For the first time since the first few rounds of the season, Leeds have dropped off top place and are now a point below Saints. With the Rhinos conspiring to lose at home against Castleford, and Saints putting in one of their best attacking displays of the season to beat Wigan with relative ease, we could be a seeing a small power shift in the division. The competition for places in the top four and eight are also closer than ever, so the results in Round 19 could be absolutely crucial.
1 - Back Castleford Tigers to beat St Helens @ 2.6213/8
Thursday June 18, 20:00
Castleford are finally looking like the side that finished second in the table and reached a cup final last season. Their flair plays are back, their defence looks more robust, and their tendency to flake in close-fought games has been forgotten, especially if we're judging them on last week's win. Saints are no slouches themselves, however. But, with an extra day of rest and preparation to their name, a renewed confidence and home crowd expecting big things, Cas are far too big a price to ignore. Saints are coming off one of their most physically and mentally draining encounters of the season, so it wouldn't be a shock to see them tire more quickly than they usually would. Even when they weren't playing well, Cas always raised their game against the big teams at home, and this one should be no different.
2 - Back Wigan Warriors to beat Salford Red Devils by a margin of 21-30pts @ 3.55/2
Friday June 19, 20:00
Salford, part rugby league club and part circus, are hoping that players returning from injury and suspension will give them enough to claw their way out of the bottom four and in to the top eight. That fightback isn't starting this week, though. Wigan, as they've proven a handful of times already this season, are at their most dangerous immediately after a defeat. Whether it's pride, or an additional level of concentration, they bounce back and lash out faster than any other side in the league, especially on their own patch. Wanting to keep pace with the two above them, and the chasing pack below at arms length, Wigan will click themselves up a gear and win this one fairly comfortably.
3 - Back Warrington Wolves to beat Hull Kingston Rovers by a margin of 1-10pts @ 3.185/40
Friday June 19, 20:00
By this point, we should all be aware of the admiration I have for how well this Hull KR outfit have handled themselves this season. It's genuinely been one of my favourite sub-plots to track so far. If they had a fully fit side to field this week, and hadn't just lost Terry Campese for the season, I'd be backing them to win this one all hands down. Sadly, they don't. Campese has been their playmaker this season, aided wonderfully by the likes of Dixon and Kelly, and his loss has left a major hole in their entire operation. That said, Warrington are too good a side, with too clever a head coach in Tony Smith, not to work out a way to capitalise on that and hit KR where it hurts the most. It might not be a blowout, but expect the Wolves to do just about enough to get the two points here.