The regular rounds of the Betfred Championship season came to an end this weekend with three of the spots in the top four still to play for. Here’s how the action unfolded…
Toulouse Olympique were first up as they hosted Dewsbury Rams in France on Saturday evening, knowing that a win would confirm their place in the Qualifiers.
They made hard work of it, leading by only two points at half-time and again close to the hour mark as the Rams showed great spirit in France.
The quality of Toulouse came through in the end though with three tries in five minutes, including a hat-trick score for Chris Centrone, pulling them clear as they went on to register a 44-18 victory.
After defeat at home to London last week, Featherstone Rovers needed a win to keep alive any hopes of a top-four finish. The fixture list didn’t favour them – just the small matter of a trip to runaway leaders Toronto Wolfpack.
And yet they managed to pull it off and win, despite having only 16 players as well, to inflict a first ever defeat on the Wolfpack in Canada.
Keal Carlile and Jason Walton got first-half tries either side of Ashton Sims’ score for the hosts, but it was Ian Hardman, looking to kick for two points with every opportunity, that kept the score ticking nicely.
After Adam Sidlow had closed the gap to two points, Josh Hardcastle and Matty Wildie got further tries to seal a 30-12 win.
It proved to be in vain though, as Sunday’s results pushed them back down to fifth in the table.
Barrow Raiders can be a tough side to visit but London Broncos made very light work of it, running away as 72-6 winners.
They ran in 13 tries in total, including hat-tricks for both Alex Walker and Rhys Williams and braces from James Cunningham and Jarrod Sammut, with the margin of victory seeing them leapfrog Toulouse into second place and earn themselves an extra home match in the Qualifiers.
Perhaps the biggest story in the Championship this season has been the achievements, not of those clubs away from the heartlands, but of a sleeping giant right in the middle of them.
Part-time Halifax are in the Qualifiers for the third time in four seasons, finishing the job on Sunday with a 38-6 home win over Rochdale Hornets to take the final top four place.
Three tries in six minutes from Simon Grix, Jacob Fairbank and Chester Butler set them well on their way, and they never looked likely to be troubled by the visitors after that.
Those results meant that the failure of Leigh Centurions to make the play-offs was confirmed, despite a 34-10 home win over Sheffield Eagles.
They trailed 10-0 close to half-time but pulled away with 34 unanswered points, which included an Ilias Bergal hat-trick and two tries from Matty Dawson-Jones.
They have to settle for sixth place and fighting in the Championship Shield, after a very difficult week that saw six first-team players depart and owner Derek Beaumont issue a very worrying open letter.
Sunday’s final match saw Batley Bulldogs extend their gap over the bottom sides with a 40-18 home win against the struggling Swinton Lions.
They led 40-2 at the hour mark after running in seven tries, including a double for James Harrison, before three late tries for the visitors gave the score a more generous look.
With the top four moving into the Qualifiers, the other eight teams now compete in the Championship Shield with their points remaining on the board.
Featherstone and Leigh look likely to be competing for the shield, but that will only be a consolation for two sides that had both finished just a point away from the top four.
Meanwhile, Swinton and Rochdale occupy the bottom two places and lie five points behind the pack above, with a major turnaround needed for either to avoid relegation.
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