Until a month ago, Leeds Rhinos were almost unstoppable.
They were six points clear at the top of the Super League table with just four Super 8s rounds remaining and had just celebrated a record-breaking 50-0 Challenge Cup final triumph over Hull KR at Wembley.
Few were prepared to bet against the Rhinos not securing a League and Cup treble.
But just like last year, when Leeds lost all their momentum after their Wembley success over Castleford, they’ve suffered a monumental Cup final hangover.
Since their glorious weekend in the capital, they’ve been beaten at home by St Helens, 32-18, and Castleford, 29-22, and hammered 46-16 at Catalans Dragons.
The wounded Rhinos have also suffered a number of injuries to key players along the way, with the likes of Brett Delaney, Paul Aiton and Liam Sutcliffe already ruled out, and question marks hanging over the fitness of Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Stevie Ward.
Having said that, the fact Leeds could still win the Super League Leaders Shield if they beat the Giants could well be enough to motivate them to produce a champion performance at the John Smith’s Stadium.
They’ve certainly already shown they have what it takes to overwhelm this week’s hosts, storming to a big 48-16 home Challenge Cup sixth-round triumph over the Giants in May.
But after edging past Huddersfield 28-24 at Headingley in round three and then sharing in a thrilling 24-24 draw at the Giants two months later, the smart money is on another very tight contest in this massive final Super 8s fixture.
Adam Cuthbertson has been a revelation in his first season in Super League.
The 30-year-old Australian prop, who qualifies to play for England through his Warrington-born father, has led the Leeds Rhinos pack by example all year, regularly taking the lead from the mercurial Jamie Peacock.
Cuthbertson’s offloads have been one of the Rhinos’ most effective strike weapons in 2015 and it’s no surprise he’s been shortlisted for the Super League Man of Steel award along with teammate Zak Hardaker.
Leeds may have lost their last three Super 8s fixtures, but with players like Cuthbertson and Hardaker around, the Rhinos’ potential threat can never be underestimated.
Super League officials are hiring a helicopter to ensure the league leaders’ shield can be presented on Friday night.
In the closest finish yet to a Super League campaign, with only one point separating the top four clubs, any one of them can still claim the shield, although St Helens’ chances are slim.
The trophy will be at Huddersfield’s John Smith’s Stadium for the kick-off between current leaders Leeds and the third-placed Giants along with Rugby Football League chief executive Nigel Wood, who will be ready to make the presentation.
However, a helicopter is being put on stand-by at the golf driving range next to the stadium, ready to whisk the trophy, accompanied by Super League general manager Blake Solly and Ed Cam of sponsors First Utility, on a 30-minute flight to Wigan if the Warriors claim top spot after their home game against Castleford.
“We felt that, rather than handing over the trophy a week later, it was right to give the winners the opportunity to celebrate in front of their fans straight after the match,” Solly said.
The shield winners will collect a cheque for £100,000 - double last year’s prize - as well as a guaranteed place in the 2016 World Club Series.