Pre-season fixtures ahead of the 2023 campaign are well under-way for most clubs, yet to start for some whilst some ended their pre-season hit outs this weekend.
With the Championship set to start this upcoming week it’s evident that all 14 of those sides have finished their pre-season and as such it’s easy to gauge how much they’ve impressed given we’ve seen all that we can.
For some Super League sides though they’re yet to take the field whether it be designed or out of their hands with Warrington opting for two later pre-season games as they face Leigh and North Wales in February, whilst Catalans simply struggled to arrange games and Huddersfield have had their one scheduled game called off due to the cold snap.
League One is also yet to start so some of teams from the third tier will still continue to play but so far with the Championship under a week away and Super League and League One just over a fortnight away here are the three teams who have impressed the most so far.
Leeds Rhinos 20-38 Wakefield Trinity
Wakefield Trinity 28-16 Halifax Panthers
Wakefield Trinity 24-12 Featherstone Rovers
It’s an obvious case to make for Trinity as they remain unbeaten with three wins from three in their pre-season having defeated Leeds, Halifax and most recently Featherstone.
Heading into their first campaign with Mark Applegarth as their head coach they’re a side that have already been written off by the bookmakers and one of the few teams to have recruited less than five players but Trinity have impressed in each outing.
Their Boxing Day performance against Leeds saw them face a young and experimental side but they took control of the game and played very well, much the same as their performance three weeks later against a Halifax side that will fancy their chances in the Championship this year.
Sunday showed their best result though and also their resolve as they beat a strong Featherstone Rovers side that are heavily tipped for promotion and they did it having gone 12-0 down at half-time. Under some pressure in front of their home crowd they put up 24 unanswered points and maintained their unbeaten run in impressive style.
Featherstone Rovers 26-10 Castleford Tigers
Featherstone Rovers 28-0 Hull KR
Wakefield Trinity 24-12 Featherstone Rovers
As boring as it is to mention the names that everyone has been shouting about Featherstone deserve all the credit they’ve earned so far with Sean Long having taken over and fitted in seamlessly.
An impressive recruitment drive has certainly helped but their pre-season form has also contributed to their status as Championship favourites with victories over Castleford Tigers and Hull KR preceding their loss to Trinity.
The Castleford victory came on New Year’s Eve and did come against a very young Tigers side however their victory in Craig Hall’s testimonial game against KR was no fluke at all as they hammered the Robins 28-0 in front of their fans at the Millennium Stadium.
That was a KR side that had some first team players involved including the likes of Jordan Abdull and new signing Tom Opacic as well as Irish World Cup star Ethan Ryan to name a few, but the Flat Cappers made easy work of it. They came 40 minutes shy of a near perfect pre-season with their first half display yesterday impressing before their second-half collapse, however they’ll still be the team everyone fears in the Championship and rightly so.
Barrow Raiders 52-24 North Wales Crusader
Barrow Raiders 14-4 Workington Town **Abandoned after 53 minutes**
Barrow Raiders 26-14 Wigan Warriors
The side that shocked much of the Championship last year given that they’d just achieved promotion have had a shockingly good pre-season with three wins from three albeit an asterisk next to their abandoned Cumbrian derby game.
Having lost Tee Ritson to St Helens, there was a worry about where the tries would come from but running in 10 in their pre-season opener eased those nerves and since then Barrow haven’t taken a backwards step.
Paul Crarey’s men were leading the Cumbrian derby before it was abandoned but were value for their lead and then yesterday they took a step up in test as they defeated Challenge Cup holders’ Wigan Warriors.
Only the week prior had Wigan defeated Cumbrian Championship rivals Whitehaven however Barrow managed to put them away despite the presence of some first teamers in the Wigan squad including Abbas Miski, Brad O’Neill, Joe Shorrocks, Kaide Ellis and Patrick Mago highlighting the impressive nature of the win. They’ll now head into the Championship looking at another promotion push.