After over a year’s hiatus, the clubs from the Betfred Championship have finally been allowed out to play once again.
The Easter weekend is set to kick off all the action as the sides trade in their armchairs for regular playing time.
But, just how will round one pan out?
Halifax Panthers Vs London Broncos
A mouth-watering clash to start proceedings as two former Super League clubs go head-to-head in the shape of the newly-branded Halifax Panthers who host London Broncos. It’s a tricky game as both teams have been in a period of transition and have had very shaky starts to 2021 in the Challenge Cup. However, Halifax, with home advantage and all, could be favoured, as they also possess a considerable amount of Super League experience in their squad that could well overwhelm Danny Ward’s side, despite their full-time status.
Prediction – Halifax Panthers 20-18 London Broncos
Oldham RLFC Vs Swinton Lions
An old rivalry between Oldham RLFC and Swinton Lions. An interesting and fiery clash as both teams have made somewhat promising starts in the Challenge Cup. Oldham have home advantage and have recruited rather well but so have Swinton, who have arguably played more confidently which is possibly the reason for their progression in the Cup. It will be a close one, but the Lions look to be a stronger side and could sneak it.
Prediction – Oldham RLFC 16-22 Swinton Lions
Featherstone Rovers Vs Batley Bulldogs
Despite off-field activities concerning the home side, Featherstone Rovers’ back-to-back home game with Batley Bulldogs remains on. Featherstone fought off a Bulldogs fight back in the Cup and it could be another tense game here. However, Rovers still possess a strong side and with home advantage too, they should have enough to see off Batley once again.
Prediction – Featherstone Rovers 30-16 Batley Bulldogs
York City Knights Vs Toulouse Olympique
Another exciting clash sees two clubs who applied for the 12th Super League spot as York host Toulouse. Both teams have named strong squads for this game, with plenty of top-level experience on both sides. However, despite playing away, Toulouse looked good in pre-season, are a full-time team and have recruited well and should have enough to edge past the Knights.
Prediction – York City Knights 22-26 Toulouse Olympique
Dewsbury Rams Vs Whitehaven RLFC
Another ‘grudge match’ as Dewsbury host Whitehaven. The Rams will hope to avenge their Cup exit up in Cumbria and having home advantage could well put them as favourites. That and having experience in Liam Finn and Paul Sykes, plus further Super League experience in Chris Annakin, Matty Fleming, Michael Knowles and Jason Walton will no doubt help too. Whitehaven have shown some resistance and will put up a fight but look likely to miss out on this occasion.
Prediction – Dewsbury Rams 26-18 Whitehaven RLFC
Sheffield Eagles Vs Bradford Bulls
In their ‘home away from home’ Sheffield Eagles welcome Bradford Bulls to the Keepmoat stadium. Sheffield showed some promise in the Challenge Cup and could well cause plenty of problems here. The Bulls, suffering two defeats in pre-season and the Cup, are in transition themselves under John Kear and could well be too much for their youngsters to cope with here.
Prediction – Sheffield Eagles 28-30 Bradford Bulls
Newcastle Thunder Vs Widnes Vikings
Widnes Vikings will travel to the newly promoted Newcastle Thunder as both teams will begin their ‘outside shot’ for Super League. Newcastle have recruited some big names but seem to be taking time to settle together whereas Widnes, full of experience, have started well under Simon Finnigan. The Thunder will give it a good go but Widnes’ professionalism, amongst all else will help them out on top here.
Prediction – Newcastle Thunder 18-32 Widnes Vikings