GARETH WALKER of League Express looks ahead to this weekend’s crucial games in the Championship and League One
A SEASON’S work goes on the line for the remaining clubs outside Super League this weekend, with the Championship Shield final and League One promotion play-off.
Toulouse Olympique host Sheffield Eagles in the former, with the latter seeing Barrow Raiders entertain Whitehaven for a place in next season’s second tier.
The two Cumbrian clubs could hardly be entering their promotion shoot-out on the back of more contrasting semi-finals.
While Barrow were comfortably disposing of Newcastle Thunder 60-0, Haven needed a drop goal from Steve Roper in the 105th minute – yes you read that correctly – of their last four clash with York City Knights.
In what is believed to be the longest game in the history of the professional sport, Carl Forster’s side and the City Knights went beyond the initial two 10-minute halves of extra-time in the driving rain and mud at the Recreation Ground.
Eventually Roper – who has previously won promotion with both Rochdale and Oldham from this level – kept his nerve to slot the decisive kick and maintain his own hopes of a hat-trick.
He and halfback partner Paul Crook will no doubt have crucial roles to play at Craven Park, where Barrow’s own playmaker Jamie Dallimore is in sparkling form himself, scoring 28 points in the demolition of Newcastle.
Raiders shook off the pre-match loss of Nathan Mossop to injury and Brad Crellin and Martin Aspinwall to illness to ease into the final.
The match pits experienced Barrow coach Paul Crarey against the youngest boss in the professional game in Carl Forster, and promises to be a fascinating clash.
In the Championship, Toulouse will be looking to make amends for the disappointment of missing out on the Qualifiers by finishing their season with silverware against Sheffield.
The Eagles were shock winners at Batley at weekend, with Castleford-bound winger Garry Lo showing he hasn’t clocked off early by scoring two crucial tries in a 28-26 win.
Toulouse, meanwhile, accounted for Dewsbury Rams 36-22, having led 24-0 at half-time.
With key halfback Johnathan Ford now back in the side and back on song after missing the majority of the season, they will start as clear favourites.
But they would be wise not to underestimate an Eagles side full of danger – and the potential battle between PNG stars Kuni Minga and Lo on the wings could be worth the admission money alone.