A plethora of different kick off times meant a staggered Good Friday of fixtures in the Betfred Championship, as the fourteen sides played out their round ten fixtures in the increasingly competitive jostle for the play-off places, and to avoid the ignimony of relegation.
League leaders Toronto were in Cumbria to face Barrow, while second placed Toulouse travelled to third placed Sheffield for the most appetising game of the round. There were local(ish) derbies between Swinton and Rochdale, Widnes and Leigh, Featherstone and York, Halifax and Bradford, and the traditional heavy woollen derby between Dewsbury and Batley.
Few can argue that the game of the round was the clash between the Eagles and Toulouse Olympique. It was a tremendous home win for the Eagles who continue to prove the pundits wrong as they hold onto the coat tails of the high fliers. First half tries from James, Thackeray and Esslemont gave them an 20-0 lead before a converted Jussaume try in the dying seconds of the half got the visitors on the board. Thackeray got his second eight minutes after the restart to extend the lead before Barthau got Toulouse’s second. Tries from Millar and a third for Thackeray put Sheffield beyond catchable with a 40-12 lead. The sides exchanged tries in the last five minutes, Marcon for Toulouse and James completing Sheffield’s scoring for a comprehensive 44-16 Eagles win, Sheffield now trailing Toulouse in the league table on just points difference.
Bradford Bulls maintained their impressive start to the season with an away win at Halifax to go fifth. Woodburn-Hall got the home side off to a flyer with a second minute try, converted by Tyrer, but Ryan responded on the quarter hour to level the scores. Two tries, from Sharp and Robinson, in the last five minutes of the first half send ‘Fax into the interval with a 16-6 lead and Tyrer scored the home sides fourth try of the afternoon on fifty-two for a 22-6 lead. Two penalties in two minutes from Tyrer made it 26-6 and Halifax looked like they were cruising. But for a second week running the Bulls fought back from a seemingly desperate position to take the win. Minchella, Crossley and Webster all scored four pointers while Minchella and Milnes added three goals between them for a 30-26 lead with nine minutes remaining. A Lilley drop goal and third Milnes goal gave the Bulls a 33-26 win.
The Widnes Vikings maintained their good form as they continue to overcome the twelve point deductions suffered pre-season in what is looking like a successful quest to avoid the drop. Good Friday’s victims were the Leigh Centurions. Walker, Lyons and Gelling put the Vikings 16-0 up before Eaves and Pownall got the visitors back into contention at 14-12. Lyons added a second try just before the break for 22-12. The only four-pointer of the second half was scored by O’Neill, converted by Owens and the Vikings kicker added a penalty goal five out from the final hooter for the 30-12 win.
Swinton Lions recorded their second win of the season to lift themselves to eleventh spot and push their opponents, Rochdale Hornets to the foot of the table. Butt, with the first of his four tries of the game, opened the Swinto scoring but Abram responded to narrow the difference to two points. Butt added two more first half tries and Thomas and Forsyth got in on the act to give the Lions a 26-4 interval lead. Butt grabbed his fourth seven minutes after the restart and at 30-4 it looked all over for the Hornets. Two tries from Kay and one from Forster gave the visitors some respectability at 30-22 before a final home try from Bennion got the Lions home at 36-22, a massive win for Swinton.
The heavy woollen derby went the way of Batley despite Dewsbury taking an 8-0 lead through a Igbinedion try and two Finn goals. Leak got the Bulldogs first score of the game just before half-time, despite Reittie and Ward cooling their heels in the sin-bin, to send the visitors in with a two point deficit. A second half Scott penalty levelled the scores, and tries from Taia and Brown secured the 20-8 win.
Barrow and Toronto shared seventy-eight points and fourteen tries in their match at Craven Park as the league leaders continued their relentless path to Super League. Johnson and Cross scored tries in the opening twelve minutes to poke a stick into the Toronto hornets nest and give Barrow a 12-0 lead. Wallace, with a first half hat-trick and O’Brien with a couple, along with four Wallace conversion, gave Toronto a 28-12 interval lead. O’Brien completed his hat-trick two minutes after the restart and Russell added the Wolfpack’s seventh try for 38-12 before Stack scored Barrows third try of the afternoon. Dixon and Ackers scored within a couple of minutes of one another to give Toronto a 52-16 lead. Late consolations from Amean and Ritson narrowed the margin of defeat but it was nevertheless a comprehensive 52-26 win for the visitors.
Featherstone Rovers, still smarting from their golden point cup exit at the hands of the Bulls last weekend, wreaked their vengeance on the York City Knights, reminding them that they are in a very competitive division. Sutcliffe and Walters gave Fev’ a 12-0 lead, extended by a Chisolm penalty goal on the half hour. Spears grabbed York’s first try on thirty-four, the home side with a 14-6 advantage at the interval. Five tries in twenty-minutes, from Sutcliffe, Davies, Hardcastle (2) and Chisolm put Rovers 40-6 ahead before a late consolation from Scott gave York double figures. A last second penalty from Chisolm extended the winning margin to thirty points at 42-12, Featherstone now just two points behind York’s fourth spot.