GARETH WALKER of League Express checks out the progress of this season’s Kingstone Press Championship competition
Everybody involved with Championship Rugby League hoped that this would be a season to remember – and the early signs have been very good.
Just looking at last weekend’s fixtures alone, the close and unpredictable nature of the majority of the results provides a good indication of what we should expect for the rest of the year.
We almost had one of the biggest shocks of recent seasons at Batley, where the Bulldogs led Bradford Bulls 19-14 with less than five minutes remaining, and the hosts playing down the famous slope.
That was when Bulls winger Danny Williams finished in the corner and Ryan Shaw produced a towering touchline conversion to edge his side back ahead. Chris Ulugia’s late try sealed the win for Jimmy Lowes’ side, but they knew they had been in a battle.
Given that the Bulldogs were tipped by most to finish in the bottom three or four, it will have reinforced the view that there are precious few given wins in this league.
The other relegated Super League club London Broncos found that out – again – at Whitehaven.
The Broncos fell to Haven’s first win of the season 18-16 at the Recreation Ground, to leave the capital club with just two victories from five to date, both of them at home.
The result should galvanise Haven after a difficult start to the season, on and off the pitch.
There was another close game up the road at Workington, where Town lost out by two points to improving Sheffield.
First half tries from centres Sam Smeaton and Menzie Yere proved just enough as Workington finished strongly.
Hunslet Hawks were almost universally tipped to finish bottom as the promoted team from Championship One – but Sunday’s win over Doncaster was already their second of the year.
In contrast, it’s the Dons who are struggling at present and currently sit at the foot of the table without a victory.
Elsewhere, Halifax eventually edged out West Yorkshire rivals Dewsbury Rams, with three tries in the last eight minutes seeing them emerge 26-13 winners.
Both sides have shown glimpses of their potential to date this season, and will now be looking for improved consistency in coming weeks.
The only match which wasn’t ultimately decided in the final 10 minutes was at Featherstone, where Leigh continued their imperious start to the season with a 40-6 win, despite trailing 6-4 at the break.
For the most part of the season to date Paul Rowley’s side have looked a class above the rest, although it remains, of course, early days
But with a fearsome pack that still has Gareth Hock to come into it, two quality halfbacks and a three-quarter line in which Tom Armstrong and Liam Kay are having field days at present, it will be interesting can see if anyone can stop their march towards top spot.
Check out Gareth Walker’s latest Championship Focus column in the next issue of League Express, out tomorrow in the shops or online from 10.30pm this evening.