Rugby league has reached the most exciting part of the season when the top eight teams are separated from the rest and compete in a Super 8 group for a place in the Grand Final.
<p>Rugby league has reached the most exciting part of the season, when the top eight teams are separated from the rest and compete in a Super 8 group for a place in the Grand Final. The sport was overhauled in 2015 in a bid to make it more exciting and make promotion and relegation more sustainable and it has continued to enjoy increasing popularity as a result this season.</p><p>After 23 regular season games the Super League table is frozen and the top eight go through to the Super 8s. The bottom four Super League teams and the top four teams of the division below, the Championship, go through to The Qualifiers, where they battle it out for a place in next season’s Super League. The top eight teams are guaranteed a place in next season’s Super League. They carry their points from the first 23 games into the Super 8s and then play each other once, meaning the final table will be for 30 games. Then we move into a play-off, where first plays fourth in one semi-final and second battles third in the other. The winners of each compete in the Grand Final.</p><p>Still with us? Great. It sounds a bit complicated initially, but once you get into the swing of it, it becomes pretty straightforward. Rugby league was losing fans to rugby union and had to innovate to survive. The changes have been received pretty positively by fans. Last season Leeds Rhinos beat Wigan Warriors 22-20 in a thrilling final at Old Trafford that broke records in terms of attendance numbers.</p><p>This time the Rhinos have failed to even make the top eight. They have gone into The Qualifiers with the other bottom three Super League teams – Salford, Hull KR and Huddersfield – and they will compete with the top four Championships sides – Leigh, London Broncos, Batley Bulldogs and Featherstone Rovers – in their own mini-league. All teams start on zero points and play each other once. The top three teams earn a place in next season’s Super League, while fourth and fifth play off in the Million Pound Game to earn the final Super League place.</p><p>But the main focus will be on the Super 8s. Hull FC are top on 34 points, with Warrington second on 33, Wigan third on 32 and St Helens fourth with 28 points. Right now the form teams are Warrington and St Helens and they play each other in the first Super 8s game on Thursday.</p><p>Warrington have won five and drawn one of their last six Super League games, and they have also reached the Challenge Cup final, where they are heavy favourites to beat Hull FC on August 27. Warrington are the best team in the league right now. They battered Wakefield last weekend with a crushing performance that arguably nobody in the sport could have handled. But they find themselves up against the league’s other form side, as St Helens have also won five out of six, including a thumping win over third place Wigan Warriors last time out. It should prove to be an intriguing contest, but you would expect Warrington to just have the edge and seal a narrow victory. St Helens beat Warrington 25-22 in April, but Warrington gained all manner of revenge with a 26-4 demolition of St Helens in June. They have home advantage and the best price of 8/13 with Sky Bet looks a good option right now.</p><p>The following day table toppers Hull FC play Castleford, hoping to maintain their slender lead over a rampant Warrington with victory. They shouldn’t struggle too much, having returned to form of late with three wins on the bounce. Castleford, meanwhile, are in sixth with 10 wins out of 23, and have lost four in six. Back Hull FC at 2/5 with Sky Bet.</p><p>Wigan play Wakefield and will be grateful for the opportunity to face another team in poor form. Wakefield have lost four out of six and were destroyed by Warrington last time out. Wigan have hit a tough patch themselves, losing their last three games to slip from first to third in the table, but this should be the game that gets them back on track. The best price you can get is 1/5 at Marathon Bet, however, making this one worth avoiding as it is a very low price on a team that looks a bit lost at present.</p><p>The final fixture sees fifth placed Catalans Dragons host seventh placed Widnes and it is hard to recommend backing them at just 3/10 with Marathon Bet. The Dragons have lost six in a row and were battered 32-4 by Widnes in their last game. A quirk of the fixtures means the two face each other again in the next round of fixtures, and the <a href="http://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4829&book=William Hill">10/3 William Hill</a> is offering on Widnes repeating the feat is extremely tempting.</p><p> </p><p> </p>