A monumental fixture in the race for the top four. Batley are three points clear of sixth-placed Featherstone going into round 21. A victory for the Bulldogs would provide a timely boost in their bid for the Qualifiers. If Featherstone get the win on Sunday, it throws the top four battle wide open with two weeks remaining of the regular season.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs scraped past Whitehaven at the Recreation Ground on Saturday evening. John Kear’s men won 16-8 but there was nothing to separate the two sides at the halfway stage of the tie. Grant Gore broke the deadlock for Whitehaven before they had to deal with a numerical disadvantage following Ted Chapelhow’s sin-binning. James Brown capitalised for the Bulldogs with a try to level the scores. Batley found their way over the whitewash twice without reply in the second half, and they went 16-4 up as a result. Wayne Reittie and Adam Gledhill were the try-scorers before Craig Calvert responded for Haven with their only try of the second period.

Featherstone Rovers beat Workington Town 44-22 at the Big Fellas Stadium. The West Yorkshire club had a comfortable advantage at the break as the scoreline read 28-4. Ash Handley, Jamie Cording, Kyle Briggs, Anthony Thackeray and Michal Channing all crossed for the hosts while Town only mustered one try in the half, courtesy of Declan Hulme. The tries by Thackeray and Channing occurred while Featherstone had 12 men due to the sin-binning of Colton Roche. In the second half, the Rovers racked up three tries in the space of seven minutes as their tally surpassed 40 points. Jamie Foster, Ian Hardman and Tim Spears were the try-scorers prior to Workington replying with three scores of their own in the final quarter. Hulme, Brett Phillips and Marc Shackley made sure the scoreline didn’t look too one-sided as they all bagged a try each.

Key Battle

Batley have been impressive across the park in 2016 but it’s the work of unsung heroes Joe Chandler, Alex Bretherton and Adam Gledhill to name just three that don’t get enough credit. Chandler started in the centres against Whitehaven but he usually packs down in the back-row, with Bretherton and, on occasions, Gledhill. The latter is also known to feature in the front-row. For Featherstone, Jamie Cording, John Davies and Colton Roche were the back-rowers against Workington and they will be raring to get stuck in to this weekend’s challenge. There will be vital battles all over the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium pitch on Sunday, but keep an eye out for the tireless work that goes on in the back-row.

Prediction

These are the sort of games that the players dream of in the off-season. With not long to wait until the Qualifiers, every match is as vital as the next and Batley know that two wins will see them through. Featherstone are playing catch-up and this Sunday is the absolute definition of a must-win match for them. Will Jon Sharp’s side keep themselves in contention for the middle eights? – Batley by 14