It looks like it's going to be very competitive Kingstone Press Championship in 2017 as twelve sides do battle for the all-important top four places, and a tilt at the Super League sides come the middle eights.
The opening weekends highlights looked to be Batley's trip to Toulouse, the all-new Bradford Bulls away at Hull KR and Featherstone Rovers in the Yorkshire derby against Halifax.
Saturday saw the first game of the round when Matt Diskin took his new side the Batley Bulldogs to newly promoted Toulouse Olympique XIII. Despite the Bulldogs scoring the opening try through Leak after six minutes, the rest of the game was dominated by the home side. Marguerite and a Minga hat-trick gave Toulouse an 18-6 half time lead which they built on in the second forty through tries from Hepi, Curran, Bowyer, Maurel, and a last minute Marguerite try. Kheirallah kicked three of his four conversions in the second half for a confident 44-6 start to the French sides campaign.
The remaining five games were played on Sunday afternoon.
It was a confident start to the 2017 campaign for Hull KR as the Robins looked to bounce straight back into Super League after last years relegation. The Bradford Bulls were the visitors and took an early lead through Kirk, but Hefernan and Scruton (2) gave the home side an 18-6 lead. Oakes reduced the margin to six points on twenty-six, but just before the interval Donaldson and Shaw both scored for Hull KR for a 30-12 lead. Greenwood, Ellis, and Quinlan extended the home lead to 48-12, before Ryan grabbed a length of the field try for the visitors. Hefernan scored a second for KR ten from the end but Macani grabbed the last try of the game for the Bulls for a final score of 54-24.
It was a very confident win for the Rochdale Hornets over the Dewsbury Rams. First half tries from Tahraoui, Moores (2), and Yates gave the home side a 22-0 lead at half-time. Taira added converted try on forty-eight and Palfrey complemented his four conversions with two penalties soon after for 32-0. Massam scored to make it 36-0 before Gailbraith and Maneely both scored tries, the second one being converted for a final score of 46-0.
It was a humdinger of game at Halifax where Featherstone Rovers were the visitors and the game ebbed and flowed with both sides having periods of domination. Featherstone had opened up a comfortable 16-0 lead thanks to tries from Briscoe, Hardcastle and Handley but before the interval 'Fax had reduced the arrears to 10-16 thanks to Fairbanks and a Worrincy try on the half-time hooter. Tangata and Murrell, both with converted tries put Halifax 22-16 up before a second Hardcastle try and a Briggs penalty squared things at 22-22 with twenty minutes to go. Another Briggs penalty edged Fev' ahead by two but Tyree put Halifax back in the lead on sixty-six at 26-24. Yet another Briggs penalty and a seventy-fifth minute Briggs try, which he converted himself, gave Featherstone the points with a hard fought 32-26 win.
Oldham recorded a great 26-10 victory over Sheffield Eagles, despite the Eagles taking the lead through Fozzard after just five minutes. The Sheffield defence held firm for thirty minutes before Langtree crossed for Oldham but the home side still trailed 4-6 at the break. In the second half it was almost entirely Oldham with tries from Gee and Hewitt and a Leatherbarrow penalty gaining them an 18-6 lead after fifty-four. Miller reduced the arrears for Sheffield to 18-10 but a seventy-seventh minute converted Langtree try and a last minute Leatherbarrow penalty sealed a 26-10 victory.
The London Broncos can count themselves as lucky to have escaped from their trip to Swinton Lions with the two points. Robinson and Forsyth scored in the opening ten minutes for Swinton and after Williams grabbed one back for the visitors Atkin kicked a penalty for 12-4. Sammut looked to have made it 12-10 at the interval but Forsyth grabbed his second just before the break to send his side into the sheds at 16-10. A converted Davies try on forty-six made it 22-10 to the Lions but then Barthau and Ioane both got converted tries for the visitors to level the scores at 22-22. When Atkin kicked a drop goal ten minutes from the end he must have thought he'd snatched his side a famous victory but Harrison managed to get over the whitewash for the Broncos for a 26-23 victory to take the two points back down to London.