EACH of the top six clubs in Betfred League 1, including Oldham RLFC, is on tenterhooks this week as the last-gasp scramble for final league placings goes down to the wire.
None of the six is mathematically certain of where it will end up as the drama spills over to the very last weekend of the regular league campaign.
That’s befitting of a competition which is generally regarded as the best-ever third tier division in terms of quality, entertainment and excitement.
Leaders Whitehaven need at least a draw at Coventry on Saturday to clinch the title and automatic promotion to the Championship.
By the time Scott Naylor’s second-placed Oldham go to fourth-placed Hunslet on Sunday they’ll know whether they can still nick the crown on points difference or whether they’ll need a win at the South Leeds Stadium to guarantee a second place finish and, with it, the best possible chance of qualifying for promotion via the play-offs.
Newcastle, in third, will finish second if they win at Keighley and Roughyeds go down on a ground which isn’t one of their happiest hunting grounds.
Directly underneath those four, Doncaster (fifth) go to Workington (sixth) with only one point separating them.
Potentially all six clubs could move up or down depending on the last weekend’s results but in all probability Whitehaven will finish top with Oldham and Newcastle occupying second and third spots but in either order.
That will depend on the results from Hunslet v Oldham and Keighley v Newcastle and its fair to say that most pundits would take the view that the Tynesiders have the easier of the two challenges.
That won’t bother Roughyeds who are seeking their ninth win in ten games and know how much it will mean to the club and to departing head coach Scott Naylor if they can nail second place by avenging Hunslet’s 36-28 win at the Vestacare Stadium in April.
Said club skipper Gareth Owen:
“It’s a massive game for us. Assuming Whitehaven win on Saturday, a win for us on Sunday would guarantee us second place which, in turn, would give us a play-off final at the Vestacare Stadium if we were to get that far.
“There’s no greater incentive than that, given that promotion has been our target from the time we assembled for pre-season last November.”
Hunslet’s poor home form in recent weeks has seen them beaten at the South Leeds Stadium by Doncaster, Whitehaven, Newcastle and Workington, but coach Gary Thornton thinks a change of fortune is just around the corner.
“I think Whitehaven will go up as champions but Hunslet, Newcastle, Oldham, Doncaster and Workington are all capable of beating each other in what is sure to be a cracking play-off series.
“There are some very good teams in League 1 this year.
“It’s been a great competition and the standard of rugby has been fantastic.”