Kingstone Press Championship Round 20 Preview

Dewsbury Rams v Rochdale Hornets – The Neil Kelly effect is in full swing now at Dewsbury Rams. Two wins in the space of five days have helped the Rams out of the relegation zone and the West Yorkshire club will he hoping for their third victory in a row when they take on Rochdale Hornets. The Hornets were beaten against Batley Bulldogs in round 19 so they will be striving to make amends against another Heavy Woollen outfit. Who will take the spoils in this one?

Last Time Out

Dewsbury Rams saw off Toulouse Olympique at the Tetley’s Stadium as Neil Kelly’s men triumphed 34-22. Lucas Walshaw scored twice for the Rams, who have turned their season around since Kelly’s arrival. Dewsbury came from 12-8 down at half-time to win the game, with Walshaw scoring the only try for the hosts in the first period while Paul Sykes kicked two goals. Paul Marcon bagged a brace for the French club. Mark Kheirallah was on hand to convert both. Rhys Curran registered the first try of the second half as Toulouse extended their lead but Dewsbury responded in emphatic fashion. Four scores without reply gave the Rams an unassailable lead. Walshaw completed his brace before Macauley Hallett, Aaron Brown and Jode Sheriffe all touched down. Sykes kicked a penalty goal before Marcon notched his third try of the game, which was mere consolation for Toulouse.

Rochdale Hornets were unable to win their second game on the bounce as Batley Bulldogs beat Alan Kilshaw’s men 24-14. Despite going into half-time 14-8 down, Rochdale broke the deadlock through Lewis Galbraith. The conversion was unsuccessful. Adam Gledhill and Shaun Ainscough both crossed in succession to give Batley a two score lead but that was cut to six points by the interval as Jake Eccleston touched down. After the break, Gary Middlehurst levelled matters with a converted try but from then on Rochdale couldn’t add to their tally. Pat Walker kept his 100% record from the boot intact with two penalty goals, either side of a game-breaking try from Alistair Leak.

Key Battle

Since signing for Dewsbury Rams from neighbours Batley Bulldogs, Macauley Hallett has helped his new club out of the relegation zone. After helping Swinton Lions to safety in their first season back in the Championship, Hallett is hoping he can replicate that with the Rams and the West Yorkshire club are doing a great job under the guidance of Neil Kelly. Hallett scored a try against Toulouse while fellow centre Lucas Walshaw crossed for a brace as the Rams beat the usually impressive French club. Meanwhile, Rochdale lost to Batley and their centres were Jordan Case and Lewis Galbraith. The latter got on the scoresheet while the former, usually a back-rower but playing at centre for the second game running, couldn’t find his way to the whitewash. Both sides have been known to get their three-quarters into the action as much as possible and it’ll be interesting to see who takes their chances at the weekend in a real crunch tie.

Prediction

Dewsbury are on a roll and their players will be on a massive high after two consecutive victories in such a short space of time. Another home match means they can potentially add another win to their tally and make the Tetley’s Stadium something of a fortress ahead of the business end of the year. The Hornets will be trying to look up the table rather than down but with only two points separating themselves from 11th-placed Oldham, it’s going to be nervy times for the Championship newbies if they don’t pick up points from the teams around them. This is a perfect example of a game which can take the pressure off slightly in future matches but a loss against the Rams means the West Yorkshire club will leapfrog them in the table – Dewsbury by 14

Featherstone Rovers v Batley Bulldogs – Featherstone Rovers will be wanting to make amends for their loss against London Broncos in round 19 when they face Batley Bulldogs at the LD Nutrition Stadium. Luckily for Jon Sharp’s men, Toulouse and Halifax both lost their respective matches too so there was no damage done. Batley Bulldogs come into the tie after winning their third successive game so there will be a lot of confidence in the camp. They were forced to grind out a win in their last fixture, showing they have what it takes to win an arm wrestle as well as win in style like they did against Sheffield Eagles in round 18.

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers were beaten 36-30 against London Broncos at Trailfinders Sports Ground in Ealing. The West Yorkshire club led 18-16 at the break but a late fightback from the capital club gave Andrew Henderson’s men their tenth straight league victory. Jordan Baldwinson and Misi Taulapapa got Featherstone off to a flyer with a try apiece before Matty Gee and Alex Walker responded with scores of their own. Frankie Mariano and William Barthau exchanged tries as Featherstone went into the sheds with a slender lead thanks to the perfect goal-kicking of Ian Hardman. After the restart, Andy Bostock made his way over the whitewash to give Featherstone a two score lead but London had the perfect response. Four consecutive tries put the Broncos in the driving seat and they weren’t going to relinquish their advantage in the final quarter. Jarrod Sammut, Kieran Dixon, Elliot Kear and Walker crossed for the hosts, leaving Matty Wildie’s late try for Featherstone nothing but a consolation.

Batley Bulldogs beat Rochdale Hornets 24-14 in a scrappy contest at the Crown Oil Arena. Batley were 14-8 up at the break but had to come from behind thanks to Lewis Galbraith’s opener for Rochdale. Adam Gledhill and Shaun Ainscough answered back with a try apiece before Jake Eccleston cut the deficit to four points. Gary Middlehurst notched the first four pointer of the second period as the Hornets drew level but Batley found another gear to get over the finish line. Pat Walker kicked two penalty goals either side of an Alistair Leak try as the West Yorkshire side triumphed.

Key Battle

Three former Batley players lined up for Featherstone in the back-row against London at the weekend. Frankie Mariano and Jason Walton both started while John Davies came off the bench. Walton and Davies have been immense for Featherstone in their first season at the club with great, direct running while Mariano is an unsung hero who does a lot of the work that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Josh Walters was the loose forward on dual-registration from Leeds Rhinos but the Grand Final winner couldn’t help his side to victory in the capital. Like Featherstone, Batley had a tough job against a solid back-row. Dane Manning, James Harrison and Brad Day were the starters for the Bulldogs, while Joel Farrell came off the bench. The Rochdale trio of Jono Smith, Josh Crowley and Gary Middlehurst all pose real threat to the opposition but it was only the latter who could break through the Bulldogs defence. The battle of the back-rowers should be a great contest at the LD Nutrition Stadium, with players who have Super League experience and definite potential going head-to-head.

Prediction

After a quick turnaround from their midweek game against Swinton Lions, Featherstone Rovers put up a good fight against the in-form London Broncos but just came up short. In a game which looked to be going their way, it was a disappointing end for the Rovers who will be wanting to put things right this weekend. Batley have hit a good run of form lately. Three consecutive wins has taken the pressure of Matt Diskin, who hasn’t had the steadiest first season in charge. Another victory here would certainly highlight the potential they have in their squad ahead of the Championship Shield campaign in just over a month’s time – Featherstone by 12

Halifax v Bradford Bulls – An all West Yorkshire clash at the MBi Shay as Halifax play host to Bradford Bulls. Last weekend, Fax missed a great opportunity to close the gap on the top four as they were defeated by Swinton Lions. While Bradford, who finally got on to zero points in the table, will have been cursing due to victories for Dewsbury and Swinton. The Bulls will be without Scott Moore and Jordan Lilley this weekend, due to suspension and a recall from Leeds respectively, so will Geoff Toovey’s men have what it takes to get the better of Fax?

Last Time Out

Halifax lost 13-12 against Swinton Lions at Heywood Road. Richard Marshall’s men had come from behind to take the lead in the second half but they still managed to surrender the spoils to the Lions. The visitors were 10-0 down at the break after tries from Oliver Davies and Shaun Robinson, the latter’s coming following Brandon Moore’s sin-binning. In the second period, Halifax replied with two converted tries as they hit the front for the first time. Mitch Cahalane and Josh Wood were the try-scorers and it looked like Halifax’s top four hopes were alive and kicking, taking into account results elsewhere. However, Swinton half-back Chris Atkin spoiled the party with a penalty and a drop goal to win the game for the hosts. A nightmare for the West Yorkshire side who still have a respectable chance of Qualifiers rugby.

Bradford Bulls had no problems getting past Oldham at the Provident Stadium as Geoff Toovey’s side ran away with a 47-12 win. The ‘zero points party’ branded about by Bulls fans had been delayed for a long period as their side faltered but they finally wiped out their points deduction, and in some style. A first half hat-trick from Ethan Ryan gave Bradford a 21-0 lead at the break. The youngster opened the scoring before James Bentley kept up his fine try-scoring form with another to add to his collection. Ryan added two more tries to complete his hat-trick as Bradford’s youth products prospered on home turf, to the dismay of the Roughyeds. Oscar Thomas kicked a drop goal from halfway to rub salt into the wound. After the restart, Ryan scored his fourth try before Ed Chamberlain and James Mendeika both crossed. Sam Gee and Dave Hewitt made sure Oldham weren’t going to be nilled as they touched down. Bentley and Chamberlain finished the match with braces as the second-rower and winger helped themselves to a try apiece.

Key Battle

Youngsters Conor McGrath and Connor Williams were on the wings for Halifax against Swinton Lions at the weekend. Since then, Williams – who was on dual-registration from Salford Red Devils – has joined Oldham which means they will be a reshuffle ahead of this Sunday’s game. McGrath has had a good run in the first team, with his hat-trick against Sheffield Eagles the obvious highlight thus far. Whoever plays on the wings for Fax this weekend will have to be wary of Ethan Ryan, one of the hottest properties outside of Super League. A four-try performance from Ryan against Oldham doesn’t come as much of a surprise nowadays as the outside back has been a star performer for the Bulls in the last season and half. Ed Chamberlain, on dual-registration from Widnes Vikings, scored two against the Roughyeds and if available, he’ll be striving for a repeat performance.

Prediction

An interesting contest at the weekend as both sides look to cut the gaps on the teams above them. Halifax are two points behind Toulouse and three adrift of Featherstone in fourth and third respectively while Bradford are ten away from Dewsbury who are currently out of the bottom two. With four games of the regular season remaining, it looks likely that these two teams will face off in the Shield but Fax won’t have give up hope on a top four spot just yet – Halifax by 10

Hull Kingston Rovers v London Broncos – What a match this should be! Hull Kingston Rovers take on London Broncos at KCOM Craven Park, with the former looking to end the capital club’s record-breaking ten game winning streak. The Robins didn’t get out of second gear to beat Sheffield Eagles in round 19 but they will need to be on their game this weekend as the Broncos mean business. Andrew Henderson’s men have swept all before them over the past two months and their place in the Qualifiers is all but secure. This Sunday is the perfect acid test for London, who will know how far they have come when they go head-to-head with Tim Sheens’ side.

Last Time Out

Hull Kingston Rovers beat Sheffield Eagles 40-18 as Justin Carney started life as a Robin with a brace on debut. The East Yorkshire club went into the break 24-0 up after tries from Carney, Chris Clarkson, Jake Butler-Fleming, Nick Scruton and Ryan Shaw. After the restart, Elliot Minchella cut the deficit with Sheffield’s first try of the game but a comeback wasn’t on the cards as the visitors proved too strong. Shaun Lunt, Carney and Dockar-Clay all touched down as the Robins hit the 40 point mark but the final say went to Sheffield, who had Kyle Trout and Liam Johnson to thank for late tries.

London Broncos showed their spirit, character and determination to come from behind to beat Featherstone Rovers 36-30 at Trailfinders Sports Ground. The hosts were 18-16 down at the break despite tries from Matty Gee, Alex Walker and William Barthau. Kieran Dixon was two from three with the boot while Ian Hardman didn’t miss following scores from Jordan Baldwinson, Misi Taulapapa and Frankie Mariano. Andy Bostock extended Featherstone’s lead with the first try of the second period but London would soon find their footing. Jarrod Sammut, Dixon, Elliot Kear and Walker all registered consecutive tries as Andrew Henderson’s men sealed a great win. Matty Wildie crossed for Rovers in the dying embers.

Key Battle

Zach Dockar-Clay may not keep his position at full-back this weekend but he certainly showed Tim Sheens that he is capable of filling in there. The usual dummy-half was outstanding for the Robins and looked dangerous all game. His try was fully deserved and epitomised his performance as he broke the defensive line and beat the full-back to cross the whitewash. However, whether Ben Cockayne goes back to the number one spot or if Dockar-Clay stays there, they will have a tough afternoon on the hands by trying to outperform Alex Walker. The youngster is currently in the form of his life and his breakout year couldn’t have been timed better. The Scottish international is lethal when taking a high ball before crossing the whitewash and a number of his tries have come from those spiralling kicks which he has had no problems catching. All over the pitch, there will be entertaining battles but this full-back contest could well be worth the admission fee alone.

Prediction

Now this is a really tough prediction. Hull KR haven’t lost at home in the league all season but they haven’t faced a team in the same vein of form as London. The Broncos know they have what it takes to beat anyone in the division on their day but whether this is one step too far right now remains to be seen. When you take into account that they’ve beaten Toulouse in their own back yard, it’s not hard to see why there’s a lot of support for this Broncos outfit. However, you can’t underestimate the power and skill of the Robins and I think they will have enough to win this one – Hull KR by 16

Oldham v Toulouse Olympique – Oldham welcome Toulouse Olympique to Bower Fold on Sunday as Scott Naylor’s men look to damage the French side’s bid for Qualifiers rugby. Olympique are only two points ahead of fifth-placed Halifax but their points differential is significantly better so they do have a two game buffer. However, Sylvain Houles will not have been happy with his side’s defeat to Dewsbury Rams in round 19 and he’ll be hoping the players right the wrongs immediately. The Roughyeds come into this match on an eight game losing streak and a heavy defeat to Bradford Bulls.

Last Time Out

Oldham lost 47-12 against Bradford Bulls at the Provident Stadium as the West Yorkshire side finally wiped out their points deduction from the start of this season. The Roughyeds were 21-0 down at the interval after a first half hat-trick from Ethan Ryan as well as a try and a drop goal from James Bentley and Oscar Thomas respectively. Ryan scored his fourth try after the break before Ed Chamberlain and James Mendeika also got in on the act. Oldham weren’t going to be nilled though and they made their way to double figures thanks to tries from Sam Gee and Dave Hewitt. However, the Bulls finished the match strong as Bentley and Chamberlain completed their braces.

Toulouse Olympique lost 34-22 against Dewsbury Rams despite winger Paul Marcon’s hat-trick. The French club were leading 12-8 at the break after a brace from Paul Marcon, converted by Mark Kheirallah. Lucas Walshaw scored his first of two tries, with Paul Sykes kicking two goals. Rhys Curran extended Toulouse’s lead in the second period but Dewsbury soon found the answers they were looking for, in the shape of four consecutive tries. Walshaw completed his brace prior to tries from Macauley Hallett, Aaron Brown and Jode Sheriffe. Marcon’s third score of proceedings proved nothing but a consolation on a rare afternoon of disappointment for Olympique.

Key Battle

Ethan Ryan and Ed Chamberlain ran Oldham ragged at the Provident Stadium on Sunday and with the talent of Toulouse’s outside backs, if the Roughyeds don’t smarten up there could be a case of deja vu. Adam Clay and Gene Ormsby were the wingers for Oldham against Bradford, as Chamberlain and Ryan combined for six tries while centre James Mendeika also scored. Tough times for the Roughyeds who are in the relegation zone. Another loss gives other teams a chance to increase the gap so a response is needed despite the injury problems they face. Paul Marcon notched a hat-trick for Toulouse against Dewsbury but the effort was in vain as the Rams triumphed. Olympique conceded three tries in the outside backs on Sunday so for all their attacking power, there may well be a weakness for the Roughyeds to exploit. Ormsby and Kam Pearce-Paul started their first game for Oldham against Bradford and things don’t get easier for them but they do have the potential to cause problems.

Prediction

Every game from now must be classed as a must-win for Toulouse despite having the gap between themselves and Halifax. If they win all their matches, their first season in the Championship ends with a top four finish and a chance to gain promotion to Super League. There can be no bigger incentive than that. However, if they underestimate the likes of Oldham there could be trouble. Although the Roughyeds haven’t won in eight games, there’s still Championship experience within their squad which can come in useful during big matches. Getting out of the relegation one can be hard work and Oldham will be wanting to do so in quick time – Toulouse by 18

Sheffield Eagles v Swinton Lions – After three successive losses in a row, Sheffield Eagles will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they take on Swinton Lions at the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday. Mark Aston’s men have beaten Swinton twice already this year but with both games being close, Sheffield’s poor run of form and the Lions’ recent triumph over Halifax, this weekend’s tie is set to be a good one. An improved performance against Hull Kingston Rovers will have lifted spirits in the Eagles camp but the players will know they’ll need to up the ante if they’re to take the spoils. Swinton fought hard to get past Halifax and John Duffy’s men will be seeking another victory to try and bridge the gap further from 11th-placed Oldham.

Last Time Out

Sheffield Eagles lost 40-18 against the table-topping Hull Kingston Rovers in round 19. The South Yorkshire club were 24-0 down at the break but managed to outscore the Robins in the second period as the players restored some confidence and belief ahead of their date with Swinton. Debutant Justin Carney opened the scoring for Hull KR before Chris Clarkson soon followed over the whitewash. Jake Butler-Fleming, Nick Scruton and Ryan Shaw also added four pointers to KR’s tally before the break, which would have been bigger if it wasn’t for Jamie Ellis’ rather off day with the boot. In the second half Sheffield got off the mark thanks to an Elliot Minchella try, set up by good work from Mark Mexico. There was to be no comeback of any sort though as Shaun Lunt and Carney both touched down before Zach Dockar-Clay brought 40 points up for the visitors. Kyle Trout and Liam Johnson registered consolations for Sheffield, who responded positively after a midweek statement condemning recent performances.

Swinton Lions picked up a timely win against Halifax, on a weekend when Dewsbury Rams and Bradford Bulls also triumphed. The Lions kept Fax scoreless in the first half while putting ten points on the scoreboard thanks to tries from Oliver Davies and Shaun Robinson. Robinson’s try was scored while Halifax hooker Brandon Moore was in the sin-bin, the Lions capitalising on that numerical advantage would turn out to be vital. Unfortunately for Swinton, in the second half, a couple of converted tries from the visitors meant that they were staring at a two point deficit. But the Lions had Chris Atkin on the field, and the Hull KR-bound half-back kicked a penalty goal and a drop goal in quick succession to turn the game on its head. A brilliant win for Swinton, who travel to Wakefield this weekend in search of revenge against the Eagles.

Key Battle

Sheffield Eagles put their dual-registration agreement with St Helens to good use against Hull KR. Jake Spedding and Greg Richards both turned out for the Red and Golds, and the duo put in solid performances. The introduction of prop forward Richards was needed as loanee George Milton was unable to play against his parent club while there was a number of players out, including Matt James. Richards started alongside Scott Wheeldon, who had a great game while Mark Mexico was the only prop forward on the bench. Mexico had a hand in two tries as his offload game came to fruition in the second half, when Sheffield found their attacking fluency which can hurt teams. Meanwhile, Swinton showed great character to beat Halifax on a quick turnaround after playing Featherstone in midweek. Andy Bracek and Caine Barnes took the starting roles in the front-row, with Josh Barlow, Anthony Bate and Liam Carberry all coming into the match from the bench. The Lions are known for their style of getting into the faces of teams and that has rattled the opposition in the past. Barlow is the pantomime villain wherever he goes but the Swinton fans love the way he plays and how he can knock off tacklers left, right and centre. Both teams are well-known to each other, as are the big players in the pack, so this weekend’s game between Sheffield and Swinton has all the makings of an entertaining clash.

Prediction

Will it be third time lucky for Swinton against the Eagles? They’ll certainly be hoping so and if their last game is anything to go by, they have every chance of coming away from West Yorkshire with the win. Despite their recent form, Sheffield will be rather confident coming into this weekend’s match. The recent arrivals of George Milton, Curtis Wilson, Jake Spedding and Greg Richards have all had a game over the last two weeks so they will be raring to earn a regular spot in the first team. Both teams look evenly matched, although the Eagles are six points clear of the Lions in the standings. If Sheffield can get off to a good start, at both ends of the field, they may just have enough to see it out over 80 minutes once settled. They’ve been shaky out of the blocks over the past three weeks so a steady opening where they don’t have to play catchup wouldn’t go amiss – Sheffield by 8