Kingstone Press Championship Round 9 Preview

Saturday..

Toulouse Olympique v Oldham – Toulouse Olympique return to home turf after hammering Rochdale Hornets in round eight while Oldham had Kieran Gill to thank for some late heroics as Scott Naylor’s men beat Bradford Bulls. This has the potential to be a great match to kick-off the weekend’s action!

Last Time Out

Toulouse Olympique’s improved away form was on full display against Rochdale Hornets as the French side ran out 52-14 winners. Sylvain Houles’ side were 36-0 up at the break following braces from Tony Maurel and Bastien Ader as well as tries from Anthony Marion, Paul Marcon and Kalausa Leha. Marion and Marcon’s tries were scored while Rochdale were down to 12 men after Jono Smith was sin-binned for interference. After the break, Gavin Marguerite extended Toulouse’s advantage before Ben Moores got Rochdale on the scoresheet. Maurel scored twice in the second half to take his tally to four tries for the game but it was the Hornets who finished the game strongly. Gary Middlehurst and Rob Massam notched consolation efforts for the hosts, who will have been disappointed to have been turned over convincingly by their overseas opponents.

Oldham defeated Bradford Bulls 26-22 at Bower Fold to pick up an important two competition points. Kieran Gill was the hero for the Roughyeds as the Castleford loanee bagged a try in the dying embers of the contest. The hosts were 14-12 down at the break despite tries from Adam Neal and Danny Langtree. Lee Smith, James Bentley and Ethan Ryan all crossed the whitewash for the Bulls. In the second period, Joe Keyes touched down for Bradford to extend the advantage to two scores but Tuoyo Egodo responded with a try of his own. Scott Leatherbarrow and Jordan Lilley exchanged penalties as Bradford held a two point lead prior to Gill’s heroics following an Egodo break.

Key Battle

It was an eventful weekend for the wingers of Toulouse and Oldham in round eight. Tony Maurel was the star of the show for Olympique against Rochdale with four tries to his name while Tuoyo Egodo – who has also played at centre this season – played a big part in Oldham’s revival against Bradford. Paul Marcon and Adam Clay, from Toulouse and Oldham respectively, were the other wingers to feature in their side’s last match with the former getting on the scoresheet. Clay was a big part of Oldham’s team that secured Championship safety last season and has been a mainstay in the side for a number of years.

Prediction

Toulouse’s away form looks to be on the up now so all focus turns to keeping their Stade Ernest Argeles ground like a fortress. Despite a few hiccups, they sit in second place and have won six of their first eight matches while Oldham are ninth. It’s a big game for both as Olympique look to strengthen their place in the top four while the Roughyeds will be hoping to gain further ground from the relegation zone – Toulouse by 22

Sunday..

Batley Bulldogs v Rochdale Hornets – Both of these teams were heavily beaten in their respective round eight matches so this Sunday should see two highly motivated sides, battling it out to get back on track. Batley Bulldogs were the latest side to lose to Hull Kingston Rovers while Rochdale Hornets were unable to repeat their playoff final feat of last year as Toulouse Olympique proved too strong for Alan Kilshaw’s men.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs fell to a 50-16 defeat against Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park. The Bulldogs couldn’t keep up with their full-time opponents but were only 24-6 down at the break. Three tries inside the first 20 minutes set the Robins up for a big performance. Ryan Shaw, Kieren Moss and Andrew Heffernan were the try-scorers as the three-quarters took charge of the early proceedings. James Brown replied with Batley’s first try of the contest before Thomas Minns crossed for Hull KR. In the second half, Shaw and Liam Salter completed their braces and Chris Clarkson also got on the scoresheet for the hosts. Wayne Reittie and Dane Manning notched four pointers for Matt Diskin’s side prior to James Donaldson scoring the final try of the contest with three minutes remaining.

Rochdale Hornets were on the receiving end of a 52-14 scoreline against Toulouse Olympique at the Crown Oil Arena. The hosts couldn’t find their way over the whitewash in the first half while Toulouse ran in 36 points to seal the win after the first period. Tony Maurel, who went on to score four tries, broke the deadlock before Jono Smith was sin-binned for interference. Anthony Marion and Paul Marcon both touched down while the Rochdale forward was off the field. When Smith returned, Toulouse kept on with the job at hand and scored four tries before the interval. Maurel and Kaluasa Leha scored a try each while Bastien Ader registered a brace. The final 40 minutes saw three tries scored from both sides, with Gavin Marguerite and Ben Moores exchanging tries ahead of the final quarter. Maurel scored twice in eight minutes as he surpassed a hat-trick for the afternoon. Gary Middlehurst and Rob Massam then struck with consolations for the Hornets, who will be eager to make amends against Batley this weekend.

Key Battle

The prop forwards of both sides will be aiming for much improved performances at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday. Adam Gledhill and Will Maher paired up the front-row against the Robins while James Brown, who made a try-scoring contribution from the bench, and Tom Lillycrop were the replacement interchanges. Batley are not the only team to have had a heavy defeat against Hull KR this term and they won’t be the last, but getting back on track as soon as possible is important for their top four bid. Rochdale will be bitterly disappointed they couldn’t contest Toulouse for longer periods. Their front-row forwards against the French side consisted of Matty Hadden and Andre Savelio, on dual-registration from Warrington Wolves. Jo Taira was the only recognised prop on the bench for the Hornets.

Prediction

The Bulldogs have been on the edge of the playoffs for a few weeks now but the competitiveness of the Championship nowadays means it will be hard to get in Qualifiers contention and stay there for a long period. They missed an opportunity to cut the gap on fourth-placed London last weekend but the Broncos take on Featherstone on Sunday so one team will drop points. A good chance to put pressure on one of those sides but Rochdale won’t go down without a fight. The Hornets made a great start to the season but coach Alan Kilshaw won’t be wanting his side to slack off as the midway point of the regular campaign approaches. It’s always going to be tough playing against Batley at Mount Pleasant but they will be up for the challenge – Batley by 18

Bradford Bulls v Sheffield Eagles – Bradford Bulls welcome Sheffield Eagles to the Provident Stadium on Sunday as the West Yorkshire side look to get back on track after losing to Oldham last weekend. A last minute Kieran Gill try downed the Bulls while Sheffield won their second match in a row as they defeated London Broncos at the Beaumont Legal Stadium. The half-back partnership of Elliot Minchella and Simon Brown led the Eagles to a great victory, with the former scoring two tries and the latter performing exceptionally well with the boot.

Last Time Out

Bradford Bulls suffered an agonising 26-22 loss against Oldham at Bower Fold on Sunday, with a late try from Kieran Gill separating the two teams. The Bulls were 14-12 up at half-time following tries from Lee Smith, James Bentley and Ethan Ryan. Adam Neal and Danny Langtree both crossed the whitewash for the hosts as the sides were well matched during the first half. Joe Keyes furthered Bradford’s lead with a try in the final quarter but the Roughyeds, who were two scores down, fought back to overturn the deficit. Tuoyo Egodo cut Bradford’s lead to two points before Scott Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty to level matters. Bulls half-back Jordan Lilley edged his team back in front with a penalty of his own but there was one last twist in the tale, unfortunately for the visitors. Egodo made a break after a punt forward from Bradford and Gill was in support, sidestepping his way to the match-winning try.

Sheffield Eagles beat London Broncos 32-20 to register their third win of the Championship season as their return to form continued. Despite conceding first thanks to Jay Pitts, Sheffield put their foot on the gas and led 20-4 at the interval. Elliot Minchella bagged two tries before Garry Lo touched down following a superb flick pass from Menzie Yere. Simon Brown kicked a penalty fro the hosts, who were in control heading into the second half. It didn’t take long for Yere to get himself on the scoresheet after the restart. He fended the challenge of Kieron Dixon while strolling to four points. Brown’s great kicking display continued with another conversion but the Broncos soon responded with three tries in quick succession. Ben Evans, Dixon and Elliot Kear all crossed for the capital club who were back in the game at 26-20. But, to the disappointment of Andrew Henderson’s men, the Eagles shaped up in defence and didn’t leak any more points while they improved their own tally through Duane Straugheir at the other end. Decent signs for Sheffield, even though they have had to grind out two wins in as many weeks after being in a comfortable position in both ties.

Key Battle

The battle of the back-row forwards will be a good one at the weekend, with both sides having a competent pack to choose from. Colton Roche, James Bentley and Brandan Wilkinson were the starting back-rowers for the Bulls against Oldham. Bentley got on the scoresheet while the highly-rated Josh Jordan-Roberts came off the bench. All three starters have scored tries in the Championship this season and this should make Sheffield wary of the ability they possess. Kevin Larroyer was a big miss for the Bulls and his experience will always help in a side which features a number of youngsters. The Eagles go into Sunday’s game with newfound confidence and they also have solid forwards to call upon. Duane Straugheir and Matt James will be key for Mark Aston’s side. Both of them started against London, with Straugheir crossing the whitewash and James’ strong running helping the Eagles gain good field position. Will Hope was the loose forward and was instrumental in Elliot Minchella’s second try. On the bench, Aston had good options to choose from with Kyle Trout, Sam Scott and Liam Johnson all established back-rowers.

Prediction

Sheffield will be eager to extend the gap between themselves and the relegation zone, which Bradford sit bottom of due to their points deduction. They’ve started to show glimpses of the class they have in their locker but whether or not that can be done on a consistent basis remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Bradford will be seeking a win to cut the gap to Dewsbury Rams who are still yet to win a league game this season. A return to Odsal is timely as Leigh Beattie’s side continue to try and make their stadium a tough place to visit – Sheffield by 10

Featherstone Rovers v London Broncos – A battle between two of the division’s top four takes place at the Big Fellas Stadium on Sunday, with Featherstone Rovers playing host to London Broncos. Featherstone have a two point gap over the Broncos in the table and they’ll be looking to double that advantage after beating Dewsbury Rams in round eight. London were beaten by Sheffield Eagles and losses against sides in the lower echelons of the table will always come as a bitter blow to a top four chaser.

Last Time Out

In a match scattered with cards – six overall, with four yellows and two reds – Featherstone Rovers beat Dewsbury Rams 38-6 at Tetley’s Stadium. Featherstone fell behind in the opening stages thanks to a Jack Teanby try before they got on the board themselves through Luke Briscoe. With the score at 6-6 on 25 minutes, the game’s landscape swiftly changed as Dewsbury’s Jason Crookes and Dan Igbinedion were both sin-binned while Richard Moore was sent off, leaving Featherstone with a man advantage for ten minutes although they wouldn’t see their forward return to the action. The Rovers scored two tries and three goals before the break to go in 22-6 up. Ian Hardman and Briscoe were the try-scorers, while Aston added six points to add to his tally. In the second half, Matty Wildie extended Featherstone’s advantage with Aston converting and also kicking a penalty soon after. Paul Sykes and Gareth Potts were sin-binned within minutes of each other, leaving Dewsbury with 11 men for a second time but Aston was the only person to do any damage while his side had a numerical advantage as he slotted over another goal. With the match in its latter stages, Briscoe was given a red card for a spear tackle which left the referee with no choice. However, the visitors ended the tie with another try to their name and it came from Aston who had no problems converting either.

London Broncos lost 32-20 to Sheffield Eagles at Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday. Jay Pitts opened the scoring for the Broncos before Elliot Minchella responded with a brace to put the hosts in front. Garry Lo touched down later on in the half as Sheffield built a healthy lead to take with them into the second half. Simon Brown kicked a goal to end the first half in fine style for the hosts. Menzie Yere strolled past Kieran Dixon for his side’s fourth try of the afternoon in the early stages of the second period but London soon fought back to give the Eagles a fright. Ben Evans, Dixon and Elliot Near all struck in a matter of minutes to cut the deficit to just six points. Unfortunately for the capital club, they couldn’t find the equalising score and Duane Straugheir capitalised down the other end with the final try of the game.

Key Battle

Featherstone Rovers have two of the most dangerous centres in the Championship – Chris Ulugia and Jason Walton – and their contributions so far this season have been important. Ulugia is very hard to stop from short range while Walton can make a break from anywhere on the field and is good at taking the ball in while camped deep in his own half. London will know about the danger the pair possess but they also have two talented centres in their ranks. Ben Hellewell and Adrian Purtell weren’t able to help their side to a victory against the Eagles but they won’t stay quiet for long. Hellewell, who used to play at Featherstone, has a very good partnership with wingman Rhys Williams while Purtell is in his first season at the Broncos and plays alongside Kieran Dixon. If the ball finds its way out to the three-quarters, it will be interesting to see how the centres match up against each other.

Prediction

London have been far from their best this season but still find themselves in the top four while Featherstone, who improved their squad well in the off-season, have suffered a few defeats but sit in third. The Broncos will be looking to Jarrod Sammut for an improved performance this weekend as he was disappointing against Sheffield while the Rovers will need to keep their discipline in check after two red cards at Dewsbury. Can see Featherstone edging this one, although it may be a close battle for the most part – Featherstone by 8

Halifax v Dewsbury Rams – An all West Yorkshire clash at MBi Shay on Sunday as Dewsbury Rams travel to Halifax in search of their first league win of the season. Jonathan Schofield and Karl Pryce are set for their second game in temporary charge after last week’s loss to Featherstone Rovers while Halifax’s victory over Swinton Lions sees them on the edge of the playoffs.

Last Time Out

Halifax won their third consecutive home match in all competitions as they beat Swinton Lions 38-28 at MBi Shay. The hosts led 24-12 at the break following tries from Steve Tyrer, Adam Tangata, James Saltonstall and Elliot Morris. Ben White and Mike Butt were the try-scorers for Swinton in the first half while Chris Hankinson and Tyrer both kicked penalties for their respective teams.The second half started with Shane Grady touching down to further the hosts’ lead before Grant Gore responded with a try of his own. A Tyrer penalty and Jacob Fairbank try in the final quarter looked to put the game beyond doubt but that didn’t deter Swinton, who managed to grab a couple of consolations through Hankinson and Butt.

Dewsbury Rams’ run without a league win continued as they lost 38-6 at home to Featherstone Rovers in a card-filled extravaganza. Six cards were shown by referee Brandon Robinson, including two reds to Featherstone and four yellows to Dewsbury. Jack Teanby got the hosts off to a great start with a try in the first five minutes. Featherstone levelled matters with a Luke Briscoe four pointer before the controversy with cards started. With 15 minutes remaining in the half, Richard Moore was sent off while Dewsbury pair Jason Crookes and Dan Igbinedion were shown yellow. With a numerical advantage, Featherstone capitalised to the sound of two tries and thee goals. Ian Hardman and Briscoe were the try-scorers and Aston was on target from the tee. Before the break, Aston slotted over another penalty goal to make it 22-6 to the visitors. Matty Wildie touched down to begin the scoring in the second half before Aston, who had converted the try, kicked another penalty. Two more sin-binnings, this time for Paul Sykes and Gareth Potts, put Dewsbury in an even bigger hole but Featherstone weren’t as clinical in their absence as they only mustered another penalty from Aston. In the latter stages of the contest, Briscoe’s afternoon was ended abruptly as he was given a red card for a spear tackle. However, Featherstone managed one more try and it went the way of Aston after an offload inches away from the whitewash by Ash Handley.

Key Battle

Shane Grady will play against his former side this weekend as a part of Halifax’s back-row. Grady has two tries in four league matches for Fax and he played alongside Simon Grix and Jacob Fairbank against Swinton. Both Grix and Fairbank are good forwards in the second tier and, if they both stay fit, will be big assets for a top four push. Ryan Lannon was on the bench for Richard Marshall’s side as he was called upon from Salford Red Devils on dual-registration, as was winger Niall Evalds and hooker Matty Wilkinson. Dewsbury also had dual-registered players in their side against Featherstone, with Wakefield’s Chris Annakin starting at loose forward and Michael Sio coming off the bench. Aaron Ollett and Lucas Walshaw were the second-rowers for Dewsbury, who saw the game go away from them as they couldn’t handle a Featherstone side who will cause problems to every team in this division.

Prediction

Halifax will be eying a spot in the top four sooner rather than later and their recent home form lends itself to a good challenge for a Qualifiers place. They will be confident ahead of Sunday’s match against Dewsbury, whose Championship status looks in danger already despite only being eight games into the season. The Rams have a good squad of players but relying on dual-registered players to plug gaps isn’t a sustainable way of going about things. Will their fortunes change this weekend? – Halifax by 20

Swinton Lions v Hull Kingston Rovers
– Swinton Lions welcome Hull Kingston Rovers to Heywood Road on Sunday with John Duffy’s side aiming to put an end to the Robins’ impressive start to the season. The Lions will be wanting to bounce back after losing at Halifax last weekend while Hull KR, who suffered a few injuries against Batley, were fluent in attack as they racked up 50 points.

Last Time Out

Swinton Lions were beaten 38-28 by Halifax at MBi Shay in round eight. The visitors took the lead through Chris Hankinson, who kicked a penalty, before Steve Tyrer and Adam Tangata both crossed the whitewash to put Halifax in front. Ben White notched the Lions’ first try of the game as they stayed in close contact with their West Yorkshire counterparts. James Saltonstall and Mike Butt were next to add four pointers for Halifax and Swinton respectively before Elliot Morris registered the final try of the first period as the hosts led 24-12. Shane Grady furthered Fax’s lead after the restart with the opening score but Grant Gore didn’t wait long to respond as he kept his side in the contest. However, a Tyrer penalty and a try from Jacob Fairbank put the result beyond any doubt although Hankinson and Butt did touch down to cut the deficit to ten points by the end.

Hull Kingston Rovers defeated Batley Bulldogs 50-16 at KCOM Craven Park but finished the game with nobody on the bench after injuries to Andrew Heffernan, Kieren Moss and Thomas Minns. The hosts led 24-6 at the break with all three players scoring tries as well as Ryan Shaw. James Brown bagged Batley’s only try of the first period but the West Yorkshire club had work to do if they were to overturn the deficit. Hull KR had too much in their locker though as Liam Salter and Shaw completed their braces while Chris Clarkson and James Donaldson also crossed for the hosts. Wayne Reittie and Dane Manning were the try-scorers for Batley, who will have easier days at the office over the course of the season.

Key Battle

Chris Hankinson and Ben White both scored tries for Swinton in their loss to Halifax at the weekend, with the former also on kicking duties with four goals from six attempts. The pair will have a busy afternoon as they take on a Hull KR side who are in top form and scoring at will. Thomas Minns and Andrew Heffernan also scored in their match against Batley but both sustained injuries, though it seems the latter may be available as his eye injury isn’t as bad as first thought. The Robins may have to select a few fringe players against the Lions but the likes of Will Oakes and David Hodgson can still do a job in the Championship, without doubt. Swinton have competed well against every side they’ve gone up against this season and they will be up for the challenge once again, but keeping an eye on the three-quarters is paramount.

Prediction

For Swinton this year, it’s been a case of ‘close, but no cigar’ on more than one occasion. Tight defeats to the likes of London Broncos, Toulouse Olympique and Sheffield Eagles will have frustrated players, fans and staff alike and it seems like one win could spark a surge in form and a rise up the table. This weekend’s match against Hull KR would be perfect for the Lions to put down a statement. Tim Sheens’ men will know they’ll be in a battle against a gritty Swinton side but it’s hard to back against the Robins, especially on current form – Hull KR by 24