The five rugby league games you must watch in April

MARTYN SADLER recommends the games you should go out of your way to watch this month.

APRIL is the month when most of the major rugby league competitions (other than the Women’s Super League, which kicks off towards the end of the month) are well under way, while the representative season has yet to kick in. 

So this month we are recommending games from the Betfred Super League, Championship and League One, while we also head to the southern hemisphere for a match in New Zealand and back to Wigan for a crucial wheelchair rugby league clash involving a leading French team.

Thursday, 4th April
Betfred Super League Round 7
Leigh Leopards v Wigan Warriors
Leigh Sports Village, Leigh 
(8.00pm, Sky Sports Action)

The Battle of the Borough will re-commence on the first Thursday of April at Leigh Sports Village, with the Leopards looking to bring down their eminent neighbours following a hugely controversial clash last September, when Wigan won 10-6 at the LSV with the help of what looked like a decisive Leigh try that was disallowed for obstruction.

Since then the Leopards have strengthened with the addition of Matt Moylan, who has started to hit top form, and they will be confident of going one better than last year against Matty Peet’s side. With the club no doubt hoping to draw more than the 10,308 who witnessed last September’s clash, the LSV capacity of 12,000 will surely be tested.

Saturday, 6th April
Betfred Wheelchair European Club Championship
Wigan Warriors v Catalans Dragons
Robin Park Arena, Wigan (6.00pm)

Reigning Wheelchair Super League Champions Wigan will face Coupe de France winners Catalans Dragons in the European Wheelchair Rugby League Club Championship, which was first introduced in 2023, when Halifax and Catalans shared the spoils.

“The excitement of the players and the club as a whole is high, and we cannot wait to get out there in front of a potentially packed-out Robin Park. It’s an excellent game to start our season as we look to build on the successes we achieved last year,” says Wigan coach Colin Greenhalgh.

And for those fans who like music and nostalgia, the event will have a Northern Soul theme, harking back to the days of the famous Wigan Casino.

Sunday, 21st April
Betfred League One Round 6
Cornwall v Midlands Hurricanes
Memorial Ground, Penryn (3.00pm)

The two most southerly based English clubs outside Super League will meet each other for a clash that both will be desperate to win as they try to improve their finishing positions of ninth and eighth respectively in 2023.

Cornwall were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by the NCL’s York Acorn, despite strengthening during the close-season, while the Hurricanes have started more strongly, losing their opening League One game to Rochdale Hornets by only ten points.

But after so many expansion clubs have bitten the dust in recent seasons, this game will surely tell us a lot about the long-term prospects of two teams that allow rugby league to claim that it has a genuine national footprint.

Thursday, 25th April
Telstra Premiership Round 8
New Zealand Warriors v Gold Coast Titans
Go Media Stadium, Auckland (5.00am BST)

Anzac Day is when Australians and New Zealanders remember the sacrifices made by their ancestors who fought in the First World War, particularly in the Gallipoli campaign.

In recent years, the New Zealand Warriors have faced Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in Melbourne, but this year they have been granted the right to have a home game on this crucial day and they will welcome the Titans to Auckland.

Anzac clashes, which have always been held in Australia, are always preceded by solemn tributes to the fallen and a game in New Zealand is likely to be no different as the Warriors seek to build on the momentum that got them into fourth place in the final NRL table in 2023.

Saturday, 27th April
Betfred Championship Round 6
Wakefield Trinity v Toulouse Olympique
DIY Kitchens Stadium, Wakefield (6.00pm)

Wakefield Trinity are odds-on favourites to win this season’s Championship competition and the quality of their squad suggests that they will certainly take some beating.

Nonetheless their greatest challenge may come from Toulouse Olympique, who failed at the final hurdle to gain promotion to Super League last season and have not participated in either the Challenge Cup or 1895 Cup in 2024.

In their first match of the season Toulouse went down to a narrow defeat to Sheffield Eagles in a thrilling game at the Olympic Legacy Park and by the time they face Trinity they will no doubt be up to speed for the new season. And with Toulouse unlikely to bring many travelling supporters, interest will focus on the size of the crowd at the DIY Kitchens Stadium after Trinity sold out the opening game of their Championship season against Bradford Bulls.

First published in Rugby League World magazine, Issue 495 (April 2024)

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