GARETH WALKER, the Championship correspondent of League Express, looks at the progress of the Championship clubs in the Qualifiers.
THE Qualifiers are now firmly underway, and the four Championship clubs involved are playing their full part in the action so far.
Hull Kingston Rovers shook the competition up last weekend with their gritty 20-16 win at Super League Leigh.
It wasn’t without controversy – both coaches commented on the messy play-the-ball that led to Shaun Lunt’s winning try, with Tim Sheens admitting his side “got lucky” on that front.
But overall the Robins deserved their win, defending superbly for long periods to triumph at Leigh Sports Village for the second time this season.
Sheens’ focus is now on the coming weeks – with Championship rivals London and Featherstone their next two opponents.
Sheens said: “We’ve got one more game left before the break for the Cup and it’s important we don’t waste this now.
“We need to come out strongly next week and London at home is going to be a tough game again.
“We’ll enjoy the moment but in 24 hours’ time we’ve got to get our heads down and focus on next week.”
The Broncos come into the game after a thrilling 26-26 draw with Featherstone, Rovers centre Chris Ulugia scoring a late try and Ian Hardman holding his nerve to convert from the touchline.
“It’s a tough one, but it shows the close nature of this competition, it is so evenly matched,” coach Andrew Henderson reflected afterwards.
“We’re disappointed but you’ve got to credit Featherstone for the way they stuck with us.”
The final Championship team, Halifax, produced a gutsy display against Widnes before going down 36-12 at the Shay.
Part-time Fax trailed 26-0 at one point and looked to be heading for a heavy defeat.
But they regrouped superbly, closing the gap to 14 points and missing three clear-cut chances before the Vikings closed out the win with two tries of their own.
Coach Richard Marshall said: “We missed three opportunities in the second half and in the Championship we probably get away with that – but we’ll learn from it.”
Now they face the toughest trip in the competition in travelling to Warrington, while Hull KR host London in a crucial clash for both teams and Featherstone travel to Widnes.
The Qualifiers continue to produce excitement and tension in bucketfuls – and the Championship clubs are again contributing significantly to that.
Read Gareth Walker’s weekly Championship Focus column every week in League Express