While Wigan Warriors will face Cronulla Sharks in the World Club Challenge on Sunday, a few miles to the east Rochdale Hornets will face their own mighty challenge, when they welcome Hull Kingston Rovers a Kingstone Press Championship top of the table clash between two unbeaten sides, after they picked up their second win from as many games over Bradford Bulls last Sunday.
It was a landmark victory as they recorded their first win at Odsal for 41 years after battling the conditions to come out on top 22-14 after trailing at the break.
Tries from Miles Greenwood, Samir Tahraoui and Danny Bridge, combined with five goals from Lewis Palfrey, saw Alan Kilshaw’s men remain at the summit after round two.
It has been a strong start to their 2017 campaign as they followed up their 46-0 demolition of Dewsbury Rams. But they realise that their next test will be their toughest so far against a team that was relegated from Super League in last year’s dramatic Million Pound Game and have recruited a strong squad in their quest to return at the first attempt.
It is the first time the two clubs have competed in the same division since 2006, when Rovers hosted Hornets and won 26-12 in their promotion year in the old National League One competition.
A year earlier Hornets picked up a 30-26 win at Spotland in 2005
In their first two games in the Championship the Robins have posted 82 points, while Rochdale have conceded just 14, all of which were scored by Bradford.
The odds would appear to be stacked against the hosts, who have the smallest budget in the second tier, and it will also be a huge test for their coach Alan Kilshaw as he goes up against World Cup winner Tim Sheens.
Rochdale’s boss started his first grade coaching career in Australia with Queensland based club Sarina Crocodiles, while his opponent in the dugout was leading Australia to a World Cup victory.
Both coaches will be hoping for better conditions this weekend than they were forced to play in at the weekend and if the rain holds off on Sunday the fans who pack into the Crown Oil Arena could witness a thrilling game between the top two sides in the Championship.
A full report and photos from Sunday’s game will feature in next Monday’s League Express.