IT was always going to be an arm wrestle at Bloomfield Road in Blackpool on the weekend.

Summer Bash has once again proved a hit with the fans, in particular our Bulls supporters, who easily outnumbered everyone else.

Being my second Bash outing since arriving on these shores, it is a colourful event which will clearly grow, given the opportunity.

While the result was not what we wanted, it was always going to be a tight contest on a short and narrow pitch.

It reminded me of Workington’s small tight pitch that definitely does not lend its self to expansive free-flowing rugby league.

The game predictably descended into a typical set-for-set exchange, broken only by penalties and a handful of errors.

The experience of some of the older heads paid off in the blue and white camp, hats off to them, but certainly the slower ruck speed was a problem area which needs addressing.

You can see the differences between the Toronto and Leeds games and then Halifax.

It’s all a learning experiencing for players and coaching staff alike.

We look forward to our resumption in the battle of Fire & Ice in the Challenge Cup Quarter-Final on Sunday, June 2.

Importantly, our focus and attention turns to this weekend’s challenge with our trip to Featherstone Rovers in Episode XIV: Battle for the Pit Lands.

Under the tutelage of new coach Ryan Carr, Rovers have progressed again to be a genuine contender.

With Featherstone having demolished a weakened York City Knights outfit last week, we will arrive at Post Office Road tomorrow expecting them to be looking for retribution for their one point loss to the Bulls in round one, and their golden point loss in the Round Five Challenge Cup battle.

Chairman Mark Campbell has carved out a cult-like following in Featherstone, and with his no-nonsense attitude and culture within their club, we can likely expect four things from this match-up: (i) a brutal physical encounter; (ii) a lot of ball movement and faster rucks (referee permitting); (iii) creativity among their new halves pairings and (iv) the game being in the balance right up to the final seconds.

They will be confident, as while we sit level on points, Featherstone have a better points differential at the halfway point in the competition proper.

The closeness of the Championship is best reflected by the fact that six teams are separated by only two points. Sheffield (18), Leigh (18), York City (18), Featherstone (16), Bradford (16) and Halifax (16).

As the clubs commence the second half of the competition, two points becomes crucial as these six clubs effectively vie for three play-off spots.

No matter how you look at it, every game matters, every point and kick matters, as the teams prepare to commence their play-off runs.

The top end of the Super League competition by comparison is not as closely fought at their halfway point, with the third and eighth teams separated by six points.

Interestingly, though, the battle for the wooden spoon is a three-way tie, with Leeds, Hull KR and London Broncos all on eight points after round 15.

The rest have opened up a break. Which of these will remain locked in mortal combat – the smart money says that Kevin Sinfield will guide Leeds to safer waters, as their coaching and performance team look to extract consistency from their talented playing group. So looks like Hull KR and London Broncos might be left to fight it out to avoid last place and certain relegation.

On the expansion front we received exciting news this week from the RFL’s big cheese Ralph Rimmer, with confirmation that joining the Canadian road show is a team to be based in Ottawa, headed up by Eric Perez.

Some details are still to be ironed out, but it appears from the discussions taking place among Championship chairmen, that the preference is for Ottawa to compete in an expanded Championship competition, potentially as early as 2020 or 2021.

I can see a 16-team Championship structure having a lot of advantages, which could mean ultimately another re-jiggle between the League One and Championship competitions.

Possibly meaning only one team being relegated from Championship, and two being admitted from League One, and the inclusion of the Ottawa expansion team, potentially making up a 16-team competition.

Interestingly, some teams may choose to partner/merge or even relocate. It’s long been mooted, but that is a possibility some long-established clubs might yet face.

Having witnessed first-hand the wizardry at work at the end of last year, nothing would surprise me, once the wand is to hand. Let’s see.

Congratulations must go to the RFL on this North American expansion track.

I definitely think they’ve got it bang on. I hear the murmurings from the Super League shadows, who are anti-expansion, unless it’s in France, but the reality of the French experiment is this.

After 20 years and a gazzilion pounds, you have to ask what got accomplished?

They can’t even now generate a standalone TV deal that meaningfully contributes to the central pot.

I know the Super League hierarchy are in love with the South of France, but frankly I couldn’t give a toss.

If you thought carefully about this, the answer has to be Paris and Lyon-based teams.

Money, power and, in the case of Lyon, a strong rugby base.

Someone needs to send the roses around for when the Super League blazer brigade wake up.

Back to the task at hand, Sunday’s encounter will be a close game maybe as close as round one, and our Challenge Cup encounter.

I know Featherstone chairman Mark Campbell will be having that quiet chat to his boys.

We know they are still hurting over losing their last two encounters against the Bulls.

One thing’s for certain, they will expect to win.

We must take a large vocal crowd and be throwing everything at them. This will be a tight desperate fight to progress towards the top five play-offs as we fight in the Battle for the Pit Lands.

Get along to show your support and cheer your Bulls team at Post Office Road, Featherstone. Check out the Game Guide online or in the T&A, as you prepare for the long weekend. Kick-off is Sunday, 3pm.

Tickets available for this game and our Challenge Cup Quarter-Final against Halifax in the Club shop or online at #COYB #BullsNation #GameofFireandIce