As the season's end edges ever closer, round five of the Super 8s saw the potential for a clear split between the top four and bottom four thereby leaving just the order of the play-off semi finalists to be decided.
The round opened on Thursday night at the Mend-A Hose Jungle as top four battlers Castleford Tigers and St Helens faced off with the hosts needing a win to stay in the fight while a win for the visitors would complete the top four.
A stunning start saw St Helens race into a 18-0 lead inside 15 minutes as Adam Swift claimed a brace ahead of a Mark Percival try with Luke Walsh converting the trio. The Tigers battled back and were level just before the interval as Luke Dorn ran in a brace before Ben Roberts touched down with Luke Gale converting all three for 18-18 at the break.
Castleford's comeback was completed just six minutes after the restart as Roberts claimed his second try (Gale conv for a 24-18 lead) but Percival also was on hand to claim his second just seven minutes later with Walsh converting to level at 24-24. Gale regained the lead for the hosts with a penalty for 26-24 but it was in vain as Adam Quinlan and Tommy Makinson ran in efforts in a two minute period with Walsh converting both for a 36-26 turnaround.
Denny Solomona (Gale conv) cut the gap to 36-32 before Swift completed his hat-trick (Walsh conv) for 42-32 but the win was still up for grabs in the final minutes as Junior Moors crossed for the hosts with Gale converting for 42-38 but the visitors held on for the win.
Friday nights action came from the DW Stadium as Wigan Warriors chased top spot by hosting a injury ravaged Hull FC who were only able to name an 18-man squad as they looked to avoid bottom spot in the 8s.
Despite the visitors fielding seven Academy players against a strong Wigan side, it was one of the Warriors' Academy products who score the opening try as Oliver Gildart made it three tries in three games on 11 minutes with Ryan Hampshire converting for 6-0. Josh Charnley and John Bateman crossed wither side of the half-hour mark with Hampshire improving both for a strong 18-0 lead.
However, FC responded superbly with the interval on the horizon as Jamie Shaul raced over for a try before Jack Logan crossed just two minutes before the break and with Marc Sneyd converting both to cut the gap to 18-12 into half-time. A tight first 20 minutes after the restart saw the gap continue at just six points but just after the hour mark, Wigan reached 20 points as Ben Flower crossed for a try with Hampshire converting before adding a penalty four minutes later for a 26-12 lead.
Alike the first half, Hull came good in the final ten minutes of the half with a two minute burst from Jordan Rankin and a second effort from Logan allowing Sneyd to convert both to make it a two point game with eight minutes remaining. A slim loss would feel like a victory to the depleted FC but the gap widened in the final minute as Joe Burgess sealed the win and Hampshire converted for a 30-24 final score.
Saturday's action came from the Stade Gilbert Brutus as Catalans Dragons hosted league leaders Leeds Rhinos with the visitors hoping to regain their two point gap over Wigan at the top while the Dragons looked to avoid finishing bottom of the 8s.
The Dragons struck first after a superb run from Scott Dureau saw Thomas Bosc cross on 15 minutes and convert his own effort for 6-0 before Krisnan Inu and Todd Carney added tries which Dureau converted for 18-0 at the interval. The Rhinos seemed powerless against the strong Dragons attack and it was proved further as Bosc and Inu claimed their braces before the hour mark with Dureau's single conversion making it 28-0.
Jordan Sigismeau punished the visitors further on the hour with Dureau kicking for 34-0 and it was surely a case of how many they Dragons would score with the win looking safe but Leeds did avoid a potential nilling as Ryan Hall crossed on 63 minutes for 34-4. Jeff Lime (Dureau conv) pushed the hosts to 40 points at 40-4 before Danny McGuire scored for Leeds with a first conversion from Kevin Sinfield making it 40-10.
However the final five minutes saw the scoreline change further with Elliot Whitehead sealing a farewell try which Jeff Lima converted for 46-10 before Joel Moon had the last say for the Rhinos with Sinfield converting in the final seconds for a 46-16 final score.
The round came to an end on Sunday afternoon at the John Smith's Stadium as Huddersfield Giants looked to close up on the top two as they hosted Warrington Wolves who looked to end a woeful run of form in the 8s.
As expected, the Giants started the better with Aaron Murphy opening the scoring inside 10 minutes with Danny Brough converting for 6-0. Huddersfield stormed ahead as the in-form Jermaine McGillvary furthered his quest to become top try scorer with a seven minute brace (Brough convs) which sent the sides into the interval at 18-0.
The Wolves clearly had failed to learn from the first half as it took just three minutes for McGillvary to complete his hat-trick for 22-0 ahead of an effort from Joe Wardle just two minutes later as the Giants moved to 26-0. After suffering a 28-0 defeat to Wigan in an earlier round, the Wolves needed to strike next to prevent a repeat and they did just that as Ben Westwood crossed ahead of an effort from Roy Asotasi with Chris Sandow converting only the latter for 26-10.
However, the Giants were unfazed as they raced past 40 points as Murphy completed his hat-trick with two efforts in as many minutes before McGillvary scored his fourth with Jamie Ellis converting twice for 42-10 before sealing a self converted try to complete a comfortable 48-10 triumph.