Kingstone Press Championship Round 11 Preview

Batley Bulldogs v London Broncos – Batley Bulldogs will be aiming to bounce back at the first time of asking after losing to Dewsbury Rams on Good Friday. A derby day loss will have left the Bulldogs camp licking their wounds and they will be eager to get back out on the field and make amends against London Broncos. The Broncos went into their round ten match with Toulouse Olympique on the back of two straight defeats but Andrew Henderson’s men showed guts and character to beat the high-flying Frenchmen at Trailfinders Sports Ground.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs were beaten 20-4 against Dewsbury Rams at Tetley’s Stadium on Friday, with James Glover at the heart of everything good for the hosts. Glover, who played at centre, scored 16 of his side’s 20 points and he had 10 after quarter of an hour thanks to a converted try and two penalties. Mikey Hayward cut the deficit with Batley’s only try of the game before Dale Morton notched to make the score 16-4 at the break. In the second half, Glover kicked two penalties while Batley failed to cross the whitewash with ball handling errors a feature of their performance.

London Broncos beat Toulouse Olympique 30-16 to move into the top four for a few hours before Halifax triumphed against Bradford Bulls. Andrew Henderson’s men were 12-10 up at the break courtesy of tries from Jay Pitts and William Barthau, Api Pewhairangi added the extras to both four pointers. Gavin Marguerite and Mourad Kriouache were the try-scorers for the visitors, who kept in the vicinity heading into the second half. After the break, Mark Kheirallah put Olympique in front as he stormed to the whitewash. But unlike in the past, Toulouse were not allowed to put their foot on the gas and two London tries in six minutes gave the hosts a stranglehold on proceedings. Rhys Williams scored both for the Broncos, with Pewhairangi converting on one occasion. The half-back made amends for his conversion miss by kicking a penalty to extend the lead to six points before Matt Davis sealed the victory with the hosts’ fifth try of the game.

Key Battle

Batley have a good reputation for their strong forward pack, and that has been the case for a number of years now. Their front-rowers, including Alex Rowe and Tom Lillycrop, are direct runners who can certainly hurt a defence which allows Alistair Leak or James Davey to roam around the ruck area. James Brown and Adam Gledhill also featured for Batley against Dewsbury but their contributions came to no avail as Matt Diskin’s men were trumped by their local rivals. The Bulldogs will need to face up to a London pack that did a good job against Toulouse. Mark Ioane and Ben Evans were the starting props for the Broncos but they had good reinforcements on the bench in the shape of Mark Offerdahl and Lewis Bienek. With the slope playing its part as always, it should be a good contest in the middle of the field between Batley and London.

Prediction

Both of these teams played in last year’s Qualifiers, with London coming close to a place in the Million Pound Game. It wasn’t meant to be for the capital club though and now they have to work hard to get back into the top four, and games against the likes of Batley are far from gimmes. The Bulldogs will have been given a rollicking by coach Matt Diskin after their performance against Dewsbury and there needs to be some sort of reaction from the group – London by 8

Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls – After giving Hull Kingston Rovers a run for their money at KCOM Craven Park, Featherstone Rovers return to the newly named LD Nutrition Stadium to take on Bradford Bulls. The Bulls will have bad memories of the ground after their loss on the last day of the 2016 season, which saw Featherstone book their place in the Qualifiers. Leigh Beattie’s men are still on -2 points after losing to Halifax in round 10. Will they move on to a positive points total following Monday’s action?

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers lost 30-22 against Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park. Featherstone opted to kick four penalty goals in the game and their conservative style seemed to be paying off as they took the lead in the final quarter before David Hodgson and Maurice Blair both scored for the hosts. Nothing could separate the two teams at half-time with the score 14-14. Adam Quinlan, Chris Clarkson and Ben Cockayne all scored for the Robins while John Davies and James Duckworth were Featherstone’s try-scorers. Cory Aston kicked two penalties during the first period. Ryan Shaw put Tim Sheens’ side ahead in the second half as the winger crossed the whitewash before Aston kicked two goals to level matters. Anthony Thackeray touched down for the West Yorkshire club to the delight of the travelling fans, who started to believe their side could pull off a statement win. Unfortunately for the visitors, Hodgson notched an interception try to regain KR’s advantage and to rub salt into the wound Blair later extinguished any hope of a Featherstone win with the final four pointer of the game.

In the final game of Good Friday, Bradford Bulls fell to a 22-12 defeat against Halifax on home turf. The Bulls were 10-0 down at half-time as James Saltonstall and Shane Grady touched down for Richard Marshall’s side. Grady’s try came while Bradford were down to 12 men after Johnny Campbell was sin-binned. In the second half, Fax hooker Brandon Moore was sin-binned but Bradford couldn’t take advantage and the youngster’s return meant bad news. Ben Johnston touched down for the visitors, with Steve Tyrer adding the extras. Iliess Macani got the Bulls on the scoresheet with 14 minutes remaining and there was a bit of hope until Saltonstall completed his brace. Tyrer missed the conversion but kicked a penalty soon after. Ethan Ryan bagged a late consolation for Bradford but that meant little to either side.

Key Battle

Anthony Thackeray and Cory Aston have struck up a good partnership in the halves over the past few games and both players bring a lot to the table. Thackeray showed his awareness and agility in equal measure to cut through the Robins defence on Friday while Aston’s goal-kicking has been great thus far. Aston hasn’t had any game time with Leeds Rhinos since signing from Sheffield Eagles in the off-season but he’s made the most of his chance with Featherstone, who have some good options in the halves. Bradford selected Leon Pryce and Joe Keyes in the halves against Halifax, highlighting the mix of youth and experience which is quite evident throughout the squad. Neither were able to lead their side to victory but the quick turnaround means Bradford can enter Monday’s match with motivation to make it up to the fans. Seeing how Pryce and Keyes link up over the course of a season should be interesting, as the latter has the potential to be a great player while the former could turn out to be a great tutor.

Prediction

Two of Featherstone’s three defeats this season have come at the LD Nutrition Stadium so Bradford will feel like there’s an opportunity to pounce and get revenge after being knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Rovers. Jon Sharp’s side are currently third in the table and with Toulouse playing Hull Kingston Rovers this weekend, Featherstone will be eying up a victory and potentially leapfrogging the French side. However, Bradford are no pushovers and they have players who can really hurt the opposition so any underestimation from the Rovers could easily be punished – Featherstone by 14

Halifax v Oldham – Both teams picked up good victories on Good Friday but who will finish the Easter period with two wins from as many games? Halifax beat Bradford Bulls in round 10 while Oldham got the better of Swinton Lions.

Last Time Out

Halifax defeated Bradford Bulls 22-12 at the Provident Stadium to move back into fourth place in the league after London Broncos had beaten Toulouse Olympique earlier in the day. Fax were 10-0 up at the break following four pointers from James Saltonstall and Shane Grady, the latter’s coming while Bradford were down to 12 men after Johnny Campbell’s sin-binning. In the second half, the visitors were given a sin-binning of their own as Brandon Moore was shown yellow. No points were scored in his absence but once he returned, Fax extended their lead through Ben Johnston. Iliess Macani scored Bradford’s first try of the game in the final quarter to give the hosts a bit of hope but Saltonstall soon completed his brace to seal the win. Ethan Ryan bagged a consolation score for the Bulls.

Oldham beat Swinton Lions 22-18 at Bower Fold to increase the gap between the teams to five points. The Roughyeds held a 12-0 lead going into the break after tries from Sam Gee and Richard Lepori and things got better after the restart when Michael Ward touched down. Shaun Robinson registered Swinton’s first try of the afternoon before Scott Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty to give Oldham a 20-6 lead. Chris Hankinson then cut the deficit for the Lions but Leatherbarrow received another invitation to kick for goal soon after and he duly accepted. Jack Murphy’s try brought Swinton to within four points of their opponents but they couldn’t find an equaliser as they fell to another close defeat.

Key Battle

Halifax’s second-row division has taken a hit after the Bradford game as news came out about Simon Grix picking up an elbow injury which will see him ruled out of Monday’s game. This gives an opportunity to Ed Barber to seal a starting spot in the side and he is capable of filling the big shoes left by Grix, who has been in great form. Shane Grady and Jacob Fairbank were the other back-rowers for Halifax against Bradford and both are great Championship players, and have been for the past few years. Oldham will have to handle the powerful Fax forwards if they’re to have any chance in the match. Mikey Wood, Danny Langtree and Liam Thompson were the back-rowers for their match against Swinton. Wood is on dual-registration from Huddersfield Giants and has played five times for the Roughyeds this season. Langtree is one of seven players to have featured in every league game so far this season and his consistency is valuable to the cause. He notched a brace in the opening fixture and has scored one since then.

Prediction

Now that Halifax have made their way into the top four, they won’t be wanting to surrender their position anytime soon and their matches at the MBi Shay are vital as every successful team has a good record on home turf. Oldham have built a decent gap between themselves and the likes of Swinton and Dewsbury so they will only be looking up at this moment in time. Their game in hand against the Rams is also useful but their focus will be on Monday and trying to turn over a Fax side who are made of stern stuff – Halifax by 18

Sheffield Eagles v Dewsbury Rams – Sheffield Eagles return to the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Easter Monday, looking for a fourth win in five games as they take on Dewsbury Rams. Neil Kelly’s Rams will be revitalised after a derby day victory over Batley Bulldogs at Tetley’s Stadium.

Last Time Out

Sheffield Eagles beat Rochdale Hornets 42-18 at the Crown Oil Arena on Good Friday. Mark Aston’s men put in a great performance, with Garry Lo starring thanks to a hat-trick of tries. The Hornets opened the scoring through Josh Crowley after four minutes but the Eagles bounced back with two tries in quick succession. Lo and Elliot Minchella touched down for the South Yorkshire side, who went further ahead on the half-hour mark when Greg Burns scooted to a four pointer out of dummy-half. Samir Tahraoui responded for the hosts before Lo and Jake Spedding bagged a try apiece to send Sheffield into half-time with a 30-12 lead. After the restart, Duane Straugheir crossed for the Eagles before Simon Brown kicked a penalty to make amends for his missed conversion. The penalty came after Lewis Galbraith scored Rochdale’s third and final try but the final say in the game went to Lo, who proved too powerful for the defence as he completed his hat-trick with moments remaining.

Dewsbury Rams defeated Batley Bulldogs 20-4 to kickstart their campaign at the ninth time of asking. The victory sees them move on to level points with 10th-placed Swinton and the Rams also have a game in hand after their date with Oldham was postponed earlier on in the season. James Glover scored 16 of Dewsbury’s 20 points and he registered the first 10 inside quarter of an hour. A converted try and two penalties saw the centre take control of the game before Mikey Hayward responded for the Bulldogs with their only try of the afternoon. Dale Morton extended the Rams’ advantage before the break as he notched his side’s second try. Glover converted for 16-4. In the second half, Glover kicked his fifth and sixth goals of the match as Dewsbury saw the game out against a Batley side who will have been bitterly disappointed with their performance.

Key Battle

Garry Lo showed why he’s rated so highly by Sheffield Eagles with a superb individual performance against Rochdale. The former PNG Hunters star scored three tries and was close to notching another as he ran the length of the field before being tackled out of play at the last second. His running, alongside that of fellow winger Ben Blackmore, from dummy-half is dangerous for many sides to deal with and is quite frequent in the game as the forwards get to take a bit of a breather. Blackmore is safe under the high ball and has had a run at full-back during the season but that role seems to belong to Ryan Millar, who has been in impressive form recently. Dale Morton helped Dewsbury to their first win of the season as the winger scored a try – one of just three in the entire game. Coach Neil Kelly will bring stability to the team and his experience may prove vital in the fight against relegation and games against the likes of Sheffield will be dotted down as winnable. Former Bulldog Alex Brown was on the other wing for Dewsbury but didn’t get on the scoresheet, although he is a handful for defences to keep hold of on his day. It will be interesting to see how fluent both teams are in attack after good wins in round 10, and how many clear cut chances the wingers will have.

Prediction

Dewsbury Rams make the short trip to Wakefield with newfound confidence on their side and they will be aiming to get one over on Mark Aston’s nomadic Eagles. Even though they had a poor start to the season, they’re only in the relegation zone because of points differential so things are looking much brighter for the West Yorkshire club now. As for Sheffield, bar the loss against Bradford, they’ve had a good few weeks. Consistency in the backline has been key and they will be wanting to shine in front of their home fans – Sheffield by 12

Swinton Lions v Rochdale Hornets – Neither side won their respective round 10 matches but who will bounce back on Easter Monday? Dewsbury Rams’ win over Batley Bulldogs has put them on the same points as Swinton, who lost to Oldham while Rochdale were far from their best against Sheffield Eagles.

Last Time Out

Swinton Lions lost 22-18 to Oldham at Bower Fold on Good Friday. The Lions were scoreless at half-time as they went into the sheds 12-0 down after tries from Sam Gee and Richard Lepori. Michael Ward extended Oldham’s lead with the first score of the second period before Shaun Robinson got the Lions on the board. Scott Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty for Oldham to make it 20-6 before Chris Hankinson touched down for the visitors. Another Leatherbarrow penalty kept the scoreboard ticking over but Jack Murphy’s try cut the deficit to four points, which is the way it stayed. Crucial goals from Leatherbarrow proved to be the difference between the teams.

Rochdale Hornets were beaten 42-18 by a Garry Lo inspired Sheffield Eagles side. Lo scored a hat-trick for Sheffield, with two of his tries coming in the first half. Josh Crowley opened the scoring for the Hornets before Lo and Elliot Minchella touched down for Mark Aston’s side. Greg Burns crossed the whitewash for Sheffield on the half-hour mark before Samir Tahraoui bagged Rochdale’s second score of the afternoon. The Eagles finished the half on the front foot, with tries from Lo and Jake Spedding making the score 30-12 to the South Yorkshire club at the break. In the second half, Duane Straugheir and Lewis Galbraith exchanged tries for Sheffield and Rochdale respectively before Simon Brown kicked a penalty. Lo concluded the scoring for the match as he completed his hat-trick with moments to spare.

Key Battle

Shaun Robinson and Mike Butt were on the flanks for Swinton Lions against Oldham on Friday, with the former getting on the scoresheet. Robinson has played all ten league games for the Lions, scoring four tries while Butt has scored five in six appearances. Unfortunately for Swinton, they lost two key outside backs in the off-season with Macauley Hallett going to Batley and Liam Marshall, who was on dual-registration from Wigan Warriors, cementing a place in the Super League club’s first grade. The tries they scored were key to the team’s survival in the Championship as the Lions created a reputation for their ability to cross the whitewash at will. This season, the defence has been more solid but the points haven’t come has frequently so coach John Duffy needs to find the right formula to get competition points on the board. Rochdale went with Rob Massam and Taylor Prell on the wings against the Eagles. Massam has scored six tries in ten games while Friday was Prell’s debut after signing on dual-registration from Warrington Wolves. Massam was a standout performer for North Wales Crusaders for a number of years and his powerful running style can prove hard to stop, especially from close range. Prell has impressed in the Wolves’ reserve grade after switching codes but is not in the squad for Monday’s game. Chris Riley is expected to come in for Prell and the former Super League player’s experience will be a good help for some of his teammates.

Prediction

Last Friday was another case of so near yet so far for Swinton, who picked up another close defeat. It has to start clicking for the Lions soon or else they’re going to be playing catchup with the teams above them, including Rochdale. The Hornets registered good wins against Featherstone and Bradford earlier on in the season and they’ll be wanting to regain that sort of form on Monday – Rochdale by 12

Toulouse Olympique v Hull Kingston Rovers – The pick of the round 11 fixtures comes at Stade Ernest Argeles, where Toulouse Olympique play host to Hull Kingston Rovers. Toulouse’s defeat to London Broncos will have fired the Frenchmen up as they look to hand the Robins their first loss of the season. Hull KR have made eight changes to their 19 man squad so it’ll be intriguing to see how the Robins perform against an ultra competitive Olympique outfit.

Last Time Out

Toulouse Olympique lost 30-16 away at London Broncos although they did take the lead in the opening stages of the second half but were unable to keep hold of their advantage. Olympique were 12-10 down at the interval despite tries from Gavin Marguerite and Mourad Kriouache. Jay Pitts and William Barthau were the try-scorers for the Broncos. Mark Kheirallah gave Toulouse the lead with a try to kickstart the second half but a double-salvo from Rhys Williams soon silenced the visitors. Api Pewhairangi then kicked a penalty before Matt Davis sealed the victory for London with the final try of the contest.

Hull Kingston Rovers beat Featherstone Rovers 30-22 at KCOM Craven Park. The half-time score read 14-14 after tries from Adam Quinlan, Chris Clarkson and Ben Cockayne for the Robins while John Davies and James Duckworth were the try-scorers for Featherstone. Cory Aston kicked two penalties to help the visitors’ cause in the first period. In the second half, Ryan Shaw regained KR’s lead prior to Aston kicking his third and fourth penalties to level matters. Anthony Thackeray’s try in the final quarter gave Featherstone the lead but it didn’t last for long as David Hodgson notched an interception score before Maurice Blair wrapped up the spoils with a four pointer in the 76th minute.

Key Battle

The back-rowers of both teams have a great mix of strength, agility and skill. Sebastien Planas, Rhys Curran and Andrew Bentley were the back three for Toulouse against London, with Tyla Hepi, Junior Kaluasa Leha and Constantine Mika coming off the bench. Hepi has played most of his rugby in the front-row this season while Mika has played a couple of games in the halves, highlighting the utility value in the squad. They come up against a KR side on Monday who will be showing off their strength in depth. With no James Donaldson, Danny Addy or Maurice Blair in the team, Toulouse will fancy their chances on home turf but it’s certainly not going to be a straightforward afternoon for them. Chris Clarkson remains in the squad, as does George Lawler who came off the bench against Featherstone. It’s a brilliant opportunity for the likes of Joe Cator and Joe Wardill to show their worth with more experienced figures absent from the squad. It should be a great contest all over the field and the forwards will certainly get stuck into each other, which will serve up some good entertainment.

Prediction

Even though Tim Sheens has rung the changes in the KR squad, it’s still a tough result to call as there is quality in the KR team even without the likes of Shaun Lunt, Donaldson, Addy and Blair etc. Toulouse have been exceptional on home turf and will be aiming to get back to winning ways after losing in London last time out – Toulouse by 14

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