Round 17 of the Betfred Championship gets underway at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday evening, with Featherstone Rovers hosting Newcastle Thunder.
The two sides had very contrasting weekends last time out, as Newcastle thrashed Workington and Featherstone were left stunned by Batley in a home defeat.
Brian McDermott’s men now find themselves off the pace in the hunt for first place after losing back-to-back league games for the first time since May 2018 and are now three points behind Leigh.
They go into Round 17 with a strong head-to-head record against their opponents, though – Rovers are undefeated in all fifteen of their previous meetings with Newcastle, including a comfortable 10-46 victory when they clashed in Round 13 at the start of the month.
Thunder will travel down to West-Yorkshire in high spirits following a comfortable 66-22 win over Workington, putting an end to an unwanted losing streak.
Workington will look to make amends for that when they kickstart Sunday’s Betfred Championship action with the visit of Widnes Vikings.
The Cumbrian outfit were well beaten when the sides met in Round 2 back in February, and things have been tough since with wins hard to come by, but Chris Thorman has received a welcome boost to his squad this week with the loan signings of Catalans Dragons duo Romain Franco and Florian Vailhen.
The strengthening of his squad has come at a key time for Workington, with the side still just a win away from climbing up the table.
Opponents Widnes put together a superb comeback in Round 16, where 16 unanswered second half points were enough to edge out London Broncos in a thrilling 26-22 victory and put an end to a four-game losing streak – a win this weekend could see them go level on points with eighth-placed Sheffield.
We can expect a hero’s welcome for Batley as they return to home territory this weekend, after a memorable win at Featherstone over the weekend – they host Whitehaven.
The Bulldogs continued their fine run of form with perhaps their most impressive performance of the season – a 20-28 win at the Millennium Stadium made it five wins in a row and their ninth in ten games, with the only defeat in that time coming against Leigh.
Craig Lingard’s side are firmly in the play-off spots now and look incredibly strong as we approach the latter stages of the season.
It may seem a daunting task for opponents Whitehaven, who remain in eleventh after a home defeat to York in Round 16.
Elsewhere in West-Yorkshire, Bradford Bulls welcome Leigh Centurions to Odsal Stadium.
The Bulls are in a rich vein of form under interim head coach Mark Dunning – a dominant 48-6 win against rivals Dewsbury in Round 16 has made it four wins out five, and they’re now just one point off sixth-placed Barrow in the play-off spots. They’ve also managed to open up a four-point gap to eighth-placed Sheffield.
Bradford are well and truly in the hunt for a play-off spot, but tests won’t come much tougher than this weekend.
Leigh looked unstoppable once again in Round 16 – their 4-58 win away to Sheffield Eagles means it’s twelve wins on the bounce, with defeat last coming in March to top-flight outfit Hull KR in the Betfred Challenge Cup.
Last weekend’s win coupled with Featherstone’s home defeat means the Leythers also have breathing room atop the division, and it’s hard to look past Adrian Lam’s men as favourites in any game right now.
Bradford and Leigh have met twice already this season, with the Centurions coming out on top in both Round 3 of the league campaign, and the Betfred Challenge Cup Fifth Round.
A West-Yorkshire derby awaits at the Tetley’s Stadium, as Dewsbury Rams host Halifax Panthers.
The Rams suffered another defeat last time out, meaning they remain in the bottom two for now – despite seven defeats in a row, though, Dewsbury are just one point from safety in a very tight relegation battle.
Halifax showed no signs of slowing down in their play-off push, with a 18-43 victory at Barrow in Round 16. Simon Grix’s side have now won ten games out of their last eleven, and their consistently impressive attacking displays mean they’ve scored more points than anyone outside of the top two with 471.
On an individual level, Lachlan Walmsley continues to impress – only Leigh’s Nene Macdonald can boast a better try tally for the season than Walmsley’s 14.
Half back Joe Keyes is also having a season to remember – a catalogue of superb performances this season has seen a lot of deserved praise thrown his way, and his numbers back that up. He goes into Round 17 as the third-highest points scorer in the division on 139.
London Broncos host Sheffield Eagles at Ebbsfleet’s Kuflink Stadium in another enticing Betfred Championship clash, as both sides will look to bounce back from disappointing defeats last time out.
The Broncos were in the driving seat against Widnes and had a healthy 10-22 lead going into half-time, but couldn’t hold on to what would’ve been a valuable two points as they look to extend the gap between them and the relegation zone.
Sheffield were put to the sword by a seemingly unstoppable Leigh side in Round 16, as their play-off hopes took another hit following their third defeat in four games.
The sides have played each other three times over the last 13 months, and they can’t be split – a 20-20 draw followed by a win for each may suggest this weekend’s clash could be an interesting one.
We round things off between two play-off hopefuls at the LNER Community Stadium, as York City Knights welcome Barrow Raiders.
The visitors find themselves just one point off second-placed Featherstone after winning eleven of their last twelve league fixtures, including their first win at Whitehaven in thirty years in their last outing.
The sides met last month in Round 10, with the Knights coming out on top after a 18-30 win that made it four wins on the bounce against this weekend’s opponents.
Barrow, though, will be looking to get back on track after a heavy defeat against Halifax on Monday – they remain in the play-off spots, but two losses in their last four games means their grip on sixth place has weakened.
We’re set for a thrilling matchup in York – which side will give their play-off hopes a boost?
Betfred Championship Round 17 Fixtures:
- Featherstone Rovers vs Newcastle Thunder – 18:30
- Workington Town vs Widnes Vikings – 14:00
- Batley Bulldogs vs Whitehaven – 15:00
- Bradford Bulls vs Leigh Centurions – 15:00
- Dewsbury Rams vs Halifax Panthers – 15:00
- London Broncos vs Sheffield Eagles – 15:00
- York City Knights vs Barrow Raiders – 15:00