Crusader Park in St Helens was all set for a titanic Saturday afternoon battle between two National Conference League Premier Division sides as the Thatto Heath Crusaders welcomed Rochdale Mayfield for a third round Challenge Cup match.
Rochdale made the thirty-five mile journey down the M62 looking to build on their opening league fixture win over Underbank Rangers but they faced a Thatto Heath side who also recorded a win last weekend away at Egremont Rangers.
A place in the Fourth Round was on offer, and the chance of playing against a one of twelve Championship clubs who will join at the next round stage.
The only pointless side left in the competition, the Huddersfield Giants, made their way across to the DW Stadium to take on the side now residing in tenth spot thanks to their successful appeal against a pre-season points deduction.
Cherry & Whites coach Adrian Lam made a number of changes to the side who lost in London last weekend, including dropping several senior players who he felt had not performed, in the hope of picking up a crucial two points. But the Giants also knew that a win was vital to avoid them being cut adrift at the bottom of the fledgling table.
It was a true early season four pointer as both sides looked for some form.
With just the Sheffield Eagles and Toronto Wolfpack unbeaten in the 2019 Betfred Championship it was clear they this season was going to be keenly fought by all fourteen sides as they challenged for the one promotions spot and tried to avoid relegation.
Round five saw joint leaders Sheffield face Batley on Friday night while the remainder of game were played in Sunday afternoon, the highlights being Toulouse’s visit to Odsal to play Leeds, Toronto in Dewsbury and the Widnes Vikings hoping to start to make up their twelve point deduction with a home game against Featherstone Rovers.
Dewsbury was the venue as the Rams looked to spoil the Toronto Wolfpack’s party and end their one hundred percent start to the 2019 season.
Brian McDermott’s men rolled into West Yorkshire knowing that a win would again lift them above the high flying Sheffield Eagles, but a win for Lee Greenwood’s Rams outfit would see them into the top half of the table and just three points behind the leaders with a game in hand.
The bookies fancied an away win, but the wet and muddy conditions were a potential leveller.
Warrington Wolves made the long trip to the South of France to take on the Catalans Dragons knowing that a twenty-nine point win would see them leapfrog St Helens and the Castleford Tigers into top spot, and maintain their one-hundred percent record. The squad flew in on the early flight, hoping for a quick smash and grab.
A good win for the Dragons could see them to fifth but a heavy loss would see them drop to tenth.
Following a minutes silence for the Legendary Peter Fox, Leeds v Wakefield got underway at a 3/4 finished Headingly Stadium, within 3 minutes the ball is spread wide and Ash Handley crosses in the corner however Lolohea misses the conversion.
Only 5 minutes in and both skippers called in as referee Chris Kendall puts an incident on report by Wakefield, no penalty, Rhinos still in possession.
Almost a replica try Toupou to Tom Jonstone with Danny Brough adding the extras.
The video referee awards the try to Johnstone but the conversion attempt is missed by Brough 4-10 after 16 minutes
With the game between the Widnes Vikings and the Sheffield Eagles being postponed due to the formers financial difficulties the field was open for the Toronto Wolfpack to go two points clear at the top of the Betfred Championship if they could negotiate a tricky trip to Leigh to take on the Centurions.
Elsewhere last seasons promoted sides Bradford and York had their first meeting of the season at Odsalwhile Toulouse had a trip to Swinton to take on the Lions. Barrow and Dewsbury met in Cumbria while Rochdale were in Batley to take on the Bulldogs and there was a local West Yorkshire derby as Featherstone hosted Halifax.
It was showdown time at the Leigh Sports Village as the Toronto Wolfpack arrived in town to take on the Leigh Centurions. Toronto are one of only two hundred percenters in a very competitive Betfred Championship but they were up against a Leigh side who have two wins out of three despite their troubled end to 2018 and a fraught close season.
The visitors were massive favourites with the bookies but a vociferous home support were looking to make their voices count as the eighteenth man and cheer their side to a victory which would lift them level on points with the Canadian side.
The stage was set for a no-holes barred contest as Brian McDermott’s Super League hopefuls looked to make it a four from four start.
It was fourth bottom against fourth top as the new boys in Super League, the London Broncos, had a Saturday early evening fixture against the Castleford Tigers. The Trailfinders Sports Ground in west London was the venue as a decent away following from West Yorkshire ensured a cracking atmosphere.
At this early stage in the season a win by more than twenty points would lift the Broncos above their opposition, but the odds were against it with Castleford as strong favourites to consolidate their position, a twenty-two point win being enough to see them into top spot.