After a third successive defeat at home to Hull FC this weekend, St Helens currently stand 3rd placed in the table, 5 points adrift of current leaders, Leeds Rhinos. Previous defeats to the Rhinos and the Catalan Dragons had made Friday night a must win for Saints, who were bested by Hull FC, a team with relatively little to play for.
With Leeds Rhinos pulling further away from the pack, it seems unlikely that St Helens are going to be able to win the League Leader’s Shield in September. However, if St Helens are to challenge at the top, a victory against Huddersfield on Thursday night will go a long way in keeping their chances alive. Coming off the back of a victory against Catalan last week, this game is huge for both sides, as a Giants win would place them in 3rd place, and put St Helens in serious danger of being placed outside of the top 4. On the other hand, a victory for Saints would temporarily put them into 2nd place, until Wigan Warriors play Warrington Wolves the following night.
A weekend off for the Challenge Cup final benefits St Helens massively, who face finalists Leeds Rhinos the following weekend. A win for Leeds would almost guarantee the League Leader’s Shield for the Rhinos, so all eyes will be on St Helens to prevent a Leeds double, pending on the results in the next couple of weeks.
A tough game at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle comes next for St Helens, against a Castleford side who are always tough to beat away from home. Neutrals will be hoping to see a similar game to that of the Round 19 fixture, touted as a potential game of the season by many fans across the league.
Assuming Leeds lost their previous three fixtures and Saints manage to win, St Helens could be top of the table heading into the Wigan derby. Only the Hull derby can match this fixture when it comes to significance to its fans and their clubs. Despite only two points being on the line, this will be a must win for both their fans and to benefit their league standing. A win for Saints will be vital if they have any hope of maintaining their challenge to reach 1st place, as it seems unlikely that Leeds will lose all of their upcoming fixtures.
A final game at home to the Warrington Wolves will decide St Helens fate heading into the final stage of the season, however many fans will expect a win against a Warrington side Saints have defeated twice already this season.
I predict that St Helens will not be able to topple Leeds at the top of the table, however there is still plenty of time left for them to take second place from bitter rivals Wigan. St Helens cannot afford another defeat this season so an overturn of current form must happen, and quickly.