A two-week hiatus from Betfred Championship rugby saw promotion chasers Featherstone and Leigh secure their place in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final at Tottenham.
London will play host to a showdown between the two runaway leaders of the division at the end of the month, but we also head to the capital this weekend for the return of Betfred Championship action.
Buoyed by their first win of the season, London Broncos welcome Newcastle Thunder to the Cherry Red Records Stadium on Friday evening.
An impressive display against Dewsbury Rams two weeks ago earnt the Broncos their first victory of the season – a dominant first half saw Coleman’s men go in at the break 22-0 up, with loanee Dane Chisholm the heartbeat of the game.
Chisholm has moved on since, so the Broncos will have to find a way to replicate such an impact if they’re to make it another win this weekend. Calum Gahan and Lewis Bienek added to their tallies for the season with two tries each last time out, and will look to extend their run of form on Friday.
Visitors Newcastle won’t be as high in spirits as their opponents, though. The Tynside outfit are on a three-game losing streak after a tough home defeat to Halifax in Round 10.
Thunder have shown real signs of promise at times this season following their switch to full-time status, and despite their struggles, will find themselves within touching distance of a play-off spot if their trip to the capital is a successful one.
They’ve also been boosted by the return of six players from injury: Josh Woods, Ukuma Ta’ai, Jake Shorrocks, Brad Gallagher, Craig Mullen and Alex Foster are all in the 21-man squad for this weekend.
A Cumbrian derby will kick things off on Saturday, when Workington travel to Barrow. The away side remain pointless this season, but provided a stern test for Batley Bulldogs last time out.
Workington were ahead at half-time, but a ten-minute spell for Batley in the second-half was enough to turn the game on its head.
Performances have been more positive in recent weeks, and Workington will look to the form of Alex Clegg in particular to help turn the performances into wins – the winger has scored in four of his side’s last five games, including two in the defeat against Batley last time out.
Barrow have only won one of their last six Betfred Championship outings, but remain in the play-off spots thanks to a strong start to the season.
They’ll want to bounce back from last week’s AB Sundecks 1895 Cup semi-final defeat, and look for a repeat of the performance that saw the Raiders progress when the two sides met in the Betfred Challenge Cup back in March where they triumphed 32-18.
We also head to Odsal for Bradford Bulls vs York City Knights, after both sides enjoyed fine wins in Cumbria in Round 10. Bradford beat Whitehaven 22-34 to put an end their losing streak, whilst the Knights’ 18-30 victory at Barrow made it six wins on the spin.
Bradford remain play-off hopefuls, just one point off sixth. The Bulls got the better of York last time the two sides met, winning 18-36 at the LNER stadium towards the end of last season.
York are full of confidence, though. The Knights’ six game winning run has propelled them into third, comfortably in the play-off spots – they’re as close to undefeated leaders Featherstone as fourth-placed Batley are to them, and their only two league defeats came at the hands of the two sides above them. Can Bradford stop them in their tracks or will York’s promotion hopes get another boost?
Featherstone’s momentum continued last week as they booked their place in the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup final – a trip to Tottenham awaits with spirits high as their focus shifts back to promotion to the top flight.
The undefeated league-leaders continue their promotion push with a trip to Dewsbury, who have struggled this season. Rovers boast the division’s top point scorer in Craig Hall, who has racked up a staggering 140 points just by himself so far this season and is replicating the form that saw him pick up last year’s Betfred Championship Player of the Year award.
Dewsbury however, have found themselves in trouble after London Broncos picked up their first win of the season against them in Round 10, and now sit just one point above the relegation zone. Injuries meant the Rams have struggled at full back, but their capture of Huddersfield Giants’ Aidan McGowan this week will give them a much-needed boost.
Elsewhere in West Yorkshire, Halifax Panthers host Sheffield Eagles. The Panthers are enjoying a rich vein of form currently, having won their last five Betfred Championship games – two of their three defeats this season have come in hard-fought encounters with Featherstone and Leigh, and Simon Grix’s side are looking every bit the team that launched an impressive run to the play-off semi-finals last year.
Halifax had too much for Newcastle last time out, with a Lachlan Walmsley brace inside the opening ten minutes setting the tone for the rest of the day – Joe Keyes grabbed a try too, meaning only Craig Hall has scored more points than the halfback this season on an individual level, whilst only Leigh and Featherstone have scored more points than them overall.
Sheffield Eagles will hope to bounce back from a defeat against Leigh last week, that saw them crash out at the semi-final stage of the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup.
Their four defeats in their last ten games across all competitions have come to Featherstone, Leigh (twice), and Betfred Super League outfit Hull FC – their record stacks up well against sides closer to them in the table, can they send a statement of intent to their play-off rivals this weekend?
Whitehaven travel to Merseyside to take on Widnes Vikings, who have really struggled since finding themselves at the top of the table after four games.
The home side have lost their last six, and a 74-6 hammering away to Featherstone in Round 10 only compounded their troubles.
They go into this weekend’s game ahead of their opponents in the table, though – a gruelling run that included Featherstone, Batley and Leigh in their previous three games can be put behind them as they look to turn their fortunes around with some new faces added.
In addition to the return of a number of injured players, the Vikings have welcomed prop Josh Johnson this week, along with the loan signing of Featherstone’s Callum Field.
Since their derby victory against Workington last month, Whitehaven have fallen to two defeats against York and Bradford.
Despite some sound attacking displays, the Cumbrian side’s defensive woes continue to haunt them – only Dewsbury and Workington have conceded more points this season than Whitehaven. Can they pull away from those below them with a win against an out-of-form Widnes?
Our final instalment of Betfred Championship action this weekend sees Batley Bulldogs host Leigh Centurions on Monday evening, live on Premier Sports.
In what is the pick of the weekend, two teams with top-flight aspirations will clash – since their draw against leaders Featherstone, Batley have won four on the trot and will be hoping to upset a promotion favourite once again when they welcome Leigh.
They boast the third-best defensive record in the division this year, which could prove vital as they hope to find themselves in the play-offs again and go one further than last season.
The Leythers will roll into Kirklees with their tails up, though. Adrian’s Lam men may have a bounce in their step following confirmation of their place at Tottenham at the end of the month, to add to their impeccable league form.
The electric Nene Macdonald added another try to his tally for the season in last week’s semi-final, and remains the top try scorer in the Betfred Championship this year with 10.
New signing Ben Nakubuwai made his debut last week too, as Leigh look to bolster an already-impressive squad in their quest to make their stay in the second-tier a quick one.
This week’s Betfred Championship fixtures
- London Broncos vs Newcastle Thunder – 19:45
- Barrow Raiders vs Workington Town – 15:00
- Bradford Bulls vs York City Knights – 15:00
- Dewsbury Rams vs Featherstone Rovers – 15:00
- Halifax Panthers vs Sheffield Eagles – 15:00
- Widnes Vikings vs Whitehaven – 15:00
- Batley Bulldogs vs Leigh Centurions – 19:45 – live on Premier Sports