic last-gasp victory over 12-man Hull last week means they have won eight of their last 10, putting them in the perfect position to control their own fate.
Having began last week in fifth, the Warriors now sit third on 31 points and know that two victories from their last two games will see them into the semi-finals.
This weekend they face table-toppers Castleford at the DW Stadium on Sunday. Cas have enjoyed an exceptional campaign, and showed no signs of letting up last week after the confirmation of their League Leaders' Shield success as they ruthlessly dispatched second-placed Leeds 38-24.
One suspects the Tigers will begin to turn some of their attentions onto the semi-finals as the weeks pass though, and the Warriors will be eyeing an opportunity to claim a valuable two points.
Should they lose, the Cherry and Whites will travel to face Wakefield on the final week in what could be a hugely pressurised decider.
Without doubt the most important game of this week is Wakefield's trip to Hull on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Arena, with one point separating the pair in fourth and fifth.
The match takes on critical significance as both sides look for a return to winning ways following last week's costly defeats.
Wakefield, who were the better side for so long against St Helens, succumbed to a Jonny Lomax score with two minutes to go and are in danger of agonisingly tripping up at the last, having occupied a place in the top four for so long.
Trinity do have the advantage of facing the two sides directly above them in the next two weeks as they travel to Hull and host Wigan, but can they rouse themselves after last week's loss?
Chris Chester's men will be hoping Cas can dispatch Wigan and Huddersfield can claim an unlikely victory at St Helens.
Like Wakefield, the Black and Whites can, in many respects, consider themselves unfortunate to have lost last week.
Having lost Liam Watts to a debatable red card decision after just 23 minutes, Hull did magnificently in the second half to respond with three tries in 11 minutes to lead with just 10 to go.
Four consecutive Wigan sets saw Anthony Gelling go over with three minutes left, however, to clinch an amazing game and leave Hull devastated.
Lee Radford's charges currently occupy the fourth and final semi-final spot by a single point, and host Wakefield on Thursday in a game they dare not lose.
Should they suffer a second consecutive home defeat to a direct rival, Hull would travel to Castleford in the final week very much on the back foot.
Saints' season would almost certainly have ended had they failed to win at Wakefield last week, and having been largely outplayed for the majority, the victory will come as a major shot in the arm for Justin Holbrook and his squad.
Another huge plus for St Helens is their points difference, which at +95 is considerably more than the rest of their nearest challengers. This could become crucial.
While they are currently sat in sixth on 29 points, Holbrook's side would also appear to have a relatively kind run-in, facing the bottom two.
First up they play Huddersfield at home, who were annihilated by Salford last week, and then they travel to play the Red Devils in the final week.
Consequently, St Helens have the added bonus of watching their other rivals facing and stealing points off each other, provided they do their own job as well.
To have a chance of the top four Saints do need Hull FC to lose at least once though, but should the Black and Whites suffer another defeat, the fact Wigan and Wakefield meet on the final day and hold a worst points difference than St Helens, could see the Merseyside club end up in the top four.
St Helens have never failed to make the semi-finals of Super League in their history and will be intent on keeping that proud record in place.
Salford Red Devils
Having ended their eight-match losing run, Salford's crushing 52-14 victory over the Giants last week has given them a slither of a chance of making the top four.
Admittedly the chances are exceedingly slim, with a host of other results needing to fall their way, but there is a chance for Ian Watson's team.
For starters, Salford need obviously to win both of their final two games away at Leeds and at home to St Helens.
To then be able to nip in, they also need Saints and Hull FC to lose both their remaining fixtures, Wigan to win both of theirs and Wakefield to beat Hull FC but lose to the Warriors.
Should all of that happen and Salford win their games, it will be the Red Devils who finish in fourth.