Video: Helicopter put on standby as Shield race will go to wire

0
Have your say

THERE will be a helicopter on standby at Huddersfield tomorrow night ready, if needed, to hurriedly transport the League Leaders’ Shield to Wigan.

That would, indeed, be a fittingly theatrical way to round off a dramatic end to the Super 8s, although not what anyone desires in the Broad Acres.

Brett Ferres.

Brett Ferres.

Heading into this final round, just one point separates all the top four as they each battle for No 1, delivering a perfect denouement to the inaugural event and – at this end of the table, at least - living up to its mantra Every Minute Matters.

Granted, given their inferior points difference, for fourth-placed St Helens to attain it they need the sort of result that makes Japan’s shock victory over South Africa at the Rugby World Cup look utterly mundane.

The real battle is between Leeds Rhinos, who lead Wigan Warriors only by a superior points difference, and Huddersfield Giants who sit just a point behind the top two.

Click on the video link above to see Huddersfield Giants coach Paul Anderson talking ahead of Friday night’s showdown with Leeds Rhinos.

Leeds have unwittingly played their part in bringing the competition to this intriguing head.

They were four points ahead of Wigan when they won the Challenge Cup final almost four weeks ago and looked odds-on to lift their first League Leaders’ Shield since 2009.

However, they have nosedived spectacularly since, losing all three games – at home to Saints, in Perpignan and at Headingley against Castleford a week ago – to open up the chances for their two main rivals.

That Leeds’s final game is actually at third-placed Huddersfield tomorrow (hence Super League hiring that ‘copter) only adds to the fascinating prospect ahead.

Furthermore, Brian McDermott’s squad have injury concerns with captain Kevin Sinfield a major doubt after a dead leg suffered versus Castleford, though Rob Burrow is expected to return for the trip to their West Yorkshire rivals.

In contrast, Huddersfield are as fit as a fiddle and have Brett Ferres, the influential England second-row, available again after biceps surgery in July.

Giants finished top in 2013 for the first time in 81 years but could now, theoretically, do so twice in just three seasons.

Seeking a sixth successive win, they are hitting form at just the right time and are only 80 minutes away from a maiden Grand Final.

For all their play-offs disasters in the past, this would be their greatest chance yet to win Super League especially if they defeat Leeds and gain home advantage.

Yes, though the teams making up the top four were decided with two rounds still to go, the jostling for final positions still remains important given the top two earn home status in next week’s semi-finals.

If St Helens defeat Warrington Wolves tonight Leeds could, conceivably, finish as low as fourth if they do lose tomorrow, the Giants then still needing Castleford to do them a favour by winning at Wigan in the evening’s other fixture.

A draw for Castleford might still be enough for a victorious Huddersfield but, again, points difference would come into play.

Meanwhile, Leeds duo Adam Cuthbertson and Zak Hardaker along with Saints prop Alex Walmsley are all shortlisted for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.

England and South Sydney prop George Burgess is out of the forthcoming New Zealand series due to hip surgery, while Wakefield have lifted their internal suspensions on Reece Lyne and Scott Anderson.