As we entered the final week of the regular rounds in the Betfred Championship there were still three places, in the all-important top four, up for grabs. Any three of five sides could make the four, but Toulouse, London and Halifax all knew that a victory would be enough for them to join the Toronto Wolfpack in the Qualifiers.

Toulouse were up first on Saturday afternoon against Dewsbury before Featherstone knew that a win was needed in Toronto for them to retain their outside chance of the four. The remainder of the games were scheduled on Sunday afternoon.

Halifax hosted Rochdale, London were at Barrow, and Leigh were at home to Sheffield in the crucial matches. In the final match, Batley were at home to Swinton.

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The KCOM Stadium was the venue for the Hull derby as the regular rounds drew to a close with both sides looking for form going into the play-offs in their respective eights.  A loss for FC would come close to writing off their already unlikely chances of a top four finish but for KR it was more about gaining confidence going into a daunting looking middle eights and a fight for Super League survival. The Airlie Birds had some pride to regain after being humiliated at Wakefield Trinity last week but with new signing Todd Carney making his debut from the bench, the Robins were seeking to inflict further pain and grab some solace after a poor season with some local bragging rights.
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It was first against third in the final regular round of Super League as St Helens welcomed near neighbours the Warrington Wolves to the Totally Wicked Stadium. With Saints having lost on only two occasions in 2018 they are the side to beat and were looking for a continuation of form before going into next weekends Challenge Cup semi-final. The Wolves themselves are still in the hunt for a top two finish, and a home game in the play-offs, but after tonight they will still have seven long games to overhaul Wigan Warriors and the Castleford Tigers in the race for second, which could go down to round thirty before it is decided. 
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Round twenty-three of Super League has arrived as a bit of a damp squib.  The places in the top eight are already settled with Widnes Vikings, Salford Red Devils, Hull KR and the Leeds Rhinos moving into the middle eights competition.  The top four are already seven points clear of the chasers and now likely just jostling for the remaining home tie in the end of season play-offs.

The Leeds Rhinos and Hull KR are already guaranteed four home games in the play-offs so have nothing at stake in this weeks round games.

The Championship is much more exciting with five sides still trying to squeeze into the remaining three middle eights positions with points difference likely to determine who will have the advantage of four home games.

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The penultimate games of the regular rounds in the Championship saw a couple of crunch matches which would have a considerable bearing on which sides would be playing their rugby in the qualifying eights from the middle of August.

Featherstone against London was the most appealing of fixtures, but many supporters would have had an eye on Halifax against Toulouse, and Leigh against Swinton as the sides from second to sixth jostled for the remaining three spots.

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After the Huddersfield Giants secured their top eight spot last night, it was the first of two chances for the Catalans Dragons to register their tenth win of the season and make themselves uncatchable for the Leeds Rhinos. Salford were still eyeing tenth place and four home games in the middle eights but needed two wins and Hull KR to lose next weekend, a tall ask for a side with only six wins all season. It was oppressively hot in the south of France for this crunch game in front of a partisan crowd, hoping to see their side secure Super League for 2019, but concerned about the absence of Greg Bird who was at his wifes bedside as she prepares to deliver his second child.
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All that stood in the way of the Huddersfield Giants and a place in the Super Eights was the Castleford Tigers. The Giants came into the game knowing that a win would ease them into the elite competition with a week to spare, but a loss would mean that they would likely need to beat Wakefield Trinity next weekend. The Tigers also had an agenda. A win tonight would lift them above Wigan Warriors and into second position in the table, the place required for a home semi-final in a few weeks time as they seek to return to Old Trafford and go one better than next season.
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The Wigan Warriors were seeking to put a momentary halt on the Saints charge to the Minor Premiership and to try and prevent them from opening up a ten point overnight lead in the Super League with one round of the regular season remaining. Dan Sarginson, Joe Greenwood and new signing from the Swinton Lions, Chris Hankinson, were all in the seventeen named by Sean Wane. Justin Holbrook made just one change to his side with Jack Ashworth being named on the bench. St Helens won the game between the two sides on Good Friday by a slender three points and Wigan went into the game keen to level the 2018 score between the two favourites to make the Grand Final in October.
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It’s a four day weekend for round twenty-two of Super league and a potentially critical one in the race for the remaining two places in the Super Eights. Losses for either Hull KR or the Leeds Rhinos will confirm their places in the middle eights with victories for Catalans, Wakefield or Huddersfield securing their Super Eight spot.

It is equally crucial in the Championship where a loss for the Leigh Centurions could effectively  end their middle eights campaign should Featherstone, and  Halifax get wins in their tough games with London and Toulouse respectively.

On top of all that there is plenty going on in Championship one , most notably the Sunday afternoon game when the runaway top two meet at Odsal as the Bulls take on the City Knights.

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With just two rounds of both the Betfred Super League and Championship left to play before the split into the Super Eights we thought it was about time that we speculated on the likely make-up of that all-important Middle Eights Qualifiers competition.

The bottom four sides in Super League join the top four in the Championship for a seven game mini league which will see the top three clubs into Super League for the 2019 season and the teams finishing in fourth and fifth spot playing off in a sudden death ‘Million Pound Game’ for the remaining Super League place.

With Widnes Vikings and Salford Red Devils already confirmed, they could be joined by two from; Hull KR, Leeds Rhinos, Huddersfield Giants, Catalans Dragons or Wakefield Trinity. In the Championship the only side guaranteed a Middle Eights place is Toronto with three from; Toulouse, Featherstone Rovers, London Broncos, Halifax, or Leigh Centurions joining them.

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