The Championship returned last week in what proved to be a memorable opening round of rugby league from the second tier.
Big wins for promotion favourites Leigh Centurions and Featherstone Rovers plus potential dark horses Widnes Vikings and Bradford Bulls made their mark.
A huge week to follow, with former all Super League clashes here and there, as the return to normality inches ever so closer.
Bradford Bulls Vs Sheffield Eagles
The first of which, Bradford host Sheffield Eagles. The former Super League champions picked up a comfortable win at Dewsbury Rams last week and could well back it up in familiar surroundings.
Declan Patton starred with 18 points last week and is in the squad alongside the likes of Rhys Evans, George Flanagan, and Elliot Kear, so plenty of options in attack for the home side.
The Eagles may underdogs here, but could cause a stir, having the likes of Izaac Farrell and Anthony Thackeray at half-back plus experience in the back line too; however, it was a slow start in Cumbria last week and it does not look any easier for them here.
Prediction: Bradford Bulls 42-16 Sheffield Eagles
Halifax Panthers Vs London Broncos
Another two former Super League ‘greats’ as Halifax Panthers host London Broncos.
‘Fax have a strong squad named, with forwards in Ben Kavanagh, Dan Murray, Matt Garside and Adam Tangata available plus they will be desperate for redemption following the manner of their defeat Batley last week.
London though, still heavily in a period of transition, face their first trip up North and it is sure to be a difficult one, still arguably not having a settled squad, with plenty of absentees.
Too soon for them to click and the Panthers, with home advantage and all, should successfully exploit their weaknesses and kick-start their 2022 campaign.
Prediction: Halifax Panthers 32-12 London Broncos
Newcastle Thunder Vs Batley Bulldogs
Perhaps the most underrated fixture this weekend sees Newcastle Thunder against Batley Bulldogs.
Both certainly surprised last week with impressive victories; Newcastle stood firm in Workington and have survived with a strong squad for this clash.
Jake Shorrocks and Josh Woods line up at half-back plus Mitch Clark, Alex Foster, Sam Hallas and Pat Moran are available in the pack.
Batley should not be underestimated, with Tom Gilmore and Alistair Leak to lead the way, they can cause plenty of problems but their status as a part-time club is a factor, not to mention the long journey could prove costly.
Prediction: Newcastle Thunder 34-18 Batley Bulldogs
Whitehaven RLFC Vs Barrow Raiders
A real eye-opener as Whitehaven take on Barrow in an all-Cumbrian clash.
‘Haven struggled last week at Leigh and to make matters worse, lose Andrew Bulman to suspension. Though they could have Nikau Williams and Karl Dixon available, they may struggle against their neighbours, who would have gained confidence after their win last week.
The Raiders have plenty or experience, ranging from Hakim Miloudi, Luke Cresswell, Josh Wood and Jarrad Stack and could well cause plenty of problems.
Prediction: Whitehaven RLFC 18-25 Barrow Raiders
Widnes Vikings Vs Workington Town
Widnes Vikings returned from the ‘big smoke’ convincingly but will they have any mercy for newly promoted Workington Town?!
Danny Craven and Matty Smith are named, with Adam Lawton, Joe Lyons and Matty Fozard for further depth and experience.
Workington showed some resistance last week but the travel along with their situation of being newly promoted are not the only aspects that could hinder them, need any more be said?!
Prediction: Widnes Vikings 38-16 Workington Town
York City Knights Vs Dewsbury Rams
Now, back to an all-Yorkshire affair in York City Knights and Dewsbury Rams. Only one place and as many points between both sides in the table in 2021, will that reflect on this fixture?!
The Knights showed some class against Featherstone, with Jordan Thompson and Jack Teanby starring and could well cause plenty of havoc in the pack here.
Dewsbury struggled against Bradford at home and their confidence may be lower, not to mention they have undergone a transitional period in terms of players and could still take some time to settle.
Prediction: York City Knights 32-18 Dewsbury Rams
Featherstone Rovers Vs Leigh Centurions
Definitely the best for last! Bitter rivals Featherstone Rovers and Leigh Centurions do battle in arguably a very early dress rehearsal for the Million Pound Game!
Featherstone could be highly fancied at home but that depends on who they gain back after having so many out at York last week, despite winning.
Leigh meanwhile, boast plenty of former NRL quality, with Caleb Aekins starring in the win against Whitehaven.
Certainly a tough one to call but the Centurions could edge it going by having more senior players available plus their favourable record in the meetings between both sides in recent years.
Prediction: Featherstone Rovers 16-22 Leigh Centurions