What promises to be a highly competitive Betfred Championship season got underway over the weekend as fourteen sides looked to secure the one available spot to get into Super League for 2021.
The opening game was between Dewsbury and Leigh on Friday night, with York making the long trip to Toulouse on Saturday. All remaining fixtures kicked off on Sunday afternoon with newly relegated London in Bradford, Halifax at home to Sheffield, a local derby between Batley and Featherstone, big promotion hopefuls Widnes away at promted Oldham and Swinton travelling up the M6 to take on last seasons League One Champions Whitehaven.
After going behind to a Sykes penalty, Woods scored the first Championship try of the season for visitors Leigh at the Tetley’s Stadium in front of a crowd of just over seventeen hundred. Reynolds added the extras for 6-2 but just after the half hour mark the Rams were in the lead thanks to a converted Ryder try and a Sykes penalty goal. Just as it looked like the Rams would take a 10-6 lead into the break, Scott scored for Leigh and Reynolds added the extras for a narrow two point half time Centurions lead. The second half was all one way traffic as the visitors dominated to take the points. Hellewell, Thornley, Reynolds and Higson all grabbed second half tries with the boot of Reynolds adding all available extras to seal a 36-10 win. Leigh’s season was off to the perfect start.
Despite a one man advantage for the last twenty minutes, York City Knights couldn’t defend a 10-6 lead as Toulouse Olympique came from behind to win 22-10. Full report Here.
Sunday saw two epic games. The first involved London Broncos trip to the Bradford Bulls. Tries from Armitage and Butler, both converted by Dixon, had given the visitors a 12-0 lead at the interval but the Bulls drew first blood in the second half through Dawson-Jones. Walters added London’s third try on fifty-four for an 18-4 lead before Doyle scored a four pointer and Dawson-Jones added his second to get the home side within four of their opponents. London held on to take the win and the points in their return to the Championship.
It was nip and tuck at the MBi Shay as the Sheffield Eagles visited Halifax. Halifax took an early lead through McGrath but tries from Millar and Ward, the latter converted by Farrell, gave the Eagles a 10-4 half time lead. A Tyrer try and goal levelled the scored quarter of an hour after the restart but four minutes later a Farrell try and goal re-established the visitors lead. When Farrell kicked a drop goal on sixty-nine for a 17-10 lead it looked like the Eagles would be going home happy but two tries in the last five minutes, from Saltonstall and Roberts, gave Halifax a one point victory and the spoils.
The Widnes Vikings made a confident start to their campaign against newly promoted Oldham, after being hamstrung by a massive points deduction last year. Johnson, Owens and Spedding all scored in the first half for a 16-0 interval lead wihic was extended to 28-0 through Grady and Cross tries in the opening minutes of the second half. Beckett scored Oldham’s solitary try on fifty-two, converted by Abram, but a second from Johnson and late try from Wilde eased the Vikings to a comfortable 36-6 win which see’s them atop the table after week one.
Swinton Lions took the points on the road to promoted Whitehaven in a low scoring game at the Recreation Ground. Hatton scored after six minutes, with Hansen converting, for the only points of the first half with Butt scoring not long after the restart for a 12-0 lead. Hansen added a penalty goal as the final hooter sounded for the 14-0 win, Whitehaven the only side not to register a point in the opening round.
The highest scoring game of the day was at Batley where the Bulldogs went down by 18-38 against Featherstone Rovers. Worthington had given Rovers the lead in the fourteenth minute but quick tries from Galbraith and Leak, both converted by Morton, put the home side ahead by 12-6. A Briscoe try levelled the scores at the interval after Chisolm added the second, of what would be seven, goals for the visitors. A Chisolm try straight after the restart gave Rovers the lead and when the half-back added a second on fifty Fev’ started to pull clear. Walshaw struck back for the Bulldogs to reduce the arrears to 18-24 but the side from Post Office Road then took control. In the closing minutes Chisolm kicked a penalty goal and then converted tries from Hardcastle and Harrison to seal the big win.