THERE is still plenty more rugby to play in the season, but yesterday's 20-6 victory at home to Rochdale Hornets means Barrow Raiders are a huge step to closer to securing a place in the Betfred Championship for next year.

Coming off a week's rest following the Summer Bash defeat to Sheffield Eagles in Blackpool, the Raiders players and coaching staff would have been under no illusions as to the importance of kicking off this final block of eight regular season games with a win.

Defeat would have seen them being just three points clear of the bottom two. Instead, thanks to this victory, that gap has moved out to seven and vanquished opponents Rochdale remain mired in the relegation zone.

In some ways, these past few weeks have been reminiscent of the point last season where Barrow were humbled by Whitehaven in the final League One regular season match before going back up to West Cumbria and kicking off the Super Eights with an impressive victory.

From the sluggish display against Sheffield, this was more like the Raiders team the area's rugby league supporters know and love, with the week off perhaps contributing to a more sprightly showing after what has already been a hard-fought Championship campaign.

Even this victory did not come without a cost though; Bradd Crellin was stretchered off following lengthy treatment due to a concussion towards the end of the first half and Declan Hulme hobbled off after the break with a hamstring injury.

So it does not get any more comfortable in regard to injuries, particularly with back-to-back trips to promotion contenders Featherstone Rovers and Toronto Wolfpack looming large, and head coach Paul Crarey will again been sweating on whether or not he will have a full match-day squad to go with.

But at least Crarey can be comfortable with the fact players can slot into other positions when required. Jarrad Stack again saw action at centre and Tom Loxam, the former Royal Marine in only his second year of professional rugby, put in an assured performance on the wing.

Perhaps the best evidence of that versatility was, however, Dan Toal. Having started at loose forward in the absence of captain Martin Aspinwall, Toal later moved to centre and his typically ferocious defending and strong running in both positions were a huge factor for Barrow.

It does, though, seem unfair to single out any individual as this truly was a team performance where everyone played a part in the Raiders getting two vital points on the board, no matter how big or small their part.

None more so than in the first half, where the sides remained deadlocked until the 33rd minute when Jamie Dallimore booted over a penalty from 30 metres out after Rochdale had been pinged for the markers not being square at a play-the-ball.

A second penalty from Dallimore on the stroke of half-time sent Barrow in four points ahead, although they may have felt aggrieved it was not more after Ryan Fieldhouse had a possible try ruled out for obstruction in the build-up.

No matter though because four minutes into the second half, a dropped ball was scooped up by Jono Smith and his carry set Barrow up for an attack which was finished when stand-off Dallimore sent centre Hulme crashing over for an unconverted score.

At the other end, an interception from Matty While stopped a promising Rochdale attack dead in its tracks and on 51 minutes, Barrow were in again when a simple move from a scrum led to Dallimore again providing an assist – this time for Fieldhouse, with no doubt about the legitimacy of this score.

A trademark rampaging run from Joe Bullock led to him grabbing the first of two tries 11 minutes later, but on 67 minutes the Raiders' otherwise impervious defence was breached when Setareki Talatoka chased down a kick for a try converted by Tyler Whittaker.

But that only provided scant consolation for the Hornets and Bullock put the seal on the win when he took a pass from Ryan Johnston to go over from close range two minutes from time.

Barrow Raiders: Ryan Fieldhouse 7; Shane Toal 7, Declan Hulme 7, Jarrad Stack 7, Tom Loxam 7; Jamie Dallimore 7, Ryan Johnston 7; Joe Bullock 7, Karl Ashall 7, Alec Susino 7, Jono Smith 7, Bradd Crellin 7, Dan Toal 8. Interchange: Nathan Mossop 7, Matty While 7, Glenn Riley 7, Ryan Duffy 7.

Rochdale Hornets: Declan Kay; Richard Lepori, Setareki Talatoka, Deon Cross, Rob Massam; Tyler Whittaker, Daniel Yates; Jovilisi Taira, Ben Moores, George King, Toby Adamson, Lee Mitchell, Gary Middlehurst. Interchange: Jonah Cunningham, Lewis Hatton, Patrick Moran, Luke Adamson.

Referee: Jack Smith.

Attendance: 1,212.

Playback: 33 – Dallimore pen (2-0); 40 – Dallimore pen (4-0); 44 – Hulme try (8-0); 51 – Fieldhouse try (12-0); 62 – Bullock try (16-6); 67 – Talatoka try, Whittaker conv (16-6); 78 – Bullock try (20-6).

Raiders star man: Dan Toal – Rock-solid in defence and came up with some important tackles, along with showing his versatility in moving to centre when injuries started to occur.