The Golden Point: Rugby League around the Globe - the Playoff Picture
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 26: Korbin Sims of the Broncos is tackled during the round 20 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Cronulla Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on July 26, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Around the globe, the world of Rugby League is preparing for the run-up to various championships; from the United Kingdom to Australia.

In the global context, the North American landscape is currently in-between their ‘road to the Grand Finals’ with both of the conference teams readying for 2018 USARL playoffs in early August.

‘The Golden Point’ is a new addition to Last Word on Rugby’s coverage of International rugby league, with contributor Jason Graves highlighting competitions and news around the 13-man code.

Betfred Super 8’s

In the United Kingdom, the top two levels of the Betfred Super League family are in their final week of regular season play, with seeding and playoff spots still on the line.

The Betfred Championship competition enters the final week, with the North American  Toronto Wolfpack leading the way into the Championship Super 8’s, where they will battle for a shot at promotion to the premier division.

Currently Toulouse Olympic XIII, London Broncos, and Halifax RFC stand to join Toronto but, Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions remain just a single competition a point back, and are looking for a spot in the mixed-competition final. If Featherstone and Leigh want a shot at promotion, they’ll need to win their matches and ‘get some help’ from other results.

Heading into this weeks fixtures, Featherstone will face the mighty Wolfpack in Toronto where they will be heavy underdogs. Especially after Toronto handed Rovers an 8-point loss on the other side of the pond (back in Round 8). Leigh host eigth placed Sheffield Eagles, the Centurions looking for a repeat of their 52 point trouncing of the Eagles back in Round 11.

For Centurions or Rovers to advance to the Super 8’s not only must they win their respective match, but they’ll need help from ninth place Dewsbury Rams, 10th place Barrow Raiders, and last place Rochdale Hornets. Those three teams could transform the current standings.

If history is any marker the only hope for a loss is with Halifax who narrowly escaped Rochdale with 6 point victory back in Round 4.

Big Guns in Super League still need to secure place in playoffs

As for the Betfred Super League, the competitors are set for the Super 8’s but….final positioning is still in limbo. With St Helens firmly entrenched themselves at the top of the table, the Warrington Wolves will look to upset them – with a shot at moving ahead of Wigan Warriors themselves. The Wigan team would need to drop their match against Catalans Dragons, for that to happen though.

With an upset win, the French Catalan side could gain ground on the Castleford Tigers, who are fortunate to play last placed Widnes Vikings. Castleford are currently tied with Warrington, and are keen on possibly moving ahead of the Wolves or Warriors, to gain a better seeding. The jostling for places is as competitive as the league, and will make for an interesting build-up to the knockout matches to come.

In the other fixture, Huddersfield Giants host Wakefield Wildcats. Both teams are tied on 21 points, so a loss will likely mean an 8th placed finish, and having to face a promotion/relegation match at the end of the season.

USA Rugby League

Heading across the pond to North America’s USA Rugby League (USARL) where both conferences playoff pictures are nearly set. The Northern conference is complete, and sees table-toppers the Brooklyn Kings and perennial contenders, the Philadelphia Fight earn the important two ‘playoff byes’.

That leaves third placed White Plains Wombats to face sixth place Delaware Black Foxes. And on the other side of the draw, fourth placed New York Knights host the fifth seed Boston 13’s.

In the Southern Conference, defending champion Atlanta Rhinos face a huge task if they want the number two seed. This weekend the Rhinos will need to hand the Jacksonville Axemen their first loss of the season, while the and host the Tampa Mayhem are favored to defeat last placed Southwest Florida Copperheads. A big win here – combined with a loss to the Rhino’s will elevate the Jackonsville men.

The undefeated Axemen earned the top seed by running the table up to this point, and will host the first-year Copperheads in two weeks, as the elimination games begin.

USARL Overview: each season, clubs from two conferences (North & South) compete in an eight week schedule, followed by a playoff series that leads to a USARL Grand Final event where the best side from the North and South conferences, where the National Rugby League Champion will be crowned.

NRL continues in Round 20

Down-under, the playoffs remain six weeks away. Regular season matches are still as entertaining as ever, with the Brisbane Broncos defeating the Cronulla Sharks on Thursday night, 12-10 (see main picture).

Currently, only eight points separate table topping Melbourne Storm from ninth placed Wests Tigers (20 pts). The top sides are tied at 28 [Storm ahead, on points differential] and teams placed sixth to eight are all on 24 points – so there is plenty to play for.

With a full round still to be played, some of the leading teams are still yet to break away from the pack. The Storm’s win over the Warriors was witnessed by Managing Editor Scott Hornell.

Besides enjoying the atmosphere and big hits, he believes that there is ‘little between the top sides’ in 2018. The Roosters have not made a break, after many predicted they would be hard to beat. Sides like the Broncos and St George are still finding it hard to win at home.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs are not the ‘bunnies’ others predicted, but have a tough run-up to the final weeks fixtures. The top three teams all play each other over the next couple of weeks, and that might allow one team to gain a small lead; importantly, giving them the Minor Premiership for this 2018 National Rugby League (NRL) season.

Outside the top eight, some sides may believe they can still barge their way into the top group. Watch for the Knights and Tigers to ‘scrap it out’ as each have a legitimate shot at making it into the playoffs.

In other Rugby League News

The Papua New Guinea (PNG) Hunters are on the outside looking in as the fight for an Intrust Super Cup playoff position. By being included in the ‘supporting grades’ of the NRL, it really has benefited the Kumuls.

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“Main photo credit”
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