It may have been overshadowed by the shenanigans between the England international and its effect on Super League this week, not to mention the European football on display, but the Championship is back for more action this weekend.
Featherstone Rovers vs Newcastle Thunder
Home advantage and their 100% record means Featherstone will be the red hot favourites for this one. They have produced some impressive rugby league this season with trio Craig Hall, Tom Holmes and Nu Brown all leading the way. Newcastle may show bouts of resistance but they will be overwhelmed as the Flat Cappers continue their ascent towards Super League.
Prediction: Featherstone Rovers 42-18 Newcastle Thunder
Batley Bulldogs vs Halifax Panthers
Two dark horses for the play-offs do battle this weekend and it should be a classic thanks to their good form at the moment. The Bulldogs have home advantage plus exciting halfbacks in Tom Gilmore and Ben White to lead in attack. In front of their own supporters it’d be silly to back against the Bulldogs. Halifax will push them close as they have plenty of talents to choose from, especially the in-form James Woodburn-Hall. It’ll provide a close contest.
Prediction: Batley Bulldogs 26-24 Halifax Panthers
Bradford Bulls vs Widnes Vikings
Having had some time off after their thrashing at Featherstone, Bradford Bulls have had time to regroup and come back fighting. They may be missing captain Danny Brough but Bradford still possess plenty of talent in Ben and Rhys Evans plus Brandon Pickersgill and Jordan Lilley. Widnes have their own threats however, with Matty Smith and Danny Craven at halfback, the latter signing a new deal at the club recently. But playing away as well as being the less consistent side will probably work against the visitors this time.
Prediction: Bradford Bulls 36-20 Widnes Vikings
London Broncos vs Swinton Lions
London Broncos, being full-time and at home, should be favoured for this one. Though they are missing some key personnel but still have Jarrod Sammut to lead the way and produce the goods. Not to fully count out the Swinton Lions but still without a league win as well as a long trip down south, they may well be overwhelmed in this one.
Prediction: London Broncos 40-16 Swinton Lions
Oldham RLFC vs Dewsbury Rams
Arguably a relegation four-pointer, Oldham host Dewsbury Rams in what could be a tricky game. Oldham have Lewis Charnock, Gareth Owen and Dave Hewitt to lead by example and home advantage could see them edge it. Dewsbury do have Super League experience in their squad but may still be lacking confidence following their recent thrashing and playing away could work against them.
Prediction: Oldham RLFC 22-20 Dewsbury Rams
Whitehaven RLFC vs York City Knights
A potential “banana skin” game for the York City Knights and it is more than possible they could come unstuck. Whitehaven have shown bouts of resistance, pushing Batley close and even giving London a fright last time out. But York, having Super League experience and all, should just have enough to get over the line in this one but it will be difficult.
Prediction: Whitehaven RLFC 18-28 York City Knights
Sheffield Eagles vs Toulouse Olympique
Do the inconsistent Sheffield Eagles have it in them to surprise the “unstoppable” Toulouse Olympique? Sheffield have produced some exciting rugby league this season and certainly know where the try line is. But Toulouse, having a whole host of stars such as Jonathan Ford and Tony Gigot, will find their grove and swat aside the Eagles and maintain their 100%, surely?!
Prediction: Sheffield Eagles 12-46 Toulouse Olympique