WHAT a start to the 2019 Championship season, writes Raiders Review columnist Tony Colyer.

Quite a few surprises on the opening day included Barrow’s magnificent victory on the Mount Pleasant slope – their first since a 18-10 triumph in the old Northern Ford Premiership in 2001.

Batley Bulldogs are a very good team particularly at home and very few including myself expected success on the road so early after last season’s away disappointments. Even Matt Diskin, the Bulldogs head coach, admitted that victory was expected but post-match he accused his players of lacking respect for the ball and the opposition.

Another worry for Batley was the poor attendance; only 755 turned up and that included 100 from Furness.

It wasn’t a perfect victory and it could have gone either way, but Barrow showed real character – particularly in the second half when they spent the last 25 minutes defending a slender lead.

We will take that and move on, and we must use the confidence and mental toughness gained from that performance to improve in preparation for the next three winnable games against Sheffield, York and Dewsbury.

I’m sure Paul Crarey has brought everyone back down to earth and has focused on improvement in the key areas of discipline, ball retention and last-tackle options which were poor in the first half.

Barrow’s victory wasn’t the only surprise and elsewhere newly-promoted Bradford edged out Featherstone 17-16, and League One champions York put up a good performance against title favourites Toronto, eventually losing 14-0 in front of a very respectable crowd of 2,518. After all the turmoil at Leigh I didn’t expect them to beat Toulouse, but they did 24-16 and relegated Widnes were impressive defeating Halifax 40-16.

Tomorrow, Sheffield come to Furness on the back of a tremendous victory against last season’s basement club Swinton 64-10.

Head coach Mark Aston was delighted with his new-look Eagles squad in front of a much-improved attendance of 1,259.This was their first game of the season as they did not have any pre-season friendlies.

Mark is obviously much happier about this season’s squad with ten new signings including Anthony Thackeray, who bagged four tries in less than 20 minutes during a dominant second-half performance and he must be watched closely tomorrow. He has always been a talented player and last season scored 37 tries for Featherstone Rovers. His transfer came as a bit of a shock but clearly demonstrates Sheffield’s ambitions for this season after finishing just below Barrow last year.

The weather forecast is reasonable, so wrap up well and get down to Craven Park tomorrow for what should be a real battle.