This weekend’s Betfred Championship fixtures were overshadowed by the tragic death of Archie Bruce the young Batley Bulldogs player who was found dead in his hotel room in the early hours of Sunday morning, following his debut against Toulouse Olympique XIII in the south of France on Saturday evening. The whole of the rugby league community grieves with Archie’s family and the Bulldogs.

Saturday’s other game saw relegated Rochdale travel to Toronto, while the rest of the games took place on Sunday afternoon.

Leigh and Widnes met at the LSV while, on paper,  the game of the afternoon was  fourth placed York City Knights against the Featherstone Rovers. Sheffield were at home to Barrow, Halifax travelled to Swinton and there was a local derby in Dewsbury where Bradford were the visitors.

It was a simple win for Toulouse to maintain their second place as they romped to a 46-0 win. First half tries from Vaivai, Curran, Ford and Bergal opened up a 22-0 lead at the break. Robin added two in the second half along with four pointers from Kheirallah and Vaivai to guarantee a play-off place which has been likely all season.

League leaders Toronto also romped to a 46-0 win despite Rochdale keeping them pointless until the twenty-fourth minute. O’Brien and Russell scored the only tries for the first half for a 12-0 interval lead but O’Brien added a second and Russell completed a hat-trick in the second half along with a brace from Stanley and one from Miloudi. Toronto have now gone through 2019 with just a single loss so far in the league.

Featherstone Rovers must have been confident after Render and McLelland established a 12-0 lead after twenty minutes but Oakes and Brinning scored for York in the few minutes before the break for 10-12 at the interval. Horne scored on sixty-five to put the home side ahead before Porter sealed the win on seventy-three putting York 22-14 ahead. Sutcliffe grabbed one back for Featherstone with two minutes remaining but York held on for a 22-18 win to also guarantee them a play-off spot in a sensational  promotion year.

Another side guaranteeing a play-off place was the Leigh Centurions who overcame the challenge of the Widnes Vikings who had one eye on next week’s 1895 Cup Final at Wembley. Higson and Hatton exchanged first ten minute tries before Thornley scored twice and Marsh added a four pointer for the Centurions to lead 22-6 at the break. Brand and Hood exchanged tries, before Ashall-Bott scored for the Vikings to make it 28-16. Marsh added a second to seal the Leigh win before a late consolation from Brand, his second of the game, for a final score of 34-22.

The Eagles are hanging on by their fingernails to the hopes of the final play-off berth and did themselves a favour with a 44-18 win over Barrow. Millar (2) and Brown put the home side 16-0 up before Walker and Cross reduced the interval arrears to 12-16. Smith put Barrow into the lead early in the second half as they went 18-16 up but it was then all Sheffield. A Guzdek try and braces from Makelim and Yere allowed Sheffield to run away with the win.

The Swinton Lions drew level on points with Halifax thanks to a 32-12 home victory at Heywood Road. Lepori, Mullen, Butt and Ashton put Swinton 20-0 ahead after thirty minutes before Saltonstall scored the only ‘Fax try of the first half. Lepori added a second try just after the interval and Hankinson scored on the hour mark for a 32-6 lead with only a last minute Woodburn-Hall try blotting a terrific home performance as Swinton eye a top eight finish.

The final game of the afternoon was a bad tempered affair at the Tetley’s Stadium which saw three yellow cards and a sending off for the Rams Michael Knowles. Crossley, Wildie, and Peltier put the Bulls 18-0 up at the break with Minchella making it 24-0 early after the restart. Johnson finally broke the Rams duck on fifty-one but Pickersgill and Oakes made it 34-6 on the hour. In the dying moments Ryder scored a late consolation but it couldn’t stop a 34-10 defeat.

Just two games remain with Featherstone Rovers (Batley (A) and Toulouse (H)) and the Sheffield Eagles (Bradford (A) and Swinton (A)) battling it out for the final play-off place, with one more win for Rovers being enough to get them through. Barrow are now almost certain to join Rochdale in the drop to Championship One.

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