After Wigan's demolition of the in form Huddersfield Giants on Thursday night, the leaders of the league after the normal season ,St Helens, repeated the feat over their West Yorkshire opponents on Friday as they comfortably overcame Castleford. Both the Giants and the Tigers live to face another day, such are the intricacies of the #Rugby League playoffs, but the authority of their conquerors will have not been lost on the other six teams still battling it out for the ultimate crown of Super League Champions for 2014.
Wigan were the double winners of Super league and Challenge Cup last time out and despite not being able to repeat their Cup success, are very much still on course to challenge for the overall Super League trophy. They took some time to get into their stride at the start of the season, but have steadily improved and have been helped by the return to action of their top players. They were always far too good for the Giants as indicated by the final score of 57-4 and now progress automatically through to the semi finals. They set their stall out early on by choosing to take an early penalty goal and get their noses in front, but thereafter the tries rained in as Josh Charnley, Matty Smith, Tony Clubb and Liam Farrell all crossed the line in the first half. The Giants may have sensed a potential comeback when Leroy Cudjoe got them on the scoreboard with a try just after the interval, but it was merely an interlude to Wigan's scoring. Tries from Joel Tomkins, Dan Sarginson, Matthew Bowen, Charnley (again), skipper Sean O'Loughlin and Joe Burgess made the result a mere formality, well before the end.
St Helens had a bit of a jittery end to their season before the play offs, but demonstrated their capabilities against the Challenge Cup runners up, Castleford on Friday with a 41-0 victory. A James Roby double in the first half set them well on course for the win, but it took them well into the second half before they put clear daylight between themselves and Cas. A further five tries in the second 40 minutes' period through Jordan Turner, Adam Swift, Tommy Makinson, Kyle Amor and Mose Masoe stretched their advantage by the final whistle.
The play offs continue on Saturday with a double header of matches, this time with the losers seeing their dreams over for another season. The early game sees Warrington take on Widnes, with the Wolves favourites to come through that one. For Widnes, defeat would be the end of a long playing career for an ex Warrington player, the 35 year old hooker Jon Clarke. However, he is not severing his ties to the club as he will then focus on his new role as head of strength and conditioning going forward. Another to hang up his boots when his team ends its play off campaign will be Michael Monaghan for the Wolves, so it could be an emotional day for both of them, one way or another.
Challenge Cup holders Leeds Rhinos face the French side Catalan Dragons in the later game, with Leeds hoping that big time experience and home advantage will see them through despite being on the back of a disappointing five loss Super League streak, that has seen their chances of leading the league after the normal season disappear up in smoke. That makes their play off chances extremely difficult, as they will need to battle through more games just to reach the final, with fresher teams in wait if they progress.