21 September 2023

Steve McNamara enjoying ‘excitement’ of three-way battle to top Super League

21 September 2023

Catalans Dragons head coach Steve McNamara is relishing the “excitement and anticipation” of one of the tightest ever finishes to a regular Betfred Super League season on Friday night.

Catalans are one of three clubs, along with Wigan and St Helens, who head into the final round locked together on 38 points in the race to land the League Leaders’ Shield.

Arguably more important is the incentive to confirm a top-two slot, which will guarantee a single home fixture in the play-offs to reach the Grand Final at Old Trafford on October 14.

McNamara, whose side head for Salford having given their hopes a mathematical boost with a 61-0 humiliation of Leeds in Perpignan last weekend, believes the scenario is exactly what the game required.

“I think the whole competition is looking on it with excitement and anticipation, and no-one is really sure where any of the teams are going to finish,” said McNamara.

“We’ve put ourselves in a great position by winning the game in a good fashion last week, but anything can happen and all the coaches involved will just be concentrating on getting their own performance right.”

First-placed Wigan are in the strongest position, heading to near-neighbours Leigh in the knowledge that a win will all but mathematically ensure them of top spot.

Likewise, Catalans are assured of at least second place if they win at Salford – barring an improbable points swing – while Saints, who are at home to Hull FC, can capitalise if they win and either of the teams above them slip up.

“This ending is what we’ve always wanted,” said Wigan head coach Matt Peet.

“Every game has mattered in the last few weeks, and it makes the competition more interesting. It’s right down to the wire, it’s great to be involved and it’s what professional sport should be about.”

Leigh’s play-off place is already secure, but they may need a win to confirm home advantage against their Challenge Cup final opponents Hull KR.

The fast-finishing Robins head to relegated Wakefield in the knowledge that if Leigh lose and they win with a 34-point swing, next week’s play-off elimination clash will take place at Craven Park rather than Leigh Sports Village.

Meanwhile Salford could still nip into sixth slot if they upset Catalans, but only if Warrington, who currently sit in the final place, lose at Huddersfield.

We know that out of the three we're probably least likely to finish top. If you're within 20 or 30 points it does maybe alter your thinking, but now the points difference is out of the question

Saints boss Paul Wellens admits his own side are least likely to seal a top-two place, meaning they would face a home elimination play-off next week, followed by a prospective trip to the south of France in the semi-final.

“We know that out of the three we’re probably least likely to finish top,” said Wellens. “If you’re within 20 or 30 points it does maybe alter your thinking, but now the points difference is out of the question.

“We’ve just got to turn up to win the game against Hull and see what happens. Salford and Leigh are difficult places to go. All three teams at the top face a tough challenge.”

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