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Rugby League Championship

Summer Bash Preview

The Championship division has been needing some good publicity after the no-show of television coverage last season, so the Summer Bash will be a great event for all the Championship clubs, as well as two League One sides who’ll start off the whole event in the League One cup final. A good call by the RFL in getting the cup final played as a curtain-raiser, many thought that with the new structure, the League One clubs would get parred off and be thrown out into the wilderness. I’m glad that isn’t the case as with five teams being relegated from the Championship in 2014, there’ll be some top matches down in the third tier.  

Saturday 23rd May at 12pm – League One Cup Final

A nice incentive for the League One clubs to take the Northern Rail Cup-esque competition seriously. As previously mentioned, the League One competition will be highly contested in 2015. New expansion side Coventry Bears will want to put their city on the Rugby League map whilst clubs such as Oxford, Gloucestershire, Hemel and South Wales have all been competitive in their first couple of seasons in the league. Whether many people will turn out for this game remains to be seen but it’s good that the RFL have taken the third tier of Rugby League into account as well as the second.

Saturday 23rd May at 2:30pm – Workington Town v Whitehaven RLFC 

To kick off the Championship fixtures at the Summer Bash is a blood and thunder Cumbrian derby encounter between Workington and Whitehaven. A good choice by the RFL to have these two face off in Blackpool. Cumbrian’s are well renowned for their big forward packs and a bit of biff on occasions. And who doesn’t like a bit of biff!? I, for one, am looking forward to this match as there’s some top quality strike players in both outfits. Craig Calvert is never too far away from the score sheet for Whitehaven, Jessie Joe Parker is another player who can score a try in a blink of an eye. The Phillips brothers, Callum and Brett, are two very talented Scottish internationals who are highly rated at Derwent Park. Expect both of the brothers to feature heavily for Town in Blackpool.

Saturday 23rd May at 4:45pm – London Broncos v Sheffield Eagles

As an Eagles fan, I was surprised that we weren’t paired with Doncaster but I can see the thinking behind this fixture. A replay of the 2013 Challenge Cup quarter final, which the Broncos won, the Eagles will be looking to put one over on Matty Garside, and player-turned-assistant coach Andrew Henderson. Both Garside and Henderson have left Sheffield to go down south. With both teams signing some good players, such as Wes Naiqama and Ray Nasso (London Broncos), along with Jamie Langley and Tony Tonks (Sheffield Eagles), on paper this game looks a thriller. This is one of three full-time v part-time games at the Summer Bash, but none of the three look like foregone conclusions which makes it all the more interesting. 

Saturday 23rd May at 7:00pm – Bradford Bulls v Halifax RLFC 

To finish off day one of the Summer Bash, we have a highly anticipated West Yorkshire derby to feast our eyes on. It’s been quite a while since Bradford and Halifax have contested a league game so it’ll definitely be an eye-opener for both sets of fans, as past meetings from the good old days will brew up. It’s not a surprise that a game of this calibre has been picked as the game to close proceedings on the first day of the Summer Bash, some great players in both teams who live to perform in the big games. James Lowes’ assistant coach at Bradford, Karl Harrison, was coach at The Shay up until late 2014, so he’ll be firing up the players big-time in hope of beating his former employer. If the Bulls gain victory, players such as Etu Uaisele and Jake Mullaney will have helped their cause indefinitely, their NRL experience will be vital. Halifax have experience of their own in the shape of Scott Murrell and Luke Ambler, both seasoned professionals who will be ever-presents in new coach Richard Marshall’s plans.  A brilliant clash to close proceedings for the first day in Blackpool! 

Sunday 24th May at 12:45pm – Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams

Now how many turn up for this is in question too, all depending on how drunk the fans get on Saturday! A Heavy Woollen derby to kick the second day off is another good call from the RFL. Glenn Morrison’s side won both games against the Bulldogs last season so John Kear’s men will certainly be hoping for revenge by the seaside. All Heavy Woollen ties are usually great entertainment, and I doubt it’ll be any different at Bloomfield Road. With Dewsbury delving deep into player recruitment, the Rams will be hoping their signings live up to the bill. Former Batley prop Byron Smith has made the short switch from Batley to Dewsbury so he’ll be hoping to put in a good performance, along with ex Halifax full-back Ryan Fieldhouse, who will be on the verge of being injury-free come the Summer Bash. Batley have signed predominately youthful players in the off-season, Tom Lillycrop is a former Ram and he’ll want to prove to Morrison that letting him leave was a mistake. James Craven is another off-season signing who’ll be looking to show his worth after his switch from Keighley.  A good fixture to start the second day at The Bash, a feisty, in your face, match is in store and it’s definitely one all fans can really look forward to.

Sunday 24th May at 3:00pm – Doncaster RLFC v Hunslet Hawks

A game which doesn’t really look too exciting if you’re comparing it with the others, but it has all the makings of a top encounter. Hunslet will be wanting an easier ride than their last match on Sky Sports, the golden point extra time win over Oldham in the playoff final. Doncaster will be urging themselves to build on a great 4th place finish in the league last season. Under the guidance of Paul Cooke, the Dons will be a threat to anyone. Some almighty collisions will be happening down the middle of the park in this game, both the Hawks and Dons have good standard packs. Hunslet have improved their strength in the forwards with the signing of Brad Brennan whilst the Dons have re-signed former Union player Pasqualle Dunn. With entertainment sure to be at a high level come 3:00pm on the Sunday, Hunslet and Doncaster will be wanting to put on a great show in lead-up to the closing game of the 2015 Summer Bash. 

Sunday 24th May at 5:15pm – Featherstone Rovers v Leigh Centurions

A rematch of the 2014 Grand Final, and the two best teams in the division last season. Featherstone and Leigh showed the talent that’s in the Championship last season and they’ll do so again when they bring the curtain down on the Summer Bash. With Featherstone playing the bridesmaid to Leigh on all fronts last season, Andy Hay’s men will be striving for a victory at Blackpool, to show that just because a team is full-time doesn’t mean they have a divine right to win. It’s hard to say that Leigh will be wanting to improve on last season as they only lost one game, but with promotion at stake the Centurions will be wanting to do everything they can to make sure last season’s good work doesn’t go to waste. Both teams have top strike players, Ryan Brierley is a great example for Leigh whilst Will Sharp is always a top performer for the Rovers. The brute force down the middle is exemplified by Leigh’s Sam Barlow and, possibly, FuiFui MoiMoi whilst Rovers have new signings Ryan Verlinden and Jordan Balwinson in their armoury. From 1-17, this game is jam-packed with talented players and the RFL have made a good choice in making this the game that concludes the 2015 Summer Bash.

I study Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland. Write about the Kingstone Press Championship for a few websites, as well as doing match reports and previews for Sheffield Eagles.



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