Championship Preview – Round 6: Best attack faces best defence and can Leigh stop the rot?

Dewsbury Rams (5) vs Toulouse (1)

Toulouse leapfrogged London Broncos into top spot last weekend and the French outfit will be out for a fourth straight win when they travel to Dewsbury Rams.

Five matches have yielded four wins and a remarkable 200 points for Toulouse, making them the
division’s top-scorers by a considerable distance.

The biggest test of their top-four credentials will come away from France though and against tricky opposition in the shape of Dewsbury, who twice defeated Toulouse at the Tetley’s Stadium last year.

Similarly, the Rams have started the season strongly, winning three of their opening four matches and quickly establishing themselves as arguably the strongest side outside of the fancied top six.

Defence has been the foundation of their success, conceding less points than any other Championship, and the battle between the best defence and the best offence will be fascinating.

Featherstone Rovers (3) vs Swinton Lions (12)

Featherstone coach John Duffy will face former club Swinton for the first time since leaving the club in July.

Duffy’s side have enjoyed a tremendous start to the season with four wins from their first five matches, an all the more impressive feat considering they’ve taken points from top-four rivals Halifax, Toulouse and Leigh.

On paper, this looks set to be a comfortable Rovers win, particularly given Swinton’s dire beginning to 2018, which has seen them lose all of their four games and concede a league-high 166 points.

Featherstone won all of their previous (six) meetings with the Lions and it looks hard to see that run not continuing.

Halifax RLFC (7) vs Leigh Centurions (9)

Life without Neil Jukes continues for Leigh as they face another tough challenge against Halifax at the MBi Shay Stadium.

Jukes’ departure was unable to turn around their miserable start for the pre-season title favourites as they lost 38-30 at home to Featherstone last weekend, their fourth defeat in five matches.

Leeds Rhinos loanee Jordan Lilley is in line for his Centurions debut, having signed on a month’s loan this week, and looks set to replace injured half-back Ben Reynolds.

Halifax will present a stern test for Leigh though, having recorded wins over victories over Hull KR and London Broncos at the Shay last year.

Given Leigh’s current predicament, Fax will view the game as an ideal chance to claim a full-time scalp and put their top-four hopes back on track after losses to Featherstone and Toronto last month.

London Broncos (2) vs Batley Bulldogs (6)

New coach Danny Ward couldn’t have wished for a much better start to his time at the helm at
London and he’ll be out to maintain their undefeated record when they host Batley.

Ward stepped from his role as assistant to replace departing boss Andrew Henderson and his first four games have produced four wins for the Broncos.

It’s an even more impressive feat given that their last two came against fellow promotion rivals Toronto and Featherstone, matches in which they hit over 40 points.

It’s not been as impressive a start for Batley but wins over Swinton and Barrow in the previous two outings have put the Bulldogs in a solid position after the first month of the season.

London thrashed Batley 58-4 in the most recent meeting between these two sides and, although we may not see that similar a beating, another comfortable Broncos victory is expected.

Rochdale Hornets (10) vs Barrow Raiders (8)

It’s early in the season, but this one already looks like the proverbial “four-pointer” at the foot of the table.

Rochdale have lost all of their three matches so far this season, scoring just six points in two of those defeats to make them the league’s lowest scorers.

Barrow have enjoyed a positive start to their return to the second tier and despite facing tough competition – in London, Toronto, Leigh and Batley – they’ve taken a surprising three points.

The Raiders will be without half-back and goal-kicker Jamie Dallimore who begins his three-match suspension after being found guilty of dangerous contact.

Five wins in their last 29 matches in all competitions is worrying form for the Hornets and they’ll view a home clash against a newly promoted side as a must-win game.

Sheffield Eagles (11) vs Toronto Wolfpack (4)

Another side yet to register a victory so far in 2018 are Sheffield Eagles who quest for a first victory doesn’t get easier as they host Toronto Wolfpack.

Sheffield suffered a fourth straight defeat last month as they lost 58-14 to Featherstone, their second consecutive defeat in which their opponents have racked up 50 points or more.

After four games on the road, the Eagles are back in Sheffield for the first time since 2013 and make their maiden appearance at their new home, the Olympic Legacy Park.

Meanwhile, Toronto have enjoyed a good opening start to the new season although a defeat to
London and a draw at Barrow have shown the competitiveness of the Championship.

Despite those setbacks, Toronto showed their class and ability to score points as they swept away Swinton 52-12 last weekend with half-back Jake Wallace, who looks set to continue in place of captain Josh McCrone, scoring a hat-trick for the Wolfpack.

Based upon Toronto’s performance last weekend, Sheffield may have wait another week for that elusive first win.

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