Round Seventeen of the Betfred Championship would throw up a shock or two in a high scoring weekend which would leave us with more questions about the play-off places than answers.
The top two played on Saturday afternoon with Toulouse Olympique at home to Swinton while the Toronto Wolfpack took on the Dewsbury Rams.
There were some interesting fixtures on Sunday afternoon with Bradford at Leigh, high-flying Featherstone against play-off outsiders Widnes, Halifax at Barrow and Sheffield travelling to Batley. The one real home banker of the afternoon was York’s game against Rochdale.
The Bradford Bulls travelled to the Leigh Sports Village to take in a Centurions side seeking to capitalise on Toulouse's shock defeat at the hands of Swinton yesterday and close the gap on second spot to just two points. The Bulls also had it all to play for and knew that a win would get them level on league points with their opponents, but with a chasm between their points differences it would require a massive victory to take their place on the ladder.
John Kear had Crossley and Garside back in his side with Farrell, Webster and Roche missing out. John Duffy’s Leigh were looking for their third consecutive win and a seventh victory in their last eight as one of the form sides in the division.
After last weekends sensational win over league leaders St Helens, the London Broncos travelled to the South of France to take on a Catalans Dragons side looking to cement themselves into the play-off places as we move into the second half of the season.
Danny Wards went into the game knowing that a win would lift them level on points with Hull KR and the Leeds Rhinos as the race to avoid the drop intensifies over the coming rounds. It was a massive game for both sides, and one that neither could afford to lose.
The Dragons were favourites to deny the Broncos a second consecutive win but this London side had plenty of bottle and is up for any challenge.
Another crucial basement battle for the Leeds Rhinos as they welcomed the old enemy, Wigan Warriors, to Headingley for a four pointer. An unlikley twenty-seven point victory for the Rhinos would lift them above the Warriors into eighth, a twenty-four point win for the visitors would lift them to the dizzy heights of sixth, there was plenty to play for.
The Rhinos started with the same seventeen that nilled Wakefield last time out and made it back to back wins for the first time in 2019. Wigan scraped a scrappy one point win over Hull KR last week and came into the game without Zak Hardaker through injury and Taulima Tautai, who was in court today pleading guilty to a drink driving charge.
The Rhinos were slight favourites with the bookies, but on paper, there was little to choose between the two sides.
Fourth travelled to fifth as the battle for the play-off places roared into the Mend-A-Hose Jungle, with Castleford Tigers hosting Hull FC. A win for the Tigers would lift them ahead of the Airlie Birds and into fourth but a win for FC would push them into third and give them some breathing space in the race for the five.
In a crazy season for FC their supporters and management team will have been hoping that it was the sensational side which demolished the Catalans Dragons a fortnight ago, rather than the awful side which lost to the Giants at the Magic Weekend.
Both sides can blow very hot and very cold and it was anyones guess who would emerge victorious.
There are still eight sides with a realistic chance of making the Betfred Championship play-offs, and therefore having a shot at promotion into Super League for 2020. Firm favourites are the Toronto Wolfpack, but unrest this week with the self-sacking of their Chief Executive David Argyl was sure to unsettle the runaway leaders.
Toronto had an easy trip to Swinton on Sunday evening as they concluded the round sixteen fixtures with a number of other key fixtures having taken place on Saturday and Sunday.
Game of the round saw third placed York host second placed Toulouse on Saturday, and Sunday featured games between; Bradford and Batley, Dewsbury and Rochdale, Leigh and Halifax, Sheffield and Featherstone and Widnes and Barrow.
Oldham had their eyes set on second spot as they travelled to Doncaster to take on the side sat in seventh place, who themselves needed a win to keep in touch with the sides above them.
These two sides did battle last weekend in the second round of the 1895 Cup with Doncaster progressing to the quarter finals thanks to a 24-12 victory, Oldham were now keen on revenge and the two crucial league points.
Legendary Super League coach Tony Smith took charge for the first time as his Hull KR side took on the Wigan Warriors in a curcial game down the wrong end of the Super League table. It was ninth against eleventh as both sides looked to get away from the perilous bottom spot.
This was the first meeting between the two sides this season but Hull KR recorded a loss in the Challenge Cup last weekend, whereas Wigan had a week off and came into the game the fresher of the two sides.
KR skipper Joel Tomkins was back after missing last weekend through suspension, but Danny McGuire was unavailable after picking up an injury during training yesterday. Liam Farrell was back in the Cherry and White after an injury lay off.
The Super League game of the weekend pitched second placed Warrington Wolves against the side in third spot, the Catalans Dragons. Both sides came into the round seventeen fixtures after very different Challenge Cup weekends, Warrington surviving the test of a determined Hull KR but the Dragons having been destroyed by the Black & White side of Hull.
A win for the Wolves would lift them six points clear of the chasing pack, but should they lose then Catalans would be just two points behind them in the league table.
Warrington were without the services of Jake Mamo and Tom Lineham but Catalans would also have to do it tough as they were without Remi Casty, Lewis Tierney and Brayden Wiliame.
A club in turmoil, the Leeds Rhinos, took the short drive down the road to Wakefield to take on a Trinity side who have their eyes set firmly set on securing a play-off place, and ending the season as Yorkshires top placed outfit.
The home side were without David Fifita, who picked up an ankle injury at the Magic Weekend, but Junior Sa’u was back after missing last weekend's Challenge Cup game due to being cup tied. Leeds had Tui Lolohea and Konrad Hurrell amongst a side which also saw newly announced departing captain Kallum Watkins named in the second row.
The Rhinos were desperate for a win, and a much needed two points. After Wakefield won the earlier season fixture quite comfortably, there was just two points between the sides when Trinity picked up the points in mid-April.