There were just five rounds of the Betfred Championship remaining as we headed into round twenty-three. Toronto Wolfpack were already guaranteed top spot but had a tricky looking trip to Odsal to face the Bradford Bulls, While second placed York City Knights also had a long journey up to Barrow.
The Eagles looked to keep their slim hopes of a play-off place alive with a home game against the Widnes Vikings on Friday night with third placed Toulouse away at Halifax. Fourth placed Leigh centurions could take a step closer to a play-off berth with a home game against a Swinton Lions side which has shocked a few this season while Featherstone desperately needed a win at Dewsbury. The final game saw the already relegated Rochdale Hornets at home to an almost safe Batley Bulldogs.
We start our round-up on Friday night when the Sheffield Eagles recorded a convincing win over the Widnes Vikings. Blackmore and Knowles had established a 12-0 home lead before Ince scored an unconverted try for the Vikings. The second half saw a ten minute brace from Thackeray, punctuated by a Robson try for the visitors and when Yere scored on the hour the game, and scoring, were over with the Eagles recording a 30-10 win.
Leigh Centurions made another step towards the play-off and overcame the disappointment of last week’s 1895 Cup exit with the narrowest of wins over the Swinton Lions. Thornley opened the Leigh account early on but a seventeen minute hat-trick from Ashton put the Lions into a 20-6 lead. Forsyth got one back for Leigh before Butt put Swinton back into a 24-8 lead. Costello grabbed Leigh a lifeline just before the break with an unconverted four pointer. In the second half Clark, Sa’u, and Paterson all scored for the home side to make it 30-24 in the home sides advantage and a drop goal from Brierley edged the Centurions to a seven point lead before a final Ashton try, which was converted by Hansen left the visitors just a point short as the final hooter sounded.
Toronto’s relentless march continues with a 25-20 win over the Bradford Bulls. Leutele got the Wolfpack on the board early on but tries from Hitchcox, Webster and Crossley sent the Bulls into the interval with an 18-4 lead. Three tries in ten minutes at the start of the second half from Leutele, Rawsthorne and Kay edged the Canadian side into a 20-18 lead before a Miloudi drop goal extended the lead to three. Keyes kicked a Bulls penalty on seventy-three to reduce the margin to one point but a late try from Rawsthorne saw the visitors escape with the points.
The York City Knights are now within a point of securing a play-off place thanks to a 24-16 win over Barrow. Marsh had put York ahead in the opening exchanges but a Ritson try on thirteen showed that Barrow were not just going to lie down. Marsh added two more before the interval for an 18-4 lead and Bass added a fourth York try just before the hour for 24-4. Cresswell and Smith both scored for Barrow but they were unable to get closer than eight points to their visitors.
There was a cracker of a local derby at the Tetley’s Stadium as Featherstone Rovers managed to overcome the Dewsbury Rams by a solitary point to maintain their play-off push. Knowles put the Rams ahead but tries from Golding, Sutcliffe and McLelland gave Rovers a 12-8 interval lead. Morton levelled the scored just before the hour mark before Albert and Flynn exchanged four pointers. Carey scored for Fev’ with ten minutes left for a 24-18 lead but two minutes from time Speakman got a converted try to again level the scores. Within seconds Chisolm slotted over a drop goal and the Rams were unable to respond, going down by the single point.
Toulouse maintained their third place thanks to a hard fought 30-22 win away at Halifax. Bergal had established the lead for the visitors before Kaye and Tangata put Halifax 12-4 ahead. Bergal and Tyrer exchanged tries before Jassaume grabbed a try just before the interval leave his side trailing by 16-14. A Robinson try further extended the ‘Fax lead to 22-14 at the start of the second half but tries from Marion and Vaivai, along with four Kheirallah goals gave Toulouse the win.
The ‘dead rubber’ at Rochdale ended in a big 50-26 win for the visiting Batley Bulldogs. Shelford, Williams and Sheridan all scored first half tries for the home side but Jouffret, Reittie and Brearley all answered for a half time score of 14-18. Broadbent and Jouffret extended the Bulldogs lead before Farrell scored for Rochdale for 20-28. Broadbent, Reittie and Brown extended the Batley lead before Abram got in on the scoring act for the home side for 26-46. The final try came from Reittie, completing his hat-trick to seal the win.