Another round of Kingstone Press Championship clashes await this weekend as teams look to work on the starts they’ve made in the previous two rounds. Eye-catching ties this week include two all West Yorkshire ties as Batley host Halifax and Bradford travel to Featherstone.

Batley Bulldogs v Halifax – The unbeaten Batley Bulldogs face their toughest challenge yet as fellow West Yorkshire outfit Halifax visit Mount Pleasant. The hosts have won their opening two matches against Workington and Hunslet while Richard Marshall’s Halifax have won one and lost one – the victory coming against Whitehaven and the loss against Leigh Centurions.

In Round Two..

John Kear’s Bulldogs had a dream second half performance at the South Leeds Stadium against Hunslet Hawks in their last match. 14-8 down at the break, Batley posted 18 points without reply as they climbed to the top of the Championship table. The Hawks’ initial lead was due to converted tries from Jimmy Watson and Brad Brennan with former on-loan Bulldog Simon Brown kicking a penalty goal. The Bulldogs’ tries in the first half came courtesy of James Craven and Shaun Squires, while in the second half Anthony Nicholson, Shaun Ainscough and Wayne Reittie all touched down. Scott Leatherbarrow converted two tries and added a penalty goal too.

Halifax were defeated in their first league match in 2015 at The Shay. A spirited 18-6 loss to Leigh Centurions will have left the ‘Fax fans rather confident for the season ahead. The only try of the game for the West Yorkshire outfit came from Ryan Maneely who made the most of an horror pass from Jonny Pownall. For Leigh, their tries were scored by Liam Kay and Jonny Pownall, with the former scoring an all important brace. During the game, Mitch Cahalane and Sam Barlow had a little altercation which saw Halifax’s prop forward being granted a stint in the sin-bin.

Key Battle

The forward battle at Mount Pleasant on Sunday will be an epic one. Mitch Cahalane has already made a big impact in Richard Marshall’s side and we’re only two games into the league campaign.  He’s well-known in Australia for making the big tackles, and the Fax fans found that out in his second game during pre-season. Cahalane is most noted for a monster shot on Craig Kopczak of Huddersfield Giants which raised the roof at The Shay. The former Mount Pritchard Mounties prop will be coming up against Batley’s fan favourite Alex Rowe. A lethal weapon in the Batley arsenal, Rowe is a prolific offloader and it always takes numerous opposition players to take him down. The former Sheffield prop forward is a key man for the Bulldogs, and he’s never far away from ‘Man of the Match’ selection.

Prediction

A very tough one to call but after Halifax’s loss to a full-time side in the last round, I’d be expecting them to go through the gears and collect a hard-earned victory – Halifax by 8.

Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls – Featherstone Rovers go into round three with an unbeaten record after wins over Hunslet and Doncaster. Bradford are coming into the game after a win over Whitehaven, but they were defeated by Leigh Centurions in the opening round.

In Round Two..

Featherstone had to dig deep at the Keepmoat Stadium to record a second win in as many matches. The 13-6 victory over Doncaster didn’t come without its problems though. Sam Irwin was injured in the first half after being clattered by Paul Cooke, this was conjoined with Doncaster going into the break 4-0 to the good. Things got better in the second half though as Andy Hay’s side limited the Dons’ scoring to just a penalty goal, and they reaped the rewards for a good defensive effort. Nathan Chappell and Matty Ryan both notched tries for Rovers as they were looking to take a stranglehold on proceedings. Interchange half-back Remy Marginet sealed the win in the dying embers with a drop-goal.

Bradford Bulls won their first Championship game of the season last Sunday with a win over Whitehaven. The Bulls were only 10-4 up at half-time after their Cumbrian counterparts kept them at bay for the most part. Adrian Purtell and Jay Pitts scored within four minutes of each other to give Bradford a decent lead on 18 minutes. However, contrary to people’s expectations, the ‘Haven floodgates didn’t open for the remainder of the first half as Jessie Joe Nandye notched his team’s only try of the game on 32 minutes. The second half belonged to the Bulls though, and Lee Gaskell in particular. The tricky half-back scored a hat-trick to help his team to victory, and his tries were added to by Adam Sidlow a few minutes before the hooter.

Key Battle

The battle of the halves should be a very good one at the weekend. With former Featherstone man Harry Siejka suspended, Lee Gaskell may be partnered with Adam Brook for the trip to Post Office Road. From a Rovers perspective, new signing Remy Marginet may well be Paul Sykes’ right hand man for the game. Marginet, a French international, was only on trial for the games against Hunslet and Doncaster but he’s impressed coach Andy Hay to the extent of offering him a year-long contract. Sam Irwin hobbled off against Doncaster so whether he’ll be fit to play against the former World Club Champions remains to be seen. With so much territory and momentum being dependent on the halves, can Lee Gaskell take centre stage for the second week running? Or will Featherstone’s Frenchman marvel against the Bulls? 

Prediction

Every match is a big one in this season’s Championship but the Bulls have already lost out to one of their top four rivals. Featherstone are another team with top four ambitions so it’s vital that Bradford get one over on them. With a big win under their belts, the Bulls will be favourites in this West Yorkshire derby – Bradford by 12.

Hunslet Hawks v Dewsbury Rams – This fixture will be the Hawks’ second straight home fixture, and they’ll be hoping for a better result than last week. Dewsbury may be a little undercooked as their game against Workington in round two was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.

In Round Two..

Hunslet couldn’t record their first win of the season after being defeated for the second time in as many matches. Barry Eaton’s Hawks lost out to Batley Bulldogs 26-14, despite being 14-8 up at half-time. Converted scores from Jimmy Watson and Brad Brennan, plus a penalty goal from kicking pivot Simon Brown, put the West Yorkshire side in a good place. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Batley showed defensive grit and attacking fluency in the second period to come away with the spoils. The Bulldogs’ tries were scored by James Craven and Shaun Squires in the first half, then Anthony Nicholson, Shaun Ainsough and Wayne Reittie all added four pointers in the second half.

As previously mentioned, Dewsbury’s second match of the season was called off after horrid weather hit Cumbria, which left the Zebra Claims Stadium pitch waterlogged. Their last game in the Championship was in round one, as they ushered in the ‘new era’. The Rams beat Sheffield Eagles 19-10 thanks to a brace from Dalton Grant, and a single from Anthony Thackeray who also landed a drop-goal.

Key Battle

The battle in the centres should be intriguing at the South Leeds Stadium. Luke Briscoe and Danny Maun were the two centres for Hunslet against Batley while in round one, Dewsbury fielded Jason Crookes and Shane Grady as their centres against Sheffield. Briscoe and Maun bring a nice blend of youth and experience for coach Eaton. Crookes and Grady are two very talented centres that have the strength, as well as the instinct, to finish off some well worked tries.

Prediction

Despite the Rams not having a game for two weeks, it’s still expected that they’ll get the better of Hunslet. Matty Wildie and Anthony Thackeray both had superb games against Sheffield, which contributed highly to their team’s victory. The Hawks are without a win as of yet, and with the RFL’s slogan for the season being ‘Every Minute Matters’, they’ll need to rack up a victory soon or a game of catchup awaits – Dewsbury by 10

Leigh Centurions v London Broncos – Two full-time teams with two contrasting starts to the season. Leigh Centurions have won both of their matches so far while the London Broncos have a win and a loss from their two encounters.

In Round Two…

Leigh Centurions came away from The Shay on Sunday evening with another victory to their name. But the match was one hell of a battle as a very poor pitch was made even worse during the emphatic contest which was played in awful conditions. An 18-6 Centurions victory will have pleased Paul Rowley as winning ugly is a good trait for any team, none more so than a champion team. Liam Kay bagged two tries in seven minutes as the Lancashire side looked to be gaining a fruitful lead. However, the scoreboard wasn’t forced into action until after the half-time interval. Ryan Maneely got the hosts on the board, capitalising on a poor pass from Jonny Pownall. The winger had to wait until the 78th minute to fully redeem himself as he put the game to bed with a try in front of the Leigh following.

London Broncos suffered a dismal defeat to Sheffield Eagles at the Keepmoat Stadium last Sunday. A 40-6 demolition would not have been in Joey Grima’s plans, who now has to come up with a plan to upset the Centurions in round three. His plans are a bit more complicated than they should be, after injuries to both co-captains, Richie Mathers and Nick Slyney, as well as young half-back Joe Keyes. The Eagles were 20-0 up at half-time thanks to tries from Michael Knowles, Jon Molloy, Quentin Laulu-Togagae and Scott Turner. Sheffield scored the first two tries of the second half too, courtesy of Misi Taulapapa and Sam Smeaton. London’s lone score came from Rhys Williams who touched down on the free play after Steve Thorpe fumbled possession. Apart from Williams’ try, London didn’t come up with much else as Duane Straugheir and Scott Turner brought 40 points up for Mark Aston’s side.

Key Battle..

The hooker position will be a good place to evaluate the fortunes of these two sides during the match on Sunday.  Ray Nasso and Brad Dwyer were outplayed at different stages of their last game against Sheffield. They’ll need to step up their respective games tenfold when they come face to face with either Bob Beswick or Sean Penkywicz of the Centurions. The Leigh duo have been around for a long time and their contributions to the team are vital. Nasso and Dwyer are rather untested at Championship level, apart from the latter playing a number of games on dual-registration for varying clubs over the past few years.

Prediction

After a disastrous afternoon in Doncaster, London will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they’re to gain anything out of the game against Leigh. Three injuries to key players haven’t helped the Broncos at all, and with the Centurions winning two high intensity matches already this season, a win for the hosts looks to be on the cards. The Broncos have recently signed a dual-registration agreement with Wakefield, whether that’ll help their cause remains to be seen..— Leigh by 16.

Whitehaven v Sheffield Eagles – Whitehaven go into this game with two straight losses to their name, their South Yorkshire counterparts have been celebrating a big win in round two after a defeat in their opening game.

In Round Two..

Whitehaven travelled to Provident Stadium last Sunday, in an attempt to record a win against the Bradford Bulls. The Cumbrians couldn’t create an upset even though they were only a converted score behind at half-time. 10-4 was how the scoreboard looked after 40 minutes, Adrian Purtell and Jay Pitts scored for the hosts and Jessie Joe Nandye touched down for ‘Haven. A Lee Gaskell hat-trick and a score in the last few minutes from Adam Henry condemned the Recreation Ground side to a second defeat in two matches.

Sheffield bounced back from a loss to Dewsbury in round one with a confidence-filled victory over London Broncos. A 40-6 win was more than deserved as Sheffield served up a tutorial on how to exploit a big pitch. Michael Knowles, Quentin Laulu-Togagae, Jon Molloy and Kyle Briggs all scored four pointers in the first half to give their side a 20-0 lead at the break. Full-back Laulu-Togagae’s try was his 125th in as many matches for the Sheffield club. Misi Taulapapa and Sam Smeaton kept the momentum created from the first half going as they both went over the whitewash. Rhys Williams made a Sheffield knock-on turn in to four points for the capital side, the Welsh international made the most of a Steve Thorpe mistake. Duane Straugheir and Scott Turner both added tries before the game reached its conclusion, getting their team to the 40 point mark in the process.

Key Battle

Going on Whitehaven and Sheffield’s respective lineups for their round two matches, the loose forward position looks to be a place on the field to watch out for. Dave Allen played at loose for Whitehaven against Bradford, the back-rower had been a solid Super League player for Widnes Vikings up until his departure at the end of last season. Patch Walker made the move to loose forward for the Sheffield club in mid-2014, facilitating for their new stand-off Kyle Briggs. The transition to that position has been a smooth one for Walker who will be looking to carry on his form from late 2014 into the new season.

Prediction

The Eagles have never had the best of records up in Cumbria, and especially at Whitehaven. But after their demolition of London, it won’t be out of the question if they go from strength to strength. Whitehaven will be under a new permanent coach for the match; half-back James Coyle got the first team coaching job on Wednesday. The ‘Haven players will certainly be looking to impress but against Sheffield, but it’ll be a big challenge to stand out – Sheffield by 22

Workington Town v Doncaster – Both teams go into this encounter without a point to their name so it’ll come as good news to one that this’ll be the last weekend they’ll have with a blank. The last league game that was scheduled at Zebra Claims Stadium was called off, hopefully Workington have better luck with the weather this week!

In Round Two..

As mentioned before, Workington’s last game was called off due to awful weather hitting the county of Cumbria. However, Town have played one game so far this season but all of their fans won’t want reminding of the score. Batley Bulldogs comprehensively beat Phil Veivers’ men 36-6 at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium, can Town record their first points of the season on Sunday?

Doncaster welcomed Featherstone Rovers in round two, the South Yorkshire side were searching for their first victory in the league. They were halfway to accomplishing that challenge as after 40 minutes, Paul Cooke’s side led 4-0 after Danny Cowling latched on to a grubber. But in the second half, the lead was relinquished and lost altogether as Featherstone came away from the Keepmoat with all two points. The Rovers’ scorers were Nathan Chappell and Matt Ryan, their tries were added to with a drop-goal from Remy Marginet with only a couple of minutes left to play.

Key Battle

Jack Murphy and Dave Scott will more than likely line up at full-back for Workington and Doncaster respectively. Murphy is more of a physical full-back while Scott is a nippy player who causes problems when missed tackles come into play. Two different kinds of players but both are very vital to the success of their respective teams. Murphy didn’t do too much against Batley apart from assist their only try. It’s fair to say that his teammates will need to up their game if they’re to see the best of him. The Doncaster full-back didn’t have a bad game against Featherstone, he returned a kick with interest of about 60 metres which just shows how dangerous he can be.

Prediction

The Zebra Claims Stadium has always been a tough place to go to when a win is needed. Despite Workington being comprehensively defeated in their opening round game, it wouldn’t surprise many if they took the spoils on Sunday. Doncaster have been defeated by slender margins in both of their matches so far, will it be a case of déjà vu this weekend? We’ll soon find out.. – Workington by 10