Round five delivered on drama in the Super League Qualifiers as two sides made big strides to maintain their Super League status while the Widnes Vikings threw themselves the thinnest of lifelines by recording their first win of the competition.  Two of the games were won by narrow margins while the others were competitive and there was plenty of controversy throughout the weekend with incidents of alleged biting, dodgy try decisions, red and yellow cards and refereeing controversy. It’s clear that all eight sides are getting nervy.
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Both the Toronto Wolfpack and Toulouse Olympique XIII came into this fifth round Qualifiers fixtures on four points but two places apart on the league ladder due to points difference.  It was a crucial game with the winner putting themselves in pole position for being the home side in the Million Pound game, the loser more likely to be playing their rugby in the Championship in 2019. This was the third meeting between the two teams, Toronto winning the game at the Magic Weekend in May by 43-30 and narrowly winning the game in France in April by 24-22. Toulouse had a disappointing loss in London last time out, while Toronto lost to Salford. Both sides had a point to prove.
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The two sides which haven’t registered a single point in the Super Eights Qualifiers met at the Select Security Stadium as Widnes Vikings hosted Halifax in the deadest of dead rubbers. Neither side had any hope real hope of making the Million Pound game so there was just pride to play for, along with the first two points in the competition for one of the teams. Widnes had lost their last twenty league matches but they came into the game as the favourites to overturn a Halifax side who have leaked an average of thirty-five points a game, while scoring an average of just over eight.
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The Wigan Warriors went into tonights game knowing that a win would end opponents Warrington Wolves hopes of a top four finish and give them a massive advantage over third placed Castelford Tigers going into the last two games of the Super Eights. Wigan had won all four of their Super Eights fixtures while Warrington had recorded just one loss. It’s honours shared with two wins each in the four meetings so far this season, Wigan winning the last match up between the two sides at the DW two months ago by a margin of 13-12.
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With Huddersfield’s race for the top four ending last weekend, it was the Castleford Tigers who came into tonights match at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle with the motivation to perform. A win would put them within a point of second spot and keep their hopes of a home play-off alive. But a loss could see them drop to fourth at the end of the weekend. Giants were victorious in the last meeting between the two sides a couple of months ago, having been beaten on their own ground earlier in the season but the bookies saw only a Tigers win as they looked to keep the pressure on the top two.
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Round four was the time that those with aspirations of Super League in 2019 needed to show their mettle and pick up the crucial two points to put themselves in the reckoning.  Game of the round saw the Toronto Wolfpack travel to unbeaten Salford Red Devil’s while London Broncos and Toulouse had a critical Sunday afternoon meeting.  Hull KR knew that a win over Halifax would greatly improve their chances of an automatic place while Leeds Rhinos needed an improvement as they travelled to a pointless Widnes Vikings.
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Salford all but secured their Super League place with victory over  Toronto Wolfpack – but the win came at a price with talismanic half-back Jackson Hastings likely to miss a number of games, not least next week’s visit to Leeds, after a late red card. The opening 40 minutes belongs almost exclusively to the hosts. Toronto offered no threat and on the few occasions when they did finish a set in their opponents’ 20, it inevitably petered out.
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Without a win in over two months and on the back of seven consecutive losses and a record Super League defeat at Warrington last time out, there were low expctations amongst Hull FC supporters as they gathered at the KCOM Stadium for tonights Super Eights encounter with the Castleford Tigers. The Airlie Birds won the last encounter between the two sides, also at the KCOM, back in early May by 36-12 but this time the pundits were strongly backing the Tigers to pick up the two points that they needed to guarantee a top four finish. This couldn’t be the week that FC rediscovered their form, could it?
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Wigan Warriors came into tonights game against Wakefield Trinity with two clear objectives. The first was to ensure that they didn’t gift the Minor Premiership to arch rivals St Helens who would then just need a win in France on Saturday. The second was to increase their lead in second place to five points over the Castleford Tigers and edge themselves closer to a home tie in the play-offs. Wakefield Trinity, with no realistic chance of making the top four, had just one aim...to spoil Wigan’s night. Wigan coach Wane made a number of personnel and positional changes to the side which defeated the Saints last week while Chris Chester replaced Kyle Wood with Tyler Randell at hooker and had Chris Annakin and Joe Arundel on the bench.
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Could this be the weekend that St Helens finally mathematically seal the minor premiership with a win on Saturday afternoon in Perpignan? The bookies think so with Saints installed as big favourites to pick up the all-important two points. Should Wakefield Trinity spring a surprise and beat Wigan tonight then the race for top spot will be over and the Warriors second spot will be under threat if Castleford Tigers beat a Hull FC side who are in an awful run of form.

In the Qualifiers Salford could get to within a whisker of retaining their Super League spot with a win over the Toronto Wolfpack while a Leeds Rhinos win at pointless Widnes will make them breathe much easier. The game of the weekend is the clash between the London Broncos and Toulouse which could give us a better indication of which sides will end up in the million pound game in a months time.

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