WELL it’s business time of the year....

No doubt everyone associated with Saints watched on with frustration as our rivals from over the lump claimed the league leaders shield for the first time since 2012 on Friday.

After leading the league ladder all the way from restart, the Saints dropped below the Warriors on win % following the derby loss two weeks ago. As much as it pains me I congratulate Wigan on their silverware.... but the real competition starts this week!

Priority is always winning the big one, the Betfred Super League trophy in the biggest game of the year, the Grand Final.

Saints are only one win away from booking their place at the KCOM Stadium on Friday 27 November, and the chance to retain their title.

Despite finishing second in the regular season, we still remain favourites to end the season as champions with Super League title sponsors Betfred, priced at 6/4.

Due to finishing in the top two, both Wigan and Saints have a weekend off, enabling both to watch with keen interest the first round of elimination games and see who they will play in next week’s semi-finals.

Last year I spoke about whether it’s a help or hindrance having a week off before a semi-final, but surely after the crazy run of games this year due to the current global pandemic that the rest will be gladly welcomed.

This allows Kristian Woolf the opportunity to freshen his troops, especially the big fellas in the pack who have all played big minutes during the past few months. One guy who will be more than ready to rip in is the outstanding Alex Walmsley. Big Al missed the Wigan derby after picking up a one match suspension for a careless tackle, but will be a massive boost going into the biggest game of the season so far.

Saints will play the highest ranked winners of Warrington v Hull and Leeds v Catalan. On paper you’d have to say Warrington look favourites to meet us, with Wigan facing the winners of Leeds and Catalans, but as we all well know rugby league doesn’t work that way, and I’m sure Hull FC won’t be lying down for anyone having been given a second lifeline in the play-offs!

Both Saints and Wigan will have home advantage for these games, but of course, unfortunately still behind closed doors.

My tips this week are Warrington to overcome Hull FC, and the ever-improving Leeds Rhinos to have too much for their French visitors, all leading to two cracking semi-finals in the penultimate round of the Betfred Super League.