Kingstone Press Championship Round 13 Preview

Batley Bulldogs v Hull Kingston Rovers – It doesn’t get any easier for Batley Bulldogs as they play host to table-toppers Hull Kingston Rovers in round 13. The Bulldogs have hit a bad run of form as of late and are six points adrift of the top four. Meanwhile, Hull KR still have breathing space at the top and will be looking for their 12th win of their league campaign this weekend.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs lost 40-22 at Halifax on Sunday as the latter extended the gap between the two sides on the league table. The Bulldogs were 20-10 down at the break despite tries from Danny Cowling and Jy Hitchcox. James Saltonstall, Will Sharp, Scott Murrell and Steve Tyrer all notched in the first half for Halifax. The second period saw Halifax score the opening two tries to put themselves in control of the game. Brandon Moore and James Woodburn-Hall were the try-scorers before Alex Rowe responded for Batley by muscling his way over the whitewash. Saltonstall and Sharp completed their braces in the final quarter for Halifax, either side of a try from Batley hooker Alistair Leak.

Hull Kingston Rovers were made to work for their 24-16 victory over Rochdale on home turf. The newly promoted Hornets certainly showed what they’re made of but were unable to hand the Robins their second league defeat. Jordan Case opened the scoring for the visitors before Hull KR’s James Greenwood was sin-binned minutes after his side was placed on a team warning. Lewis Palfrey kicked the goal to make it 6-0 before George Lawler registered the hosts’ first try of the game. Rochdale went down to 12 men when Lewis Galbraith was shown yellow and KR winger Ryan Shaw capitalised to put his team in front. With the score at 10-6, the Robins needed to start the second period well to avoid any more pressure from the opposition and the expectant Robins fans. Shaun Lunt and Ben Kavanagh came to the rescue with a try apiece after the restart to further the lead to 16 points. Rob Massam cut the deficit with Rochdale’s second score of the game before Jamie Ellis kicked a penalty. Case completed his brace for the Hornets in the dying embers of the tie but it meant little on the scoreboard as Tim Sheens’ Rovers had the game wrapped up.

Key Battle

Seven of Halifax’s eight tries came from the backs and Batley coach Matt Diskin will know that conceding as many points as they did is purely not acceptable. With Championship heavyweights Hull Kingston Rovers next up for the Bulldogs, there needs to be a drastic improvement as the West Yorkshire club haven’t been at the races recently. Danny Cowling and Sam Smeaton were in the centres for the Bulldogs against Fax and if selected this weekend, they will have a tough job on their hands. Liam Salter and Andrew Heffernan played at centre for the Robins in their last match, the latter being one of the most frequent try-scorers in the division this season. Tim Sheens’ men will fancy themselves to put a big score past Batley but they can’t afford to underestimate the opposition as it can easily come back to bite you where it hurts.

Prediction

Unfortunately for Batley, they seem to be in a tough position at the minute. The confidence of last season isn’t there and it will take a lot to get that back. A match against Hull Kingston Rovers seems to have come at the wrong time for Matt Diskin’s side but they will certainly meet them head-on and possibly give the former Super League club a run for their money. The bookies will side heavily with the Robins, and rightly so, but Batley have shown in the past that they can pull off some surprise results at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium. Will this be one of them? – Hull KR by 22

Dewsbury Rams v Halifax – Dewsbury Rams come into this game after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Oldham. With a comfortable half-time lead, the Rams were left pointless in the second period while the Roughyeds notched four tries without reply to win 28-24. They’ll be looking to bounce back this weekend when they take on an in-form Halifax side who look to have found their attacking groove. Richard Marshall’s men beat Batley Bulldogs 40-22 at the MBi Shay in round 12.

Last Time Out

Dewsbury Rams were beaten 28-24 against Oldham at Tetley’s Stadium. Everything was going swimmingly for the Rams at half-time as they went into the sheds 24-6 up, but things soon took a turn for the worst. Andy Kain, Robbie Ward, Paul Sykes and James Glover were the Rams’ try-scorers in the first half while Adam Neal came up with Oldham’s only four pointer of the first half. However, after the restart, Michael Ward started the comeback for the visitors with a 45th minute try and his teammates followed suit. Kieran Gill, George Tyson and Joe Burke all crossed the whitewash as Scott Naylor’s men turned the game on its head to claim a great win.

Halifax defeated Batley Bulldogs 40-22 at the MBi Shay. Will Sharp and James Saltonstall both registered braces for the hosts, who have really turned a corner in the past month. Fax were 20-10 up at the break thanks to tries from Saltonstall, Sharp, Scott Murrell and Steve Tyrer. Danny Cowling and Jy Hitchcox touched down for Batley’s tries. The start of the second half scoring certainly favoured Halifax, who bagged two tries through Brandon Moore and James Woodburn-Hall in the first ten minutes of the period. Alex Rowe and Saltonstall exchanged tries ahead of the final stages, in which Batley’s Alistair Leak and Halifax’s Sharp both added a try apiece.

Key Battle

Dewsbury Rams’ centres will have to be on guard at the weekend as they take on Halifax, who have Steve Tyrer and James Woodburn-Hall in their ranks. Both Tyrer and Woodburn-Hall got on the scoresheet against Batley Bulldogs and the pair will play a big part in Halifax’s bid for a spot in the Qualifiers after a year’s absence. Jason Crookes and Paul Sykes were the centres for the Rams against Oldham, and the latter got on the scoresheet during a convincing first half performance by Dewsbury. Unfortunately for Neil Kelly’s men, they were unable to keep hold of their lead and now they will be looking to get more competition points on the board against a Halifax side who have shown glimpses of class recently.

Prediction

Every game is vital for Dewsbury as they aim to retain their Championship status. Victories in home matches have saved sides from the drop in the past and this may turn out to be the case for the Rams, but they can’t afford any more slip-ups like last week. Player morale will be down after last week’s disappointing loss and they will be wanting to put things right against Fax. Richard Marshall’s side have put a shaky start behind them and now sit in the top four so they won’t be wanting to relinquish their position anytime soon – Halifax by 16

London Broncos v Oldham – Both sides picked up narrow victories in round 12 but which side will keep their form going? London Broncos play host to Oldham, with the capital club looking to return to the top four after being replaced by Halifax by virtue of one point in the points difference bracket. Oldham’s comeback victory over Dewsbury certainly helped their cause as they look to maintain their midtable status over the course of the season. A win over London would be a further boost for the eighth-placed Roughyeds, who are seven points shy of the Broncos but only a point away from sixth.

Last Time Out

London Broncos beat Swinton Lions 38-28 at Trailfinders Sports Ground. Andrew Henderson’s men were 22-6 up at the interval thanks to four pointers from Jay Pitts, Matt Garside, James Cunningham and Api Pewhairangi. Mike Butt, who went on to score a hat-trick, notched Swinton’s only try of the first half. London finished the half with 12 men as Daniel Harrison was sin-binned for dissent. After the break, four tries were scored before the final quarter with London staying tight against a valiant opponent. Butt and Pewhairangi exchanged tries before the forwards got in amongst the tries, as Swinton’s Andy Bracek and London’s Mark Ioane both touched down within minutes of each other. A final quarter surge from Swinton saw them move just four points away from London after tries from Connor Dwyer and Butt. However, the equalising score didn’t come which left Lewis Bienek to cross for the final try of the game with moments remaining.

Oldham came from 24-6 down at half-time to beat Dewsbury Rams 28-24. Adam Neal scored Oldham’s only try of the first half in the sixth minute, before the Rams went on a rampage with three tries in five minutes. Andy Kain, Robbie Ward and Paul Sykes all scored consecutive tries before James Glover scored his side’s fourth try of the game on 35 minutes. Whatever Oldham coach Scott Naylor said at half-time certainly had the desired effect as the visitors notched four tries without reply to steal the spoils. Michael Ward and Kieran Gill scored tries before the final quarter, in which the Roughyeds finished the comeback courtesy of tries from George Tyson and Joe Burke. A magnificent effort from a team full of character and spirit.

Key Battle

Api Pewhairangi had a great game for the Broncos at the weekend, with two tries to his name as he looks to rubber stamp his name on the team sheet. William Barthau played alongside Pewhairangi in the halves and it’ll be interesting to see if that will be the case against Oldham. Jarrod Sammut is in the squad for the weekend but whether he makes a comeback remains to be seen, however it does highlight the depth that the Broncos have. Oldham coach Scott Naylor selected Scott Leatherbarrow and Dave Hewitt in the halves against Dewsbury. The duo have been a mainstay in the Roughyeds side this season and their partnership looks to be blossoming.

Prediction

The Broncos need to keep picking up wins to put pressure on the top four. Henderson’s side will be striving for another appearance in the Qualifiers after putting on a good show during the seven games last year. They certainly have the quality to make it into the middle eights but banana skin ties like these will test their ability. Oldham were ecstatic when they retained their second tier status in 2016 and they look to be on their way to doing that once again. The Roughyeds bolstered their squad in the off-season and it’s certainly showing, with the likes of Leatherbarrow and Hewitt running the show in the halves and Adam Neal leading from the front. Will they be able to register another impressive victory? – London by 18

Rochdale Hornets v Featherstone Rovers – Rochdale Hornets host Featherstone Rovers at the Crown Oil Arena in round 13 of the Championship. The Hornets put up a great battle against Hull Kingston Rovers in their last match but were beaten 24-16 while Featherstone defeated Sheffield at the LD Nutrition Stadium.

Last Time Out

Rochdale Hornets lost 24-16 against Hull Kingston Rovers. Jordan Case notched a double with the first and last try of the contest but that wasn’t enough to inspire his side to a famous victory. Case’s opener was followed by tries from George Lawler and Ryan Shaw for Hull KR. The latter’s score came while Rochdale had Lewis Galbraith in the sin-bin, the Robins’ James Greenwood had also been shown a yellow card in the first half. In the second period, Shaun Lunt and Ben Kavanagh both got on the scoresheet before Rob Massam bagged Rochdale’s second try of the afternoon. Jamie Ellis kicked a penalty goal prior to Case completing his brace in the latter stages of the tie.

Featherstone Rovers beat Sheffield Eagles 25-14. Sheffield took the lead through a Simon Brown penalty goal before the hosts took control of the match with tries from Matty Wildie, Keal Carlile and Scott Turner. Carlile’s try was scored minutes after Eagles hooker Greg Burns had been sent to the sin-bin. After the restart, Cory Aston kicked a penalty goal to get the Rovers’ ball rolling once again. Tries from Garry Lo and Mark Mexico – either side of another Aston penalty – gave Sheffield hope but that was soon extinguished when Chris Ulugia scored a try on the hour. Aston concluded the scoring with a drop goal seven minutes from time.

Key Battle

Lewis Palfrey and Danny Yates have been brilliant for Rochdale this season as the side have adapted to life in the Championship perfectly. With a number of eye catching results and solid performances, the Hornets are a dangerous side to face and Featherstone will know about the danger they pose. Featherstone went with Cory Aston and Matty Wildie in the halves, the former being a key figure over the past month for Jon Sharp’s side. The Rovers have looked every inch a Qualifiers contender this year, with their reinforcements from the off-season as well as dual-reg loan players coming up trumps.

Prediction

This could be one of the close matches in this weekend’s Championship round. Rochdale have what it takes to go head-to-head with any side in the division and they will be looking forward to going up against Featherstone on home turf. The Rovers will be eying up another victory to strengthen their place in the top four and the bookies will probably favour them by three scores or more – Featherstone by 18

Sheffield Eagles v Bradford Bulls – Sheffield Eagles return to the Beaumont Legal Stadium after defeat to Featherstone Rovers in round 12. Mark Aston’s side take on Bradford Bulls, who sit at the bottom of the table with -2 points. The Bulls were heavily beaten against Toulouse Olympique at Stade Ernest Argeles and they’ll be aiming to complete the double over Sheffield this weekend.

Last Time Out

Sheffield Eagles lost 25-14 against Featherstone Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium on Sunday.  The Eagles were 16-2 down despite scoring the first points of the game thanks to a Simon Brown penalty goal. However, Featherstone hit back with three tries courtesy of Matty Wildie, Keal Carlile and Scott Turner. For Carlile’s try, the Rovers had a numerical advantage as Greg Burns was sin-binned. After the break, Cory Aston kicked a penalty to extend the hosts’ lead before Garry Lo registered Sheffield’s first try of the afternoon. Aston kicked another goal after Mark Mexico had been penalised for moving off the mark, but the prop forward soon redeemed himself with a powerful effort to the whitewash. Unfortunately for Sheffield, Featherstone weren’t going to let their lead slip as Chris Ulugia touched down before Aston slotted over a drop goal.

Bradford Bulls suffered a 60-4 defeat at the hands of Toulouse Olympique. Leigh Beattie’s men were 24-4 down at the break following James Davies’ lone try for the visitors. Johnathon Ford, Gavin Marguerite, Paul Marcon, Rhys Curran and Bastien Ader all notched during the first half for the French club. In the second period, Olympique added three more tries before the hour mark as Kuni Minga, Ader and Stan Robin touched down. Minga and Curran completed their hat-trick and brace respectively before Bastien Canet scored the final four pointer of the game in the last minute.

Key Battle

Scott Wheeldon and Mark Mexico were the starting front-rowers for Sheffield against Featherstone, while Jordan Cox made his comeback from the bench. The Rovers have an array of great forwards and Jon Sharp’s men were without Andy Bostock, who has suffered another bad injury. The Eagles competed for the full match but were kept in check by a mostly solid Featherstone defence. Bradford were taught a lesson against Toulouse and their starting props were Liam Kirk and Jon Magrin. The Bulls had young bench with the likes of try-scorer James Davies, Brandan Wilkinson, Brandon Pickersgill and Matthew Storton. All four players will have gained invaluable experience from the trip and they will be pushing to make more first team appearances over the course of the season. Bradford may have Sam Brooks and Ted Chapelhow available for selection from Widnes Vikings which will help their cause considerably as both players have had game time in the Championship with Whitehaven previously. The battle in the midfield will be key for both sides as they look to push their side into good territory, in which the outside backs aim to thrive.

Prediction

The Bulls have been on -2 points for quite a while now and with other teams picking up points above them, Leigh Beattie’s men need to start clicking into gear. There is no time like the present and they make the trip to Wakefield with hope of bouncing back after a tough afternoon in Toulouse. Sheffield won’t be too disheartened after their loss against Featherstone. In a number of games this season, the Eagles have fallen behind and gone on to lose convincingly. However this wasn’t the case on Sunday and despite the defeat, Sheffield coach Mark Aston will have been happy to see his side show some resolve. Whether they can show similar character at the weekend remains to be seen – Bradford by 10

Swinton Lions v Toulouse Olympique – Swinton Lions will know they have a great opportunity to get one over on Toulouse Olympique this weekend. The French side are missing a number of players on international duty, including star half-back Johnathon Ford. Whether or not Swinton will be able to capitalise is one of the big questions ahead of Sunday.

Last Time Out

Swinton Lions came close to pulling off a great comeback against London Broncos but fell just short at Trailfinders Sports Ground. The Lions were within four points of London in the final quarter but a late try from Lewis Bienek put paid to their efforts as the capital club won 38-28. The Broncos scored the first three tries of the match thanks to Jay Pitts, Matt Garside and James Cunningham. Mike Butt responded with his first of three tries for Swinton before Api Pewhairangi crossed for the hosts. London finished the first half with 12 men as Daniel Harrison was sin-binned for dissent. After the restart, Butt doubled his tally prior to Pewhairangi also completing his brace. Andy Bracek and Mark Ioane exchanged tries for the visitors and hosts respectively before Connor Dwyer and Butt both crossed to make it 32-28 to London with 12 minutes to go. However, Bienek came up with the goods for Andrew Henderson’s men with moments left of the match.

Toulouse Olympique hammered Bradford Bulls 60-4 as Kuni Minga, Bastien Ader and Rhys Curran combined to score seven of Toulouse’s 12 tries. Johnathon Ford, Gavin Marguerite and Paul Marcon notched the opening three tries of the game before James Davies got Bradford on the board. Curran and Ader made sure their side would finish the half strong as they scored a try apiece to make it 24-4 to the hosts. The second period saw Toulouse score another three tries without reply thanks to Minga, Ader and Stan Robin touching down. In the final quarter, Minga and Ader completed their hat-trick and brace respectively before Bastien Canet brought up the 60th point for Sylvain Houles’ men with a try in the last minute.

Key Battle

In the absence of Johnathon Ford, Toulouse will probably go with the likes of Anthony Marion and Stan Robin in the halves. Mourad Kriouache is also in the 19 man squad and he is capable of filling in at half-back but he may end up swapping roles with hooker Kane Bentley. Swinton will be wanting to take the chance with both hands but they will know they still have to turn up against a  more than competitive Toulouse outfit. Grant Gore and Chris Atkin will line up in the halves and will be striving for a clean performance with the boot, while also causing problems with their running games. It will be an interesting contest at Heywood Road, that’s for sure!

Prediction

Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles has rotated his players quite a lot during this season and it has worked well up to now. This weekend he has had to change it up and that may well be to the benefit of Swinton. The Lions, who have had two good performances on the spin leading into the game, will be confident of picking up a positive result in front of their home fans. If their forward pack can muscle up to Olympique, then they’ve every chance – Toulouse by 10

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