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Rugby League Championship

Kingstone Press Championship Round Two Preview

With the opening round done and dusted, we move on to week two of the Kingstone Press Championship. With eye-catching ties including Halifax v Leigh and Sheffield v London, this weekend should prove to be just as entertaining as the one just gone. Let’s take a look at what we have in store!

 Bradford Bulls v Whitehaven RLFC – Poles apart club-wise, but both have the same amount of points after the first game of the 2015 Kingstone Press Championship. Whitehaven travel to Bradford on Sunday to try and pull a massive upset without an actual coach at the helm. James Lowes’ Bradford Bulls will be hoping to get on the winning track after a disappointing loss to Leigh Centurions last Sunday. A 36-24 loss after being 20-6 up at half-time will have been a hammer-blow to the side’s confidence in what was a fiery matchup at Leigh Sports Village, six yellow cards were handed out during the course of the match. Adam O’Brien was the man of the match for Bradford against the Centurions, with two tries to his name and the reputation of a tricky customer out of dummy half.

Whitehaven started their season in the worst possible manner. A 44-16 loss to Halifax at the Recreation Ground will have left fans disgruntled, especially with the Bradford match slowly coming over the horizon. Brett Seymour took charge of Haven for their first league game, whilst an advert for the head coaching role in Cumbria was posted in Sunday’s League Express. With the half-time score at 28-10 to the visitors, a mammoth comeback would have been needed to gain the win against Richard Marshall’s men. Despite Haven scoring the first try of the second half, their West Yorkshire opposition ran away with the spoils, thanks to tries from Luke Ambler, Alex Brown and James Saltonstall. Try scorers for Whitehaven were Jordan Burns, Kyle Trout and Grant Gore.

With Bradford’s squad being a rather deep one, it’s to be expected that a few players who weren’t in the squad for the Leigh game will be in the reckoning for Sunday. James Lowes has the freedom to pick and choose from week-to-week, a choice that Brett Seymour doesn’t have in Cumbria. Three mid-week loan signings were purchased in the lead-up to the match against Halifax, giving Whitehaven a little bit more breathing space to facilitate for injuries. Two of the loanees, Kyle Trout and Grant Gore, scored in round one so they’ll be hoping to create the same impression against Bradford. Since the Halifax match, the Cumbrians have formed a dual-registration partnership with Widnes Vikings.

Prediction – Bradford by 36.

Doncaster RLFC v Featherstone Rovers – A match where the hosts look for their first win of the season, whilst the visitors bid for a second victory in as many games. Doncaster narrowly missed out on upsetting London Broncos last weekend, as they were defeated by the capital club 26-22. A major positive for coach Paul Cooke would have been the character that his South Yorkshire side showed when on the comeback trail. Sam Doherty will be hoping to add to the brace he scored against the Broncos. Three dual-registrated players from Hull FC turned out for Doncaster at The Hive; Iafeta Paleaaesina, Stuart Howarth and Jordan Rankin. Whether or not the Dons get the chance to field the same players on Sunday remains to be seen.

Featherstone started their season with a win over recently promoted Hunslet Hawks. A 28-14 victory will have pleased Andy Hay as his side were 8-6 down at the break. A double from Ben Blackmore helped the Rovers to victory, along with a brilliant performance from Paul Wood in the midfield. With Featherstone being tipped for the top 4 before the league splits for the Super 8’s, a good start to the year is pivotal. The Post Office Road side were beaten by Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium last year, will they suffer the same fate in 2015?

Doncaster will be hoping to get back to winning ways, but they won’t have it their own way against Featherstone. If Iafeta Paleaaesina does play for the Dons, he’ll have an almighty tussle with Paul Wood in the forwards. For the Rovers, French trialist Remy Marginet had a good league debut against Hunslet. The half-back is a rather unknown quantity in English rugby, coach Andy Hay will certainly be looking to exploit Marginet’s talents in the weeks to come.

Prediction – Featherstone by 10

Halifax v Leigh Centurions – After a brilliant contest in the same tie last season, most people will be keeping tabs on proceedings at The Shay this Sunday when Richard Marshall’s Halifax host the confidence-filled Leigh Centurions. Both teams posted wins in their first clashes of the 2015 Championship season, so it’ll be intriguing to find out which team will gain the upper hand in West Yorkshire on Sunday. In what’s usually a tough test in Cumbria, Halifax made easy work out of Whitehaven in round one with a 44-16 win at the Recreation Ground. James Saltonstall, Adam Robinson and Alex Brown all scored two tries apiece as coach Marshall gained his first win as head coach at Fax.

Highlighted the game of round one, 7,449 people turned out to watch Leigh Centurions get one over on recently relegated Bradford Bulls. The Bulls were 20-6 up at the break but the 2014 Championship champions have a good knack of coming back from hefty deficits. With only one sin-bin in the second half, compared to five in the first, rugby took centre stage in the final 40 and that’s when Leigh were in their element.  Outscoring their opponents 30-4 in the second half, Leigh showed the steel, determination and spirit of champions as they came up trumps in a 36-24 triumph. Gregg McNally scored twice in the second half, this was added to with tries courtesy of Tom Armstrong, Liam Kay and Sean Penkywicz. By the end of the match, the Leigh Sports Village was bouncing as the Centurions opened their campaign in style.

Class will be all over the field at The Shay this Sunday which makes my prediction a real tough one. It is a part-time team versus a full-time team but in a one-off game where both teams have shaped up well, anything can happen. Watch out for Halifax’s Australian prop forward Mitch Cahalane, a signing that’s gone under the radar compared to that of Fuifui Moimoi at Leigh. The two heavyweights mentioned will come to head to head, fireworks are guaranteed!

Prediction – Leigh by 14

Hunslet Hawks v Batley Bulldogs – An all West Yorkshire tie at the South Leeds Stadium on Sunday. Hunslet go into the game against the Bulldogs searching for their first win, whilst Batley look to make it two wins from two. The Hawks lost out to Featherstone in the first match of the season, despite going into the sheds at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium 8-6 to the good. Callum Casey scored a converted try and Simon Brown notched a penalty goal to put Hunslet in front. But the fired-up Featherstone forwards soon got themselves into the battle and yards were being made rather easily. Despite Liam Mackay putting the Hawks back in front at one stage of the second half, the Rovers got the better of their West Yorkshire counterparts with a 28-14 win.

Batley Bulldogs served up a near perfect performance against Workington Town at Mount Pleasant in round one. A 30-6 victory was no more than they deserved, four tries from Shaun Squires kickstarted his Bulldogs career in style. The tie was up for grabs at half-time though, with the hosts only up by eight points (14-6) at the break.  However, Cain Southernwood and Scott Leatherbarrow both had good second halves with the boot, especially the former who assisted Squires for his fourth try of the match. The final Batley try came from Alex Bretherton after James Craven punched a hole in Workington’s defence. Brett Phillips scored the only Workington try of the game, which slightly marred a great defensive performance from the hosts.

With both teams predicted not to do much during the season, the opening rounds of the year are the perfect times to lay down a marker and make people take notice. Hunslet had Featherstone worried for a bit but couldn’t find the quality to really enforce a solid lead. Batley, however, certainly laid down a marker with their comfortable win against Workington. John Kear will be hoping for more of the same from his side at the weekend. 

Prediction – Batley by 16.

Sheffield Eagles v London Broncos – A reunion for London’s back-rower Matty Garside and assistant coach Andrew Henderson, as the pair return to South Yorkshire this weekend. Both Garside and Henderson moved down south, from the Eagles, after the 2014 season ended. The pair’s former club lost to Dewsbury in their first match of the 2015 campaign, whilst London enjoyed a tight win against Doncaster. A 19-10 loss for Sheffield at Tetley’s Stadium was disappointing for the 2012-2013 Championship champions. At 10-0 up, everything looked bright and rosy before Anthony Thackeray and Dalton Grant notched a single and a brace respectively. Sheffield are usually slow-starters so they are used to this situation, but when ‘Every Minute Matters’, it’s vital they get some points on the board as quick as possible.

London Broncos started life in the Championship in a winning fashion, with a 26-22 win over Doncaster. At 26-0 up, you’d have not been looked at twice if you thought the Broncos were going to post a big score on Paul Cooke’s side. But the visiting side came back with 22 unanswered points and were playing like a side with nothing to lose. Fortunately for London, they managed to secure the victory and breath a huge sigh of relief by the end of the match.

With bustling forwards and nifty backs in both sides, this match should be a very entertaining one indeed. With Joey Grima admitting his side put the cue back in the rack too early against Doncaster, complacency should be low for the capital side. Meanwhile, Sheffield will have a big pitch to exploit at the Keepmoat, something their expansive style of play craves. A lack of composure and discipline really killed the Eagles in West Yorkshire last Friday, will lightning strike twice?

Prediction – London by 10.

Workington Town v Dewsbury Rams – On Sunday, Workington will host Dewsbury at the Zebra Claims Stadium as the Cumbrians look for their first win. Dewsbury travel to Workington with a win already under their belt, after they beat bogey side Sheffield 19-10 last Friday. Town suffered a dismal defeat to Batley in round one, losing 30-6 and not having a proper sniff of victory. Brett Phillips scored the match’s opening try after 18 minutes but things went downhill from then for Workington. A four try performance from Shaun Squires stole the headlines as the Bulldogs went about their business in a proficient manner. Phil Veivers will have been mightily disappointed with his side’s ball retention, which halted any form of attack for the visitors.

Dewsbury started off their season in a similar way to 2014; with a scrappy win. A 19-10 win over Sheffield will have pleased Glenn Morrison as his team were tested by a Sheffield side who will be around and about the top four come the league split. Dalton Grant, Barrow’s top try scorer last season, scored two on his league debut for the Rams, who also had Matty Wildie and Anthony Thackeray to thank for some great work in the halves. With Cumbria being a tough place to go for a game of rugby, Morrison’s men will certainly be up for the challenge of winning their second match in as many games.

An interesting tie in Workington awaits on Sunday. With a vociferous crowd and a very good home record in seasons gone, Phil Veivers’ Town side will be wanting to get a win on the Championship table. Dewsbury are in the best position with their playing squad than they have been for quite some time. With brutal forwards and agile backs in their armoury, the West Yorkshire outfit will be a hard one to beat during 2015. 

Prediction – Dewsbury by 8


I study Sports Journalism at the University of Sunderland. Write about the Kingstone Press Championship for a few websites, as well as doing match reports and previews for Sheffield Eagles.

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