Kingstone Press Championship Round 12 Preview

Bradford Bulls 29-22 Toulouse Olympique

Saturday..

Toulouse Olympique v Bradford Bulls – Both teams go into this round 12 match after a week off due to the Challenge Cup. Toulouse have performed magnificently up to now and their current league position (second) shows that. A victory over an under-strength Hull Kingston Rovers side isn’t to be underestimated as they can only beat who is in front of them and at the time, the Robins hadn’t lost a game. Meanwhile, Bradford are still stuck on -2 points after two defeats over the Easter period. With games against Sheffield, London and Hull KR to come it’s not going to be easy for the Bulls but they need to start picking up points, more so now Dewsbury are finally on the board.

Last Time Out

Toulouse Olympique handed Hull Kingston Rovers their first defeat of the season as the French side triumphed 14-6 at Stade Ernest Argeles. The hosts went into the break 8-0 up after a try from the returning Kuni Minga as well as two penalty goals courtesy of Mark Kheirallah. In the second half, KR’s Andrew Heffernan touched down and Zach Dockar-Clay converted to cut the deficit to two points. But with five minutes left on the clock, Toulouse sealed the win thanks to a converted try from Rhys Curran.

Bradford Bulls were beaten 44-18 by Featherstone Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium. The Bulls had a disastrous first half as they went into the break 38-0 down. Scott Turner and Cory Aston both notched braces for Featherstone while Misi Taulapapa, Josh Hardcastle and Andy Bostock all chipped in with four pointers. Bradford got on the scoresheet through Ross Oakes in the second half before Darrell Griffin touched down to put the hosts over the 40 point mark. Bostock was sin-binned for unsportsmanlike conduct but the Bulls couldn’t capitalise. However, Leigh Beattie’s men did score twice in the final quarter to give the fans a little something to cheer. Oakes and Omari Caro grabbed a try apiece, with the latter’s coming after Taulapapa was sin-binned.

Key Battle

The return of Kuni Minga comes at a good time for Toulouse, who will be wanting to try and catch Hull KR at the top of the Championship table. Minga, who has been a standout performer for Olympique, scored a try against the Robins in his comeback game. The Papua New Guinean has scored eight tries in six games, including hat-tricks against Dewsbury and Batley. Fellow winger Tony Maurel, who has covered at full-back at times this season, has notched seven tries in 11 games. Bradford will need to keep tabs on the pair, who have the potential to become something special. The Bulls went with Omari Caro and Iliess Macani on the wings against Featherstone, with the former getting on the scoresheet. Caro has scored two tries in five games while Macani has crossed five times during his nine appearances. Both players have pace to burn and if the ball is shifted on to the flanks they’ll need to put that speed to good use against Toulouse, who have shown their expansive side this season. 

Prediction

Bradford will fancy themselves against Toulouse this weekend. Without their points deduction, the Bulls would be sixth in the table and four points adrift of fourth-placed London Broncos. Leigh Beattie’s men have shown glimpses of quality and if they can pick up a win on Saturday, it’d easily be their best result to date. Olympique are unbeaten at home in the Championship this season, but have tasted defeat in the cup against Batley. After picking up a number of good results away from home, it’s hard to see the French side taking their foot off the gas at Stade Ernest Argeles – Toulouse by 20

Sunday..

Dewsbury Rams v Oldham – Two wins over local rivals Batley Bulldogs in as many weeks will have certainly eased Neil Kelly back into his role as head coach at Dewsbury Rams. The Rams beat the Bulldogs in the league before booking their place in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup with a golden point drop goal victory at Tetley’s Stadium. A loss to Sheffield Eagles on Easter Monday is the only blot on Kelly’s record so far. Oldham travel to Dewsbury after losing to Featherstone Rovers in the Challenge Cup on Sunday. Scott Naylor’s men can now turn their attention fully to their league campaign, as they aim to stay clear of the relegation zone. They currently sit ninth, five points clear of Dewsbury who are 11th.

Last Time Out

Dewsbury Rams beat Batley Bulldogs 23-22 in golden point extra time to move into round six of the Challenge Cup. The Rams were 16-14 up at the break despite a brace from Josh Guzdek and a lone score courtesy of Paul Sykes. Macauley Hallett bagged a brace of his own for the Bulldogs before Tom Lillycrop touched down against his former club. Sam Smeaton was sin-binned for interference in the 32nd minute and Guzdek’s second try was scored with the centre off the field. In the second half, Aaron Brown put Dewsbury in front with his side’s fourth score of proceedings prior to Sykes kicking a penalty goal to make it 22-16. Dom Brambani crossed the whitewash in the final quarter to cut the deficit to two points, which was cancelled out completely when Cain Southernwood kicked a penalty. An 83rd minute drop goal from Lewis Fairhurst ended up being the difference between the two sides.

Oldham lost 30-4 against Featherstone Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium in the Challenge Cup. The Roughyeds went into half-time 10-0 down after tries from Josh Hardcastle and Richard Moore. Featherstone were down to 12 men when Chris Ulugia was sin-binned for a professional foul but Oldham were unable to capitalise on their numerical advantage. In the second half, Scott Turner cut the deficit with Oldham’s only four pointer of the game before Featherstone struck four tries without reply. Ian Hardman, James Lockwood, Hardcastle and John Davies all touched down for the Rovers, who have had a great season up to now.

Key Battle

In their last match, Dewsbury Rams went up against a strong Batley Bulldogs pack and battled well. Jode Sheriffe and Jack Teanby were the starting front-rowers for the Rams, who had Tony Tonks and Luke Adamson coming off the bench. It was a great response from Dewsbury after their heavy loss to Sheffield Eagles in round 11 of the Championship. The Rams will have to show some grit against an Oldham side who can challenge any side in the division on their day. Adam Neal and Joe Burke were the front-rowers for the Roughyeds against Featherstone while Michael Ward and Ben Davies provided options from the bench. Six tries have been scored between the four props and any tries from the front-rowers is a good sign. It’ll be an interesting contest in the midfield this weekend as the two sets of forwards look to put their team on the front foot in an important match.

Prediction

Things look a bit brighter at the Dewsbury club after the past few weeks. Neil Kelly’s appointment as coach was a popular choice and the former Widnes boss is hoping to repay the faith shown in him by chairman Mark Sawyer. A win for Dewsbury this weekend will see them move to within three points of Oldham in the table so it’s a key game for both sides. The Roughyeds picked up a close victory against Swinton Lions on Good Friday but since then, they’ve lost two matches in a row although their defeat to Halifax was only by a couple of points. Can’t see a hammering in this one, a tight game may be on the cards – Dewsbury by 8

Featherstone Rovers v Sheffield Eagles – Featherstone Rovers welcome Sheffield Eagles to the LD Nutrition Stadium on Sunday. The Rovers beat Sheffield 47-22 back in early March and they’ll be aiming for a repeat performance this weekend. The Eagles seem to have turned a corner with four wins from their last five matches. While the Dane Chisholm saga rumbles on, Mark Aston’s men need to keep their focus as they go up against a Featherstone side who look a good bet for the top four.

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers booked their place in the last 16 of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup with a 30-4 victory over Oldham at the LD Nutrition Stadium. The hosts were 10-0 up at the break thanks to tries from Josh Hardcastle and Richard Moore. Featherstone had to deal with a numerical disadvantage during the first period as Chris Ulugia was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 28th minute. However, Jon Sharp’s men pulled through the first half unscathed although Scott Turner did score the opening try after the restart for Oldham. Ian Hardman and James Lockwood both crossed the whitewash to give Featherstone a comfortable advantage heading into the final quarter, in which they scored two more tries. Hardcastle completed his brace before John Davies touched down for the hosts, who face Halifax in the next round.

Sheffield Eagles carried on their good form by beating Dewsbury Rams 48-12 on Easter Monday. The Eagles scored the opening three tries of the contest to go 16-0 up before Dewsbury hit back with two scores of their own, closing the gap to four points at the break. Menzie Yere, Ben Blackmore and Garry Lo were the try-scorers for Sheffield while Aaron Brown and Brandon Douglas crossed for the Rams. In the second half, the Eagles took control with 32 straight points to seal a comfortable win. Greg Burns and Sam Scott got the ball rolling for the hosts before Lo finished off a great team try. Simon Brown kicked a penalty to extend his side’s lead before Lo scored his third and fourth tries as the winger moved to the top of the Championship try charts.

Key Battle

Featherstone Rovers captain Misi Taulapapa’s visa issues have been sorted and he played last weekend against Oldham in the Challenge Cup. His experience is vital to the cause and the Samoan has utility value, having played on the wing and at full-back in his time at Sheffield. Chris Ulugia, who played in the other centre slot against Oldham, is becoming a fans favourite at the LD Nutrition Stadium and it’s easy to see why. The former Bradford Bull is a powerful customer and has scored eight tries in 11 league games this season. It will be interesting to see how Taulapapa and Ulugia perform against an Eagles side who have shown what they’re capable of in recent weeks. Jake Spedding’s one-month loan deal with Sheffield has ended and with no sign that the young St Helens centre is coming back to the club, there will be an opportunity for either Perry Whiteley or Eze Harper. Whiteley has played in the centre and back-row for Sheffield this season, making seven appearances while Harper has started one game and came off the bench in another.  It is a big decision for coach Mark Aston, who will be happy with the way his side have performed over the past few weeks. Menzie Yere has been a mainstay in the Eagles side for a long time and his partnership with fellow countryman Garry Lo is blossoming. Lo is the top scorer in the Championship this season with 12 tries in 11 games while Yere has crossed the whitewash four times.

Prediction

Featherstone bounced back from their defeat to Hull Kingston Rovers with two consecutive wins and they will be wanting to keep the run going this weekend against the Eagles. With fixtures against Rochdale Hornets and Dewsbury Rams coming up, the Rovers have a good chance of strengthening their position in the top four but coach Jon Sharp will be telling his players to take it a game at a time. The Eagles have decent knowledge about a few of Featherstone’s players and they will be wanting to quieten the likes of Michael Knowles, Cory Aston and Keal Carlile to name three. After two comfortable victories over the Easter period, Sheffield travel to Featherstone with confidence but it’ll be a tough test for Mark Aston’s side – Featherstone by 18

Halifax v Batley Bulldogs – This all West Yorkshire contest at the MBi Shay is between two teams who have been in the Qualifiers over the last two years. Halifax’s appearance in 2015 saw them play some great rugby but they were unable to push on last season as Batley Bulldogs rose to the top four. Now it seems like the Bulldogs are stagnating. Two losses against Dewsbury in as many weeks is a worrying sign to say the least and with the Bulldogs four points adrift of Halifax, this game is a big one for Batley’s top four hopes.

Last Time Out

Halifax booked their place in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup with a 36-12 win over Whitehaven at the Recreation Ground. The visitors were 24-6 up at the break thanks to tries from Adam Tangata, James Saltonstall, James Woodburn-Hall and Shane Grady. Elliot Miller notched Whitehaven’s only try of the first half. After the restart, Ben Kaye notched a final quarter brace to seal the win for Halifax. Jesse Joe Parker touched down in-between Kaye’s double salvo.

Batley Bulldogs’ hopes of a cup run were cut short as Dewsbury Rams triumphed 23-22 in golden point extra time. Matt Diskin’s men went into half-time 16-14 up following a brace from Macauley Hallett as well as a four pointer courtesy of Tom Lillycrop. Dewsbury’s Josh Guzdek also scored twice, his second coming while Batley centre Sam Smeaton was in the sin-bin for interference. Paul Sykes notched for the Rams in the first half but the hosts had work to do in the second period. Aaron Brown touched down to put Dewsbury in front before a Sykes penalty goal made it 22-16. In the final quarter, Dom Brambani cut the deficit to two points before Cain Southernwood kicked a penalty to level the scores. Lewis Fairhurst’s drop goal in golden point extra time sent the home fans wild while Batley were left to lick their wounds once again.

Key Battle

Ben Kaye’s brace in the final 20 minutes of Halifax’s match against Whitehaven extinguished any hope of a comeback from the League 1 side. Kaye is an experienced figure in the Fax squad, and a player who can certainly do some damage out of dummy-half. He has failed to score in the Championship this season but his contributions elsewhere on the field don’t go amiss. Brandon Moore was the interchange hooker on Sunday and he will be eager for game time in the Championship after being on the sidelines with an injury. Batley started Alistair Leak against Dewsbury and used James Davey from the bench. Both players have great speed and when they get a quick play the ball, they’re hard to stop. Leak has five tries to his name in the Championship so far this season while Davey hasn’t crossed the whitewash. Tom Holmes gives coach Diskin another option as the young Castleford Tigers utility has also played at hooker this season.

Prediction

Halifax have won five games on the bounce in all competitions but there has been a few close shaves amongst them. Richard Marshall’s side will want to keep the momentum going as they take on a Batley Bulldogs team who will be low on confidence after three consecutive losses. Diskin hasn’t been shy from tinkering with the team this season and the former Bradford assistant will be wanting to find the winning formula as soon as possible. Either that, or the Mount Pleasant club will be fighting an uphill battle for a place in the Qualifiers – Halifax by 12

Hull Kingston Rovers v Rochdale Hornets – Hull Kingston Rovers return to league action after beating Super League’s Leigh Centurions in round five of the Challenge Cup. The Robins rested a number of big names in their loss against Toulouse but it proved to be a masterstroke by Tim Sheens as the table-toppers triumphed over Leigh 23-10. Rochdale have had a week off after being knocked out of the Challenge Cup by York City Knights in round four. The Hornets’ last game saw them lose 23-22 against Swinton Lions at Heywood Road.

Last Time Out

Hull Kingston Rovers beat Leigh Centurions 23-10 at the Leigh Sports Village to book a place in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup. The Robins were 16-10 up at the break thanks to tries from Ryan Shaw, George Lawler and James Greenwood. Leigh got on the scoresheet through Lachlan Burr and Curtis Naughton. A drop goal from Jamie Ellis nine minutes from time made it a two score game before Shaw completed his brace soon after to seal a great win for Tim Sheens’ side.

Rochdale Hornets suffered a 23-22 defeat at the hands of Swinton Lions in round 11 of the Championship. The Hornets were 10-8 down at the break, with the visitors’ try coming from Lewis Galbraith and two goals from the boot of Lewis Palfrey. Mike Butt kept his great scoring streak going with his side’s only score of the first half while Chris Atkin kicked two penalties. Rochdale took the lead after the restart thanks to Rob Massam but things went downhill for the Hornets when Jordan Hand was sin-binned. Connor Dwyer and Andy Bracek both touched down for the hosts before Hornets prop Jo Taira was sent off. Alan Kilshaw’s side didn’t buckle though, and they levelled the scores following tries from Massam and Samir Tahraoui. Tahraoui’s score was deemed an eight point try, giving Rochdale a chance to take the lead. However, Palfrey missed the conversion but kicked the goal in front of the sticks to make it 22-22. The final twist in the tale came with five minutes to go when Atkin slotted over a drop goal which proved to be decisive.

Key Battle

Hull Kingston Rovers performed brilliantly against Leigh Centurions and they thoroughly deserved their win. Josh Johnson is proving to be a shrewd acquisition by Tim Sheens and the former Huddersfield Giant started in the front-row alongside Nick Scruton. Johnson and Scruton are two of the best forwards in the Championship and their consistency cannot be questioned. Rob Mulhern and James Greenwood provided fresh legs off the bench against the Centurions, and the latter got on the scoresheet in the dying stages of the first half. Also worthy of note, Mitch Clark made his comeback against Toulouse on Easter Monday and the former Doncaster prop is an explosive player who can really cause problems. Rochdale’s bitter defeat to Swinton saw Samir Tahraoui and Jordan Hand start in the front-row, with Jo Taira and Matty Hadden coming off the bench. Tahraoui scored two tries in as many games over the Easter period and he will be aiming to add to his tally at the weekend. Hand and Taira both got in trouble with the referee against the Lions, with the former receiving a yellow card and the latter a red. Getting their discipline right against the Robins simply has to happen or they will be in for a long afternoon at KCOM Craven Park.

Prediction

Hull KR will be wanting to inflict more misery on the Hornets, who haven’t won in their last seven games in all competitions. Their last victory came on March 5th when they beat Featherstone Rovers 10-9. However, Rochdale still sit eighth in the table and five points clear of the relegation zone. A professional performance against the Robins will suffice. Tim Sheens has opted to use some of his younger players in the past few games, especially against Toulouse as the club had one eye on the Leigh fixture. Joe Wardill has featured in the last two games and he will have gained confidence from playing in such an intense environment, so soon after coming back from injury. Can’t see anything other than a Robins win in this one but Rochdale will put up a fight, as they always do – Hull KR by 26

London Broncos v Swinton Lions – After a week off, London Broncos will be fresh and ready to go as they take on the giant killing Swinton Lions. The Lions travel to Ealing after beating Huddersfield Giants 28-24 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Sunday. Swinton’s reward for beating the Super League club is a date with Wigan Warriors in the last 16. However, their attention turns to the capital and with confidence brimming Swinton will fancy themselves against the Broncos this weekend.

Last Time Out

London Broncos hammered Batley Bulldogs 42-4 at Fox’s Biscuits Stadium in round 11 of the Championship. The Broncos were 16-0 up at the break thanks to tries from Elliot Kear, Jay Pitts and James Cunningham. After the restart, Matt Garside and Brad Day exchanged tries for the visitors and hosts respectively before London scored four more tries to wrap up a comfortable win. Mark Ioane, Cunningham, Lewis Bienek and Kam Pearce-Paul all touched down for Andrew Henderson’s side, who are currently fourth in the table.

Swinton Lions picked up a Super League scalp as they beat Huddersfield Giants 28-24 in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup. John Duffy’s men were 18-16 down at the break after tries from Shaun Robinson, Rhodri Lloyd and Mike Butt for the Lions while Aaron Murphy, Sam Wood and Darnell McIntosh all crossed for Huddersfield. Sebastine Ikahihifo and Anthony Bate were sent to the sin-bin for fighting on 50 minutes and moments after the penalty was awarded to Swinton, Connor Dwyer touched down to give the Championship side a slender advantage. In the final quarter, Oliver Roberts regained the Giants’ lead but Rick Stone’s men were unable to stay in front. Four minutes from time, Luke Waterworth sent the visiting Swinton fans wild with the winning try. A brilliant result for Swinton and the Championship as a whole.

Credit: Peter Green (Swinton Lions)

Key Battle

James Cunningham got under the skin of Batley Bulldogs and also scored twice on a great afternoon for the Broncos. The hooker is a valuable player in London’s squad and he won the Young Player of the Year award for the division in 2016. Although he’s only played five times this season, he has scored three times and will prove to be a big part of London’s push for a top four spot. Lewis Foster came off the bench for the Broncos and showed his ability with some agile play out of dummy-half. Swinton hooker Luke Waterworth was the hero of the hour against Huddersfield as his try in the dying embers of the game proved to be the difference at the John Smith’s Stadium. Free agent Liam Carberry was registered for the Lions and went straight into the match day squad and did a good job. The former Widnes hooker is a good option for coach John Duffy, who only had 15 players training in the week leading up to the Huddersfield game.

Prediction

After a clinical performance against Batley, London coach Andrew Henderson will be asking for more of the same from his players as they take on a Swinton side who – despite their injury problems – will come into this weekend with a lot of confidence. The Lions are only two points clear of 11th-placed Dewsbury so a victory on Sunday will be timely to say the least. John Duffy’s side know they’ll have to be on their game to compete with London, who are gunning for a second straight appearance in the Qualifiers – London by 14

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