A thrilling conclusion awaits the Kingstone Press Championship, with the race to make the top four set to go down to the wire.
Although Leigh and London have all but secured their place in the ‘Middle 8s’, and the right to battle for promotion as a result, the remaining two spots remain wide open with five rounds remaining.
Four West Yorkshire teams will battle it out for the chance to take on Super League opposition after the July split, and you can gaurentee that there will be a number of twists and turns remaining.
As it stands
3. Bradford Bulls – 24 points
4. Halifax RLFC – 23 points
5. Batley Bulldogs – 23 points
6. Featherstone Rovers – 22 points
It promises to be a thrilling conclusion, with this weekend’s action potentially the most significant.
Here is a look at every club’s run in.
Halifax (H) – June 26th
Leigh Centurions (A) – July 3rd
Whitehaven (H) – July 10th
Oldham (H) – July 17th
Featherstone Rovers (A) – July 24th
The club with perhaps the most to lose is Bradford, given their full-time status and recent history. The Bulls fell agonisingly short of a return to Super League at the first attempt last year as they lost to Wakefield in the Million Pound Game.
However, they are in serious danger of not even making the top four in 2016 after an indifferent season. Shock defeats to Sheffield and Dewsbury have seen the Bulls get dragged into a dogfight.
Despite that, they remain in the strongest position out of the four chasing clubs following their dramatic 17-16 victory over Batley last weekend. Their remaining fixtures are mixed, but this weekend’s game with Halifax a massive fixture for both clubs, especially the Bulls given their trip to Leigh the week after. Their clash with Featherstone at the end of the season could prove pivotal.
Key man: Danny Addy – Rohan Smith’s side have picked up key injuries at the wrong time. Lee Gaskell, Adrian Purtell, Dale Ferguson and Mitch Clark are all currently out, with Addy himself missing last week’s victory over Batley. His versatility will be vital for the Bulls.
Bradford Bulls (A) – June 26th
Swinton Lions (A) – July 3rd
Leigh Centurions (A) – July 10th
Featherstone Rovers (H) – July 17th
London Broncos (H) – July 24th
Halifax have the toughest run-in of the four clubs, with four of the top six clubs yet to play.
However, that won’t faze Fax, as they have saved their better performances against the teams around them this year. Although they have narrowly lost to Batley, Leigh and London this term, they were teriffic in victory over Bradford earlier in the year and have twice defeated Featherstone, including a 37-0 rout at Summer Bash.
Richard Marshall’s side thrive on the big occassion, but they will have to be at their very best to ensure they pick up the results required to make the top four.
Key man: Simon Grix – The former Warrington man only returned to action following an 18-month layoff two weeks ago, but an injury picked up by Dane Manning leaves a massive void in the back-row, and Grix’s experience will be called upon to help fill that hole.
Dewsbury Rams (H) – June 26th
Whitehaven (A) – July 2nd
Featherstone Rovers (H) – July 10th
London Broncos (H) – July 17th
Swinton Lions (A) – July 24th
Many have claimed that Batley making the top four would be a fairytale story. But the reality is that John Kear has put together a very capable team that has always had the ability to make the top four, we even tipped them to do so earlier this year!
It’s a tricky end to the season for the Bulldogs, with tough trips away to Whitehaven and Swinton, while their home games see them face Featherstone and London, along with their arch nemesis in the shape of Dewsbury.
The Rams will be desperate to damage Batley’s top-four hopes and it doesn’t get much easier after that.
Key man: James Brown – The prop has been exceptional this year, especially when coming on and making an impact from the bench. Batley’s success is largely down to their dominant pack, and they will need more of the same in the final five matches.
Sheffield Eagles (A) – June 24th
Workington (H) – July 3rd
Batley Bulldogs (A) – July 10th
Halifax (A) – July 17th
Bradford Bulls (H) – July 24th
Featherstone remains in contention for a top four spot, but to do so their form against the competition’s top teams must improve.
Jon Sharp’s side have won just two of eight matches against the top five in league outings, which is ultimately the difference between their current position and a top four spot.
On the flip side, they have been consistent against the teams in the bottom half of the table, and victories in the next two weeks would put them in a good position ahead of three huge games against the three teams they are fighting it out with.
Featherstone’s results will largely dictate who makes the Qualifiers.
Key man: Danny Craven – The Widnes loanee can be a matchwinner at this level, and Rovers will require that extra spark in the big games.