Gareth Walker’s early-season Championship report cards – Part 1

Toulouse A

Sylvain Houles’ side haven’t quite been at their sparkling best yet, but it’s hard to argue with five wins from five.

Their defence has again looked solid in conceding just 48 points in the wins over York, Oldham, Sheffield, Whitehaven and Batley.

The pick of those was a 58-6 triumph at home to the Roughyeds, and although other performances haven’t been quite as fluent, they remain one of the competition favourites, while they are brilliant to watch when they click into gear.

Leigh Centurions A+

In short, the Centurions have been the most impressive Championship team to date.

John Duffy’s side win in tough conditions at Dewsbury, before sweeping aside both Sheffield and York with clinical displays that yielded 92 points for the concession of just 10, and featured swaggering attacking performances.

They then showed terrific resilience to overcome the dismissal of Jarrod Sammut against Halifax, and also eased past Batley to progress in the Challenge Cup.

Featherstone Rovers A

Four wins from four is as much as coach James Webster can have asked of his new-look squad, which remains small in number and reliant on loans and dual-registrations.

They started with three straight impressive away wins at Batley, London and Bradford, which were matches that are likely to be among the toughest trips for any side this year.

They were less eye-catching at home to Swinton (or when hosting Barrow in the Challenge Cup) but they found a way to win both games and will undoubtedly be among the teams to beat when we’re able to restart.

London Broncos B-

Jacob Ogden of London Broncos (2nd left) celebrates after he scores a try during the Betfred Championship match between London Broncos and Whitehaven RLFC at Castle Bar , West Ealing , England on 9 February 2020. Photo by David Horn.

After hard fought opening wins over Whitehaven and Bradford, Danny Ward’s side were very impressive in taking apart Widnes 38-12 away from home.

But after that they stuttered a little, losing comprehensively to Featherstone in the league and narrowly to York in the Challenge Cup, both times at home.

Improvement came with a revenge win at the Knights in the league and the Broncos remain likely to be among the front-runners.

Widnes Vikings C+

It’s been a bit of a topsy-turvy start for Tim Sheens’ men, which started solidly enough with comfortable wins over Oldham and Batley.

That hit a buffer when relegated London beat the Vikings 38-12 at home, and it was followed by a disappointing loss at Dewsbury.

It was also tight against Whitehaven the following Sunday until a late Widnes flurry, but once Sheens’ young squad gets fully accustomed to his methods there is certainly the talent in their ranks to be pushing the top five.

Dewsbury Rams A-

Batley RLFC v Dewsbury Rams during the Betfred Championship Summer Bash 2019 at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
Picture by Stephen Gaunt/ +447904 833202

The Rams have made arguably the most impressive start by a side outside the top three.

Lee Greenwood’s men were not expected to challenge the best sides in 2020 and they lost their opening game at home to Leigh in the mud, despite a promising performance.

Since then they have won at Halifax and Oldham and beaten Widnes Vikings at home, indicating that the Rams could yet be the surprise package once the campaign resumes.

Bradford Bulls C+

Bradford’s supporters will hope for better than a 50 percent win ratio in 2020, but their opening two defeats were narrow affairs to the much-fancied pair of London and Featherstone.

Since then the Bulls have fairly comprehensively seen off Oldham and Sheffield, as well as almost shocking Wakefield in the Challenge Cup.

Experienced coach John Kear will remain confident he has a squad capable of challenging for the play-offs.