One More Title For McGuire?
There was some surprise at the announcement by try-sniffing ref-baiter Danny McGuire that he would leave Leeds Rhinos at the end of this season. Super League’s record whitewash-crosser was contracted to the Rhinos for 2018 but has instead chosen to end his 16-year stay at Headingley a little prematurely.
An underwhelming stint with Hull KR beckons, but before all that is sorted he has all the motivation he needs to help the Rhinos reclaim the Super League crown they so meekly surrendered last year. What better way to go out than with a record eighth Grand Final success? Tish and pish to the fact that Castleford are eight points clear after a gruelling five-month slog. It’s he who is left smiling in the rain after one game at Old Trafford in October who is longest remembered.
To that end Leeds welcome Hull FC this week. They’ll have half an eye on what the Tigers are doing at home to Salford the same night, but more importantly will hope to strike a telling blow on a rival top four contender. Lee Radford’s side did not look semi-final material when losing at St Helens last week, but cling on to their place in the chosen quartet regardless. Beat Brian McDermott’s side in this one and they will close to within a point of the currently second-placed Rhinos, and keep the likes of not only Saints but Wigan and Wakefield at bay for a while longer.
Huddersfield To Kick On In 2018
After limping to survival in 2016 Huddersfield Giants were among many people’s favourites to struggle again this year. A poor start saw them win only two of their first 11 Super League matches although within that run there were creditable draws with both Wigan and St Helens. Another battle with the Championship’s best seemed on the cards for Rick Stone’s men.
It seemed to turn around for them at the end of April, when they went to Headingley and came away with a 31-12 success over the Rhinos. They lost narrowly to a then rampant Castleford a week later, before earning a hard fought win at Catalans Dragons. They have lost just twice since, and stand on the verge of confirming their place in the Super 8s if they can overcome a Leigh Centurions side which beat the Giants 30-0 back in the dark days of early March. Though they will likely start the Super 8s too far adrift to make an impact on the top four they are starting to take shape under Stone. At the current rate of improvement they could be a more realistic contender a year from now.
The same probably cannot be said for Leigh, who face a battle for their top flight survival. Their participation in the Super 8 Qualifiers is already confirmed and the only thing left to resolve before then is whether they will finish the regular season bottom of the pile or whether that dubious honour will be bestowed upon Widnes Vikings. The Centurions have won only once away from home in Super League in their history and don’t seem likely to do so at the John Smith’s Stadium. All of which could mean it comes down to next week’s final round of fixtures, when Neil Jukes’ side take on Salford at Leigh Sports Village while Widnes travel to Cheshire neighbours and fellow bottom four dwellers Warrington.