Kingstone Press Championship Round 2 Preview

Halifax centre Ste Tyrer touches the ball down for a try.

Batley Bulldogs v Halifax – Both sides were beaten in round one but who will bounce back and claim their first victory of the season? Batley Bulldogs have had great home form for a number of years now and their rise to becoming a top four club is a direct result of that. Halifax travel to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium after a narrow defeat against Featherstone Rovers at the MBi Shay. They like to throw the ball around and be expansive in their play and that is something Bulldogs coach Matt Diskin is trying to implement too.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs were taught a lesson by Toulouse Olympique at State Ernest-Argeles. Despite scoring the first try through Alistair Leak on five minutes, Batley couldn’t handle the French side which led to a 44-6 loss. Gavin Marguerite responded for the hosts before Kuni Minga scored a hat-trick before half-time. Toulouse led 18-6 at the interval and they extended their lead with tries from Tyla Hepi and Rhys Curran either side of the hour mark. Clement Boyer, Tony Maurel and Marguerite all touched down in the final 15 minutes of the game to put a big exclamation mark next to the victory.

Halifax came close to an opening day victory but a late performance from Kyle Briggs denied them the chance of taking anything away from the game. Featherstone scored three tries without reply to kickstart the game before Halifax cut the deficit to six points by the end of the half. Luke Briscoe, Josh Hardcastle and Ash Handley were the try-scorers for the Rovers prior to Jacob Fairbank and Rob Worrincy touching down to make the half-time score 16-10. The start of the second half saw Halifax come out of the blocks fast with two tries in the space of four minutes. Adam Tangata and Scott Murrell put the hosts in front for the first time in the match but Rovers responded quickly thanks to Hardcastle’s second try. Halifax prop Mitch Cahalane was sin-binned for a high tackle ahead of the final quarter and two Briggs penalties put Featherstone back ahead 24-22. It was getting late in the game and the hosts regained the lead 14 minutes from time when Steve Tyrer crossed the whitewash. The conversion was unsuccessful. Briggs then took the driving seat and led his team to victory thanks to a penalty goal and a try in the dying embers of the game.

Key Battle

In Alistair Leak and James Davey, Batley have two of the most dangerous hookers in the league and Bulldogs fans should be looking forward to seeing the duo in action for another season. Leak scored the first try of the Championship season on Saturday afternoon while Davey came off the bench at Toulouse but couldn’t stem the tide. Halifax fielded one recognisable hooker at the weekend with Ben Kaye starting for Marshall’s side. Fax had a centre, two props and a back rower on the bench against Featherstone and Kaye sat out of the second half against the Rovers after injuring his shoulder. Meanwhile, Brandon Moore is also out for eight weeks with a broken hand so Fax will be aiming to keep damage at the play-the-ball down to a minimum.

Prediction

Matches between Batley and Halifax should be seen as one of the biggest in the division and this season, with both sides having good squads available, is no different. Matt Diskin’s first league game as head coach of the Bulldogs didn’t go too smoothly and he will be wanting an easier day at the office this weekend. Fax’s opener against Featherstone got the pulse racing and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if this match does the same – Batley by 10

Bradford Bulls v Rochdale Hornets – The story of the first round was undoubtedly Rochdale Hornets beating Dewsbury Rams 46-0 at the Crown Oil Arena. Alan Kilshaw’s side introduced themselves to the second tier in style and this weekend they’ll go looking for another big win. Bradford Bulls stand in their way and the West Yorkshire club, who sit bottom of the league on -12 points, need to start making tracks if they’re to catch up with the clubs above them.

Last Time Out

Bradford Bulls lost 54-24 against Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park last Sunday. The Bulls, under temporary head coach Leigh Beattie, struck first through Liam Kirk before Andrew Heffernan and Nick Scruton got the ball rolling for the Robins, the latter scoring a brace. Ross Oakes cut the deficit for the visitors soon after but Hull KR finished the half well with two tries in nearly as many minutes. James Donaldson and Thomas Minns both touched down to put the recently relegated side 30-12 up. The second half saw the Rovers score four tries to Bradford’s two. James Greenwood, Jamie Ellis and Adam Quinlan put the game beyond doubt for the East Yorkshire club prior to Ethan Ryan getting Bradford on the board for the second period. Heffernan and Iliess Macani exchanged tries for the hosts and visitors respectively late on.

Rochdale Hornets beat Dewsbury Rams convincingly on Sunday despite the Rams having four Wakefield Trinity players in their ranks. Rochdale were 22-0 up at half-time thanks to a brace from Ben Moores as well as tries from Samir Tahraoui and Danny Yates. The second half saw more of the same for the Championship newbies who added four more tries through Jo Taira, Rob Massam, Lewis Galbraith and Ryan Maneely. Lewis Palfrey also kicked two penalty goals in the second half as the Hornets completed a professional job against the Rams.

Key Battle

Bradford’s young squad saw them field three prospects in the back-row with Colton Roche, James Bentley and Brandan Wilkinson all starting while Josh Jordan-Roberts provided fresh legs from the bench. Back-rower Jordan-Roberts was part of a bench which consisted of forwards, with props Jon Magrin, Sam Hallas and Mikolaj Oledzki also making an impact. Rochdale coach Kilshaw opted with Danny Bridge, Josh Crowley and Gary Middlehurst in the back-row and it worked a treat with the latter winning Man of the Match. Bradford will be wanting to go toe to toe with their counterparts at the weekend in hope of gaining their first win and getting off the mark. Will Beattie’s men be able to stand up to the Hornets at the Provident Stadium?

Prediction

It’s a tough one to predict as Bradford have done really well on home turf since they came into the Championship. However, this season is like no other and there’s been a high turnover of players while Rochdale come into the match with great confidence after a massive victory over Dewsbury. It could go either way.. – Bradford by 8

Dewsbury Rams v Swinton Lions – Dewsbury Rams started their Championship season in the worst possible fashion last week as Rochdale Hornets hammered them 46-0 while Swinton Lions narrowly lost out to London Broncos. Neither side will be wanting to go into an early season slump so this game could prove crucial. Will the Rams bounce back from their mauling or will Swinton’s signs of potential come up trumps?

Last Time Out

Dewsbury Rams head into this weekend’s match following a heavy defeat to Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena. Glenn Morrison’s men lost 46-0 and were 22 points down at the break thanks to tries from Samir Tahraoui, Danny Yates and a brace courtesy of Ben Moores. After the restart, things got even better for the Hornets when Jo Taira and Rob Massam bagged tries either side of the hour mark. Lewis Galbraith and Ryan Maneely also touched down for the hosts while Lewis Palfrey kicked two penalty goals during the second half to put the icing on the cake.

Swinton Lions came close to upsetting London Broncos at Heywood Road but the capital club ran out 26-23 winners. Swinton had a six point lead at the break thanks to a Liam Forsyth brace as well as a try from winger Shaun Robinson. The hosts were a man down on 19 minutes when Connor Dwyer was sin-binned for holding down but Swinton kept hold of their lead in his absence.

Chris Atkin also slotted over a penalty goal for John Duffy’s men in a first half performance which will have breathed a lot of confidence into the side. London’s four pointers came from Rhys Williams and Jarrod Sammut. Tom Davies extended Swinton’s lead with the first try of the second half but the Broncos managed to fight back to level the scores soon after. William Barthau and Mark Ioane both got on the scoresheet as the hour mark was fast approaching. Chris Atkin edged the Lions back in front ten minutes from time with a drop goal but Daniel Harrison proved to be the match winner for London as the touched down in the latter stages of the contest.

Key Battle

If Dewsbury are to get off the mark this weekend, they will need their half-backs to turn up and dominate the game. The experience of Paul Sykes and Andy Kain cannot be questioned and they do have the ability to elevate the Rams into a highly competitive outfit. Swinton showed their talents last week and with Grant Gore and Chris Atkin linking up well, Duffy’s side are in good shape. Gore was part of the Whitehaven team that got relegated last year but the former Widnes man will be happy to have found a club in the second tier and he’ll be hoping to improve alongside Atkin. The kicking game will be a massive factor at the Tetley’s Stadium this weekend and the quality of it is expected to be at a high level.

Prediction

Dewsbury haven’t got much strength in depth this year and last week’s result could speak volumes come the end of the regular season. The Rams have been in the Championship for a long period now but have found success hard to come by. They need to start making tracks up the table and this weekend sees the West Yorkshire club come up against a Swinton side who are threatening to do just that. The Lions recruited well in the off-season and they came close to beating London last week. A repeat performance should see them through against a Dewsbury team who need to drastically improve – Swinton by 14

Featherstone Rovers v Oldham – It’s fourth v fifth at the Big Fellas Stadium on Sunday as Featherstone Rovers play host to Oldham after both teams registered wins in round one. Featherstone battled hard to get past Halifax while Oldham put in a polished second half performance to beat Sheffield Eagles.

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers’ top four credentials were put to the test on Sunday but they managed to pass the test with a 32-26 victory over Halifax at the MBi Shay. The Rovers were 16-10 up at the break after tries from Luke Briscoe, Josh Hardcastle and Ash Handley while Fax got on the board courtesy of Jacob Fairbank and Rob Worrincy. The hosts got off to a flyer in the second half thanks to quick-fire scores from Adam Tangata and Scott Murrell. Hardcastle cut the deficit to two points with his second try of the match before Fax prop Mitch Cahalane was sin-binned for a high shot. Consecutive penalties from Briggs put Featherstone back in front but there was another twist in the tale when Steve Tyrer regained the hosts’ advantage with a try on 66 minutes. However, Featherstone finished the game well and it’s results like these which make people think that the Rovers can finish in the top four for a second successive season. Briggs made it 26-26 with another penalty goal before the stand-off, who started the game on the bench, scored the winner six minutes from time.

Oldham started their second consecutive season in the Championship with an impressive 26-10 victory against Sheffield Eagles at Bower Fold. In a low-scoring first half, the Roughyeds went into the interval 6-4 down. Sheffield’s Matty Fozard broke the deadlock before Danny Langtree responded for the hosts. Both sides started the second half with 12 men due to Scott Turner and Ben Blackmore both being sin-binned for fighting. Oldham came out of blocks all guns blazing and scored two tries in nine minutes to go in front for the first time in the match. Sam Gee and Dave Hewitt crossed the whitewash before Scott Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty goal for an 18-6 lead. Ryan Millar gave Sheffield a ray of hope with a try on 66 minutes but it wasn’t to be for the South Yorkshire side, who fell to defeat following Langtree’s second score and another Leatherbarrow penalty.

Key Battle

Keal Carlile started at hooker for Featherstone last week while Matty Wildie was being used at scrum-half. The depth of Rovers’ squad is quite impressive and the player who won the game in the dying embers – Kyle Briggs – started on the bench. Whilst Wildie can be used at hooker as well as in the halves, back-rower John Davies has also been used at dummy-half in the past so there’s options galore for coach Jon Sharp. Meanwhile, Oldham captain Gareth Owen had a great game against former club Sheffield while Kenny Hughes was introduced to the game from the bench. The battle at hooker, with the quality that’s in both sides, will definitely be one to watch at the weekend as Featherstone and Oldham look to seize the initiative from around the ruck.

Prediction

After these two sides claimed victories last weekend, both will be wanting to make it two wins from two and there’s cases to be made for both sides. However, Featherstone have built up a squad that can challenge any team in the Championship and credit has to go to coach Sharp for bringing a very good calibre of player to the team. Oldham will push their West Yorkshire opponents but it may prove to be a step too far for them this weekend – Featherstone by 16

London Broncos v Hull Kingston Rovers – Arguably the two best sides in the Championship go head to head at Trailfinders Sports Ground on Sunday. Recently relegated Hull Kingston Rovers travel to London Broncos, who are on the up under the stewardship of Andrew Henderson. This match is certainly the pick of the second round and if the quality on paper is matched on the field then we’ll be in for a treat.

Last Time Out

London Broncos were made to fight for their opening day victory against Swinton Lions at Heywood Road. The capital club ran out 26-23 winners but they were 16-10 down at the break and faced a one point deficit with just ten minutes to go. Swinton started the match in fine style with tries from Shaun Robinson and Liam Forsyth inside the first eight minutes before Rhys Williams replied for the Broncos. Swinton second-rower Connor Dwyer was sin-binned for holding down but no further damage was done for the hosts as neither side scored a try in his absence. A penalty from Chris Atkin gave the Lions an eight point lead prior to Jarrod Sammut scoring on debut for London. Swinton finished the half with their third try of the contest through Forsyth. The second half saw Tom Davies touch down for John Duffy’s side, who went 22-10 up before two quick tries from William Barthau and Mark Ioane levelled the scores. Atkin coolly slotted over a drop goal in the final quarter but London managed to come up with the game winner on 74 minutes as experienced second-rower Daniel Harrison crossed the whitewash.

Hull Kingston Rovers started their campaign with a 54-24 win against Bradford Bulls at KCOM Craven Park. Contrary to the script, it was Bradford who scored the opening try of the game through Liam Kirk. Leigh Beattie’s rather youthful squad put up a good battle but the Robins had too much in their locker. The hosts scored the next three tries courtesy of Andrew Heffernan and a brace from ex-Bull Nick Scruton. Bradford kept in touch with their opponents as Ross Oakes got on the scoresheet after 25 minutes but a quick-fire tries from James Donaldson and Thomas Minns gave the Rovers a 30-12 lead at half-time. After the restart James Greenwood, Jamie Ellis and Adam Quinlan all touched down prior to Ethan Ryan scoring the visitors’ third try of the afternoon. Heffernan and Iliess Macani swapped scores for Hull KR and Bradford respectively as the game edged towards its conclusion.

Key Battle

There’s a lot of positions we could look at for the key battle in this game but the back-row of both teams has a lot of talent and muscle in equal measure. London Broncos had Daniel Harrison to thank for coming up with the winning try on Sunday and the Aussie forward started the match alongside Jay Pitts and Eddie Battye in the back-row. All of the interchange options could have been slotted into the second row or at loose forward and coach Henderson may stock up on forwards to combat the Robins’ power in the pack. Matt Garside, Sadiq Adebiyi, Mark Offerdahl and Junior Roqica were the players that started on the bench for London against the Lions.Maurice Blair, James Greenwood and Danny Addy started in the back-row for the Robins against Bradford while James Donaldson, Chris Clarkson and George Lawler all provided fresh legs from the bench. The depth that the Robins have at their disposal is something coach Tim Sheens will want to take advantage of over the course of the season but maybe not against rival teams like London.

Prediction

Hard to judge after just one game but London will be wanting to put in a much improved performance following their scare against Swinton in their opener. As for Hull KR, their defence leaked 24 points against Bradford last week and now they have to handle a talented group of outside backs as well as the unpredictable Jarrod Sammut. Coach Sheens will have ordered a professional performance against the Broncos, will he get just that? – Hull KR by 14

Sheffield Eagles v Toulouse Olympique – Sheffield Eagles play host to Toulouse Olympique at Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday as they look for their first win of the season following a 26-10 loss against Oldham last weekend. Meanwhile, Toulouse travel to Wakefield after a superb start to their campaign as they put Batley Bulldogs to the sword 44-6. This has the makings of an interesting contest, especially when you consider the French side have never beat Sheffield.

Last Time Out

Sheffield Eagles handed debuts to eight players but it was a disappointing first game for them all as the South Yorkshire side were on the receiving end of a 26-10 defeat at Oldham. The opening exchanges proved quite promising for Sheffield as they took the lead on four minutes through Matty Fozard and they kept hold of their advantage until half-time, despite a Danny Langtree try in the latter stages. Scott Turner and Ben Blackmore, of Oldham and Sheffield respectively, were sin-binned in the last last minute of the half for fighting. After the restart, Sam Gee and Dave Hewitt struck a try apiece in the space of nine minutes to put the hosts in front and also give them breathing space. Scott Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty to make it a 12 point game at 18-6 before Ryan Millar gave Sheffield some hope with their second try of the match in the 66th minute. However, the spoils stayed in Stalybridge as Langtree completed his brace before Leatherbarrow hit the target with another penalty goal soon after. 

Toulouse Olympique’s first game back in the Championship couldn’t have gone much better. The French side hammered Batley Bulldogs 44-6 at the Stade Ernest-Argeles on Saturday. Batley took the lead courtesy of a fifth minute Alistair Leak try but from then on, it was one way traffic with Toulouse – and Johnathon Ford – taking control. Kuni Minga scored a first half hat-trick for Olympique while Gavin Marguerite also got on the scoresheet as the hosts led 18-6 at the break. The second half saw Toulouse add five more tries to their tally and the scoring started with Tyla Hepi strolling to a score on 50 minutes. Rhys Curran, Clement Boyer, Tony Maurel and Marguerite were the others who scored four pointers in the second half on a very good day’s work for Toulouse in front of 1,623 people in the south of France.

Key Battle

Both Tony Maurel and Kuni Minga got on the scoresheet for Toulouse last week, with the duo combining for four of the team’s nine tries. Minga, who played for Simbu Lions in Papua New Guinea before joining Toulouse, had an explosive season in League 1 and he grabbed a hat-trick of tries in his first Championship game too. Maurel is 23-years-old so has time on his side and he is a key part of the outside backs in this exciting Toulouse team. Minga’s countryman, Sheffield’s Garry Lo, had a quiet game on Sunday against Oldham and he looked to be carrying an injury towards the back end of the match. On the other flank, Ryan Millar – who has pace to burn – scored one try but couldn’t help his side to a comeback in the second half. Millar and Lo will be looking to get more into the action on Sunday and they will need to be on guard against an Olympique side who have immense strike power.

Prediction

Toulouse’s success in this season’s Championship will highly depend on their form away from home and if they encounter trouble, it’s hard to bounce back in such a competitive division. If they can hit the ground running then predictions of a top four finish will have substance. As for the Eagles, they’ll need to get their first win sooner rather than later and if they can get it against Toulouse this weekend it will definitely be a confidence booster – Toulouse by 18

Toulouse gave a true statement of intent by beating Batley Bulldogs convincingly last week. Can they perform just as good away from home though?

  • Paul clarke

    Great division. Can take nothing for granted. Up the robins