Kingstone Press Championship Round 8 Preview

Dewsbury Rams v Featherstone Rovers – Dewsbury Rams’ round seven defeat to Bradford Bulls marked the end of Glenn Morrison’s tenure as coach after a torrid start to the season with no points to their name. Jonathan Schofield and Karl Pryce have taken over at the helm and their first assignment is to lead the Rams to victory against a Featherstone Rovers side who sit third in the table. Featherstone will be hoping to get back to winning ways after losing to Toulouse Olympique last weekend.

Last Time Out

A potential relegation four-pointer between Bradford Bulls and Dewsbury Rams turned into a very one-sided contest as the former triumphed 56-18 despite the game being close up until the final quarter. The Rams led 14-12 at the break after tries from Jason Crookes and James Glover as well as a penalty goal from the boot of Paul Sykes. Brandon Wilkinson and Daniel Murray both crossed the whitewash for Bradford, who had work to do in the second half – especially when Rams winger Alex Brown touched down for the opening try after the restart. However, eight tries without reply saw Bradford cruise to a big victory which cut the gap between themselves and Dewsbury to just four points on the league table. Omari Caro got Bradford up and running in the second period before Iliess Macani registered a quick brace to put the hosts ten points up. Lee Smith scored a try prior to the final quarter to leave Dewsbury deflated and dead in the water. Jon Magrin bagged a brace while Colton Roche and Ross Oakes also added four pointers to mark an emphatic win for Bradford, and the end of Glenn Morrison’s time as Dewsbury coach.

Featherstone Rovers were unable to keep tabs on Toulouse Olympique full-back Mark Kheirallah and stand-off Johnathan Ford as the French side ran out 34-26 winners at the Big Fellas Stadium. Ford and Kheirallah were the thorns in Featherstone’s side, with the two key men coming up trumps with some brilliant plays in attack. Featherstone were 22-12 down at the break despite tries from back-row duo Frankie Mariano and John Davies. Kheirallah had a first half brace for Olympique while Rhys Curran and Tyla Hepi both notched to help the visitors into a healthy lead. After the restart, Stan Robin and Ian Hardman exchanged scores for both sides before Chris Ulugia cut the deficit to six points with his first try of the afternoon. Featherstone will have fancied their chances of completing the comeback when Bastien Canet was sin-binned and Ulugia only needed a minute to capitalise as he touched down. Hardman couldn’t convert to level the scores. Kheirallah notched his hat-trick try eight minutes from time and Olympique saw the game out professionally, as Richard Moore was sin-binned with a minute to go and the visiting full-back kicked a penalty to seal the win.

Key Battle

If Dewsbury do get anything out of this game, they’ll have been helped by a strong performance by the front-rowers. The Rams pack will need to stand tall and dig in against a Featherstone side that can challenge any in the division on their day, which is clear by their current league position. Brandon Douglas and Mitch Stringer were the starting props for Dewsbury against Bradford, with the former getting on the scoresheet. There’s a good mix of youth and experience there and Douglas will learn a lot of good things in the Championship with the Rams. Anthony Walker and Jack Teanby were the front-row options off the bench for Dewsbury. Teanby has a bright future ahead of him and there will be teams sniffing around if the Rams do fall to League 1 at the end of this season. Featherstone have good options all across the field and they’re strong in the pack with James Lockwood and Andy Bostock starting against Toulouse, with Richard Moore and Darrell Griffin coming off the bench. Experienced players are vital for any team and Rovers have that in abundance.

Prediction

When a new coach – or coaches in this case – take the helm for their first few matches, there is sometimes a honeymoon period where a team has a purple patch. Dewsbury will be hoping that proves to be the case. As discussions continue with potential candidates for the coaching role, Jonathan Schofield and Karl Pryce will be hoping they can motivate the Rams to their first win of the season. But they come up against a Featherstone side who will be wanting to make amends for their defeat against Toulouse, and they’ll be expected to take home the spoils in this one – Featherstone by 18

Halifax v Swinton Lions – Both teams were beaten in round seven but who will triumph this weekend? Halifax put up a good fight against Hull Kingston Rovers while Swinton Lions fought back to within four points of Sheffield Eagles but ultimately left it too late.

Last Time Out

Halifax lost 28-14 to Hull Kingston Rovers last Sunday, in a game which saw Richard Marshall’s men impress against full-time opposition. The West Yorkshire club were 14-8 up at half-time thanks to tries from Shane Grady and James Saltonstall as well as a Steve Tyrer penalty. Jamie Ellis also kicked a penalty for Hull KR in the first half before Maurice Blair touched down. In the second half, Tim Sheens’ Robins notched three tries and a goal without reply to make it seven wins from as many matches. James Greenwood and Jordan Abdull both got on the scoresheet either side of the hour mark before Fax forward Jacob Fairbank was sin-binned for a late tackle. Ellis, who had missed a penalty earlier on in the tie which would have seen him overtake Liam Finn for the world record of consecutive goals kicked, managed to make amends as he slotted over to make it an eight point game before Kieren Moss’ rounded things up with the final try.

Swinton Lions suffered an agonising 28-24 loss at home to Sheffield Eagles after fighting back from 28-8 down to set up a tense finale. Mike Butt broke the deadlock after nine minutes for Swinton before Menzie Yere responded for the Eagles. Simon Brown kicked a penalty to put the visitors in front and they would not relinquish their advantage for the remainder of the tie. Garry Lo and Jack Murphy exchanged unconverted tries for Sheffield and Swinton respectively as the visitors went into half-time 10-8 up. Three consecutive scores for the Eagles, leading up to the 67th minute, seemed to have put the game beyond doubt but Swinton had other ideas. Matt James, Elliot Minchella and Sam Scott all notched four pointers for Sheffield before the Lions hit back with three of their own. Sean Kenny, Anthony Bate – who had been sin-binned on the hour and was off the field for Scott’s try – and Chris Hankinson were the try-scorers for John Duffy’s side but they couldn’t find an equalising score in the dying stages.

Key Battle

If it’s a dry track at the weekend, the wingers will be wanting to see a lot of the ball so they can test their opposite numbers. James Saltonstall and Jake Bibby were the wingers for Halifax against Hull KR, and the former got on the scoresheet. Saltonstall has been one of the most exciting players in the division since he joined Richard Marshall in West Yorkshire and he’s as effective at full-back as he is on the wing. Bibby has played twice for Halifax this season, on dual-registration from Salford Red Devils, but has failed to cross the whitewash as of yet. Swinton went with Shaun Robinson and Mike Butt on the wings against Sheffield. Butt touched down for the opener against the Eagles, his second of the season while Robinson, who has played every game this season for Swinton, was unable to add to the three league tries he has registered in 2017. It will be a great contest at the weekend between these wingers who can hit form at any time and become free-scoring.

Prediction

This game pits seventh against tenth and Swinton will be wanting to close the gap on the teams above them while trying to move clear of the relegation zone. Halifax will be confident of a top four push but in such a competitive league, it’s going to be tough. After pushing Hull KR close last weekend, Richard Marshall will be wanting his side to keep their foot on the gas – Halifax by 12

Hull Kingston Rovers v Batley Bulldogs
– Hull Kingston Rovers welcome Batley Bulldogs to KCOM Craven Park this weekend after being tested by Halifax last weekend. The Robins will be expecting another tough challenge when they take on Batley, who have won their last two games in all competitions and sit just outside of the top four. The Bulldogs comprehensively beat Oldham in round seven.

Last Time Out

Hull Kingston Rovers showed their mettle when they overcame a sturdy opponent in Halifax. Tim Sheens’ side ran out 28-14 winners but were 14-8 down at the break despite a penalty goal from Jamie Ellis and a try from Maurice Blair. Shane Grady and James Saltonstall were the try-scorers for Halifax while Steve Tyrer slotted over a penalty goal. In the second half, James Greenwood and Jordan Abdull touched down to give KR the lead before Ellis kicked a penalty goal, making amends for the one he missed earlier which would have seen him break the world record for consecutive goals. The penalty came after Jacob Fairbank put a late tackle on James Donaldson which warranted a yellow card. Kieren Moss bagged the final score of the contest with four minutes to go wrap things up.

Batley Bulldogs hammered Oldham 50-10 at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium and the hosts were 24-0 up at the break after tries from Dave Scott and Alistair Leak as well as a brace from Mikey Hayward. In the second half, Pat Walker extended Batley’s lead with their fifth try of the contest before Oldham responded with scores from Michael Ward and Richard Lepori. There wasn’t to be a comeback though as Joel Farrell and Sam Smeaton both crossed the whitewash within three minutes of each other. Leak and Adam Gledhlll rounded the match up nicely with a try apiece, moving the Bulldogs up to the 50 point mark in the process.

Key Battle

The half-back partnership of Jordan Abdull and Jamie Ellis is flourishing at the moment with Hull KR at the top of the table with a 100% record. Both players are on loan from Super League clubs and their contribution to the cause is vital to say the least, and may lead the Robins back to the top tier if they can keep their form going into the Qualifiers later on in the year. This weekend will see the duo come up against two crafty halves who have been around the Championship, and been dominant forces, for a number of years. Pat Walker and Dom Brambani made their name as a duo with Sheffield Eagles, leading them to a Grand Final victory but their work at the Bulldogs last term saw the West Yorkshire side break into the top four. They will certainly be up for the challenge this weekend and if they can link up well with the outside backs, Hull KR will have to do some tough work in defence.

Prediction

Despite being unbeaten so far this year, the East Yorkshire club have had a few scares with Rochdale and Halifax both playing well against them. The Bulldogs travel to KCOM Craven Park with confidence after a good performance against Oldham and they have previous in beating teams who have looked very strong. Batley were the only team to beat Leigh Centurions in the league last season and Neil Jukes’ side went on to win promotion at the expense of Hull KR. Will the Bulldogs come up with the goods against a Championship heavyweight once again? – Hull KR by 18

Oldham v Bradford Bulls
– Bradford Bulls travel to Stalybridge in hope of cutting their -4 deficit in half but that will be easier said than done against an Oldham side who have performed well on home turf this season. The Bulls are in good form, winning four of their last five league matches, and their last victory came against Dewsbury as a final quarter blitz saw them run away with the spoils. Oldham were unable to contain Batley Bulldogs in round seven as the West Yorkshire club won 50-10.

Last Time Out

Oldham were on the receiving end of a harsh lesson by Batley Bulldogs at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium. The Roughyeds lost 50-10 and were 24-0 down at the break following four pointers from Dave Scott and Alistair Leak as well as a double from Mikey Hayward. Pat Walker furthered the hosts’ lead with the opening try of the second half before Michael Ward and Richard Lepori replied by crossing the whitewash for Oldham. Joel Farrell and Sam Smeaton made sure there wasn’t going to be a comeback of any sort before Leak and Adam Gledhill touched down for a try apiece to get the Bulldogs up to 50 points.

Bradford Bulls beat Dewsbury Rams 56-18 at the Provident Stadium, ending Glenn Morrison’s tenure as Rams boss in the process. The Bulls were 14-12 down at half-time despite tries from Brandon Wilkinson and Daniel Murray. Jason Crookes and James Glover notched four pointers for Dewsbury and Paul Sykes kicked a penalty. In the second period, Alex Brown crossed for the Rams but that proved to be their final try of the contest as Bradford took control in emphatic style. Omari Caro sparked the try-rush which saw Iliess Macani and Jon Magrin both register braces while Lee Smith, Colton Roche and Ross Oakes all contributed by touching down for the hosts.

Key Battle

Oldham had a tough time of it against Batley last Sunday and they will be wanting to bounce back with a vengeance when they take on Bradford. The centres, George Tyson and Tuoyo Egodo, have great strength and a real eye for the try line. Bradford will have to be wary of them both at Bower Fold this weekend. Ross Oakes and Lee Smith were the centres for the Bulls against Dewsbury, highlighting the mix of youth and experience that is in the squad at the moment. The pair got on the scoresheet in the second half as Leigh Beattie’s men ran away with a comfortable victory.

Prediction

A tough one to call as Bradford are in a good vein of form at the moment while Oldham are always tough at home. The experience of the Bulls, from the likes of Johnny Campbell, Lee Smith, Scott Moore and Kevin Larroyer will be vital this season and these sort of matches are must-wins for Bradford. Oldham will be keen to get more points on the league table but they will need to up the ante after the defeat against Batley – Bradford by 14

Rochdale Hornets v Toulouse Olympique – The rivalry continues! Rochdale and Toulouse were promoted from League 1 last season and despite going through the regular season unbeaten, Olympique were put to the sword by Rochdale in the first v second playoff. Even though the French side were eventually promoted, that fixture may well be in the back of their minds when they take to the field on Sunday.

Last Time Out

Rochdale Hornets lost 28-8 to London Broncos at Trailfinders Sports Ground on Sunday, with three sin-binnings handed out in the process. The Hornets got off to a cracking start with a brace from Rob Massam but that proved to be the end of their scoring for the match, although it took until the final quarter for London to take the lead. Api Pewhairangi got the ball rolling for London with their first try of the game before Elliot Kear and Gary Middlehurst, of the Broncos and Hornets respectively, were sin-binned for fighting. With the half-time score at 8-6, Rochdale will have been content and as the game went into its final quarter they were still in front. However, tries from Daniel Harrison, Jarrod Sammut, Adrian Purtell and Jay Pitts were more than enough to get the Broncos over the line. With the scores at 16-8, Jo Taira was sin-binned and that certainly didn’t help Rochdale’s cause as they had their backs against the wall.

Toulouse Olympique’s Challenge Cup exit against Batley Bulldogs was firmly put to the back of their mind as they beat Featherstone Rovers 34-26 at the Big Fellas Stadium. The visitors were 22-12 up at the break after a brace from Mark Kheirallah as well as scores courtesy of Rhys Curran and Tyla Hepi. Frankie Mariano and John Davies bagged for Rovers. In the second period, Stan Robin and Ian Hardman swapped scores before Chris Ulugia scored twice for Featherstone, either side of Bastien Canet’s sin-binning. But with a numerical advantage, the West Yorkshire club couldn’t take the lead and Kheirallah made sure that Toulouse would cross the channel with the spoils. The full-back completed his hat-trick before kicking a penalty which came after Richard Moore was sin-binned for punching.

Key Battle

At the weekend, there will be a massive battle in the halves between two very talented partnerships. Lewis Palfrey and Danny Yates have been ever-present for the Hornets this season and they will only get better as the season goes on. Matches against the likes of their newly promoted counterparts will always be fiery and they will need to steady the ship when the going gets tough. Johnathan Ford and Stan Robin have gained many plaudits this season for their brilliant style of play and the way they lead their team around the park. Ford is a nigh-on certainty to play Super League at some point in his career as he has a knack to open up a team’s defence in the blink of an eye. Robin, originally from the Catalans academy, impressed in a loan spell at Sheffield Eagles last season and he is replicating that form in a Toulouse jersey.

Prediction

Another tough one to predict as both sides are rather evenly matched across the field. Rochdale’s forwards aren’t afraid to get stuck in and they will need to against Toulouse who have a good pack. The halves, as previously mentioned, hold the key to a team’s success or downfall and that contest in itself will be entertaining to watch on Sunday afternoon – Toulouse by 8

Sheffield Eagles v London Broncos
– After winning their second game of the Championship season on Sunday against Swinton Lions, Sheffield Eagles go into this round eight tie against London Broncos with newfound confidence and belief. Mark Aston’s men were in control at 28-6 up against the Lions but a late fightback from the hosts saw the deficit cut to four points by the end. London beat Rochdale Hornets at Trailfinders in a rather ill-tempered affair which saw three sin-binnings and a few scuffles. The Broncos kept their nerve and their discipline to run out 28-8 winners following a great performance during the final 20 minutes.

Last Time Out

Sheffield Eagles picked up a timely win as they beat Swinton Lions 28-24 at Heywood Road. The Eagles had a comfortable advantage in the second half but nearly threw it all away as the Lions roared back to within a score of their opponents. Mike Butt opened the scoring for Swinton after nine minutes prior to a Menzie Yere try and Simon Brown goal putting Sheffield in front. Garry Lo also touched down for Sheffield to make it 10-4 to the visitors before Jack Murphy replied for Swinton with the final score of the first half. Consecutive tries from Matty James, Elliot Minchella and Sam Scott seemed to have put the game beyond doubt, especially as the latter’s four pointer was scored while Swinton had 12 men thanks to Anthony Bate’s sin-binning. However, three tries without reply – including one from Bate who had returned to the action – set up a nervy finish. Sean Kenny and Chris Hankinson both crossed for the hosts but it wasn’t meant to be as Sheffield held on to a win which saw them move up the table to eighth.

London Broncos defeated Rochdale Hornets 28-8 to maintain their fourth-placed position in the Championship. Things didn’t start smoothly for London, though, as Hornets winger Rob Massam bagged a quick brace to give the visitors an 8-0 lead. Api Pewhairangi got London on the board on 33 minutes but sin-binnings to Broncos outside back Elliot Kear and Rochdale forward Gary Middlehurst saw the half end on a sour note. The visitors had the lead up until the final quarter, when London hit four tries without reply to win the game. Daniel Harrison and Jarrod Sammut both touched down before Rochdale prop Jo Taira was sin-binned for a high tackle with seven minutes to go. With a numerical advantage, London capitalised in style with scores from ex-Bradford duo Adrian Purtell and Jay Pitts.

Key Battle

The absence of Dane Chisholm didn’t seem to affect Sheffield last weekend as they picked up two competition points against a current bottom half rival in Swinton. Elliot Minchella and Simon Brown were paired up in the halves and you’d expect coach Mark Aston to stick with a winning formula even though the Eagles stumbled over the line. Minchella is an accomplished back-rower but has also played in the halves for Sheffield in the past so his utility value is certainly being put to good use. Brown, in his first season back at the club, is getting into the swing of things once again and the conversions in the second half against the Lions proved vital. London come to the Beaumont Legal Stadium with options galore in the halves. Jarrod Sammut was a bench option against Rochdale in round seven as Api Pewhairangi and William Barthau both started for the hosts. Sammut came on and made a big impact with a try and three conversions, leading his side to another victory. Whether or not the tricky stand-off will start against Sheffield remains to be seen but he will always provide a threat.

Prediction

A tough one to call now Sheffield have got back to winning ways. London will be favourites with the bookmakers, and rightly so, but the Eagles will be confident of going on a good run to steer clear from the relegation zone. Could go either way but can see the Broncos having too much quality in this one – London by 18

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