Hull Kingston Rovers (1st): A
Heading into the season, the Robins couldn’t really win.
Everyone expected them to take the Championship by storm, so their current position at the top of the league is no real surprise to anybody.
But their efforts so far this season should not be underestimated. The Robins haven’t had it easy in games with London, Rochdale, Halifax or Featherstone, but they came through all of them, and their only blip was a defeat in Toulouse with loads of players rested.
Add in the fact that they defeated Leigh the week after in the Challenge Cup, and overall, it’s been a successful start to the season.
Toulouse Olympique (2nd): A+
The surprise package of the year so far is the newly-promoted French outfit, who have put the rest of the Championship on alert with their early results.
It was evident after the first round they would be a force to be reckoned with when they crushed Batley, although away defeats to Sheffield and Bradford suggested they may struggle on the road.
But since then their away form has improved, while they remain unbeaten at home in league action, which recently culminated in a victory over Hull Kingston Rovers.
Some believe they will eventually crack, but all the signs currently suggest they are on their way to the Qualifiers.
Featherstone Rovers (3rd): B+
The Rovers sit in third place and have done so without really hitting top form.
Jon Sharp’s side has shown signs of what it is capable of in games, with those periods actually getting them through some crucial matches.
They have come unstuck on a couple of occasions, with defeat to Rochdale particularly frustrating, but all in all, they are in the mix for the top four at the halfway stage and have a slender cushion over some of their rivals.
If they can find more consistency in their performances, the top four is a certainty, but they must be aware that if they continue to fluxuate, they risk a real battle in the race to the Qualifiers.
London Broncos (4th): B-
Like Featherstone, the Broncos haven’t really been on top form so far this year. Nevertheless, they are in the top four and have overcome a really bad run of form that saw them lose some key matches.
Defeats to Halifax, Sheffield and Featherstone looked like they could be damaging, but they turned over Toulouse and Batley over Easter to get them firing again, and they could prove to be huge results.
Considering they have been without key personnel all year, their performances and understandably not quite as impressive as last year, but they’re getting the results they need to be in the mix, and that must be pleasing for Andrew Henderson.
Halifax (5th): B
After a disappointing campaign last season, it looked like things would continue that way for Fax as they lost three of their opening five games.
But since then they have done nothing but impress, winning seven of their last eight matches which has seen them enter the last 16 of the Challenge Cup and are only out of the top four on points difference.
Halifax missed out on the top four last year because they slipped up in matches against sides in the bottom half of the table, but so far, they have only lost to teams in the top six and defeated London.
If they pick up their form against the top teams, a return to the Qualifiers could be on the horizon. Attack is they key. They have the second-best defence in the league, now they need to score more points.
Batley Bulldogs (6th): C-
It hasn’t been an easy ride for the Bulldogs, who have struggled for consistency this year.
That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Under Matt Diskin, they are playing a completely different brand of rugby to that on show under John Kear, and the transition was never going to happen overnight.
Even still, their recent run of form has been particularly disappointing, with two defeats Heavy Woollen Derby defeats to Dewsbury, who have yet to beat any other Championship side this year, particularly frustrating.
Still, they are only four points off the top four, but any more slip-ups could end their chances.
Sheffield Eagles (7th): B-
Many people had Sheffield down as being relegated at the start of the season.
However, after a very unconvincing start, the Eagles have improved vastly in recent weeks and are now level on points with Batley.
Mark Aston has assembled a capable squad that have shown no signs of weakness since Dane Chisholm’s departure. Whether they can hope for more than their current position remains to be seen, but so far this year must go down as successful for the Eagles.
Rochdale Hornets (8th): B-
Realistically, if Rochdale were offered an eighth place finish at the start of the season, most of the people associated with the club would take it.
But after such a blistering start that saw them top of the league after two rounds, their current position does mean there is a touch of frustration at the Hornets.
Nevertheless, this has been a solid start and even in defeats they have competed and could very, very easily be higher up the table. Victory over Featherstone was excellent, although defeat to Swinton on Easter Monday will have frustrated Alan Kilshaw.
If they can sort out their discipline they can shoot up the league, although they must also end their current form soon to ensure they don’t get dragged into a relegation scrap.
Oldham (9th): C
The Championship’s nearly men are probably thinking what could have been this year.
In 11 games they have lost by two points to three of the current top five and surrendered a heavy lead before drawing with Rochdale. But ‘if’ is the biggest word in sport and sadly Oldham couldn’t bag the points their performances probably deserved in those games.
At the same time, Oldham were hammered by some of the league’s big clubs last year, so to be competing in those games is an evident sign of progression that Scott Naylor must take confidence from.
Although they must ensure they keep picking up points to avoid a fight for survival, don’t be surprised if they move up the table.
Swinton Lions (10th): D
Some tipped Swinton to be the Championship’s surprise package this year.
Sadly, the only surprise has been their current position near the foot of the table.
Things just haven’t gone Swinton’s way. Long-term injuries to signings like Matt Sarsfield have been a huge blow, and in truth, their performances haven’t often been rewarded with league points they perhaps warranted.
But the reality is that they are only out of the relegation zone due to Bradford’s points deduction and they must start picking up points now Dewsbury look capable of winning games under Neil Kelly.
However, their capabilities were showcased to everyone when they defeated Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup, and now the Lions must build on winning a narrow game like that and take that confidence with them into their league form.
Dewsbury Rams (11th): E
Until a few weeks ago, the season had been nothing short of a disaster.
Glenn Morrison left the club on a six-match league losing streak that left them pointless.
That run of losses extended before former coach Neil Kelly came back and had an instant impact with two wins over Batley in the league and Challenge Cup.
The signs are now there that the Rams can overturn this deficit and survive. But there’s little doubting how big a task Kelly has on his hands. The Rams have looked vulnerable and fragile all season, and changing the mentality of a squad is not easy.
Bradford Bulls (12th): C
It looked like the 12 point deficit placed over Bradford would be overturned in no time after a sound start to the season.
But the Bulls have stuttered recently and have suffered three defeats in four games.
Still, they have overturned half of their deficit between themselves and the relegation zone in a third of the season, so mathematically, they are still on course to survive.
The danger, of course, is how their young squad handle the rigours of a long season, there really are no guarantees.
A job well done so far, but there’s plenty left to do for the Bulls.