After the extended previews of Bradford Bulls v Sheffield Eagles and Dewsbury Rams v Leigh Centurions, it’s time to look over the other fixtures taking place in the second tier of British rugby league this weekend.
Batley Bulldogs v Whitehaven – Two teams in the lower echelons of the league face off at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium this Sunday. Batley come into the match after being given a hard time by Leigh Centurions last weekend, while Whitehaven were defeated by Featherstone Rovers despite being in the lead at half-time.
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Batley Bulldogs were the last team to beat Leigh Centurions on their own pitch. That was in the playoff series of 2013, and it was a spectacular victory as it came in golden point extra time. If Batley had got the win against Leigh last Sunday, I’d say it’d have been more spectacular than the 2013 triumph. But, a win wasn’t to be as the Centurions ran riot with a 56-8 victory. The hosts were 18-0 up after seven minutes, thanks to a brace from Ryan Brierley and a single from Liam Kay. Shaun Ainscough replied for Leigh’s West Yorkshire counterparts on the 17th minute but it was only a brief respite for the Centurions, who scored four more four pointers before the half was out. Adam Higson went over for his first try of the afternoon before Brierley managed to complete his hat-trick. Tom Armstrong and Jonathan Pownall both touched down in the few minutes before Brierley’s third, and final, score. The second half proved less lively concerning tries, with four being scored in the final 40 minutes. Three of those went the way of Leigh, courtesy of Higson, Pownall and Andrew Dixon. Batley’s proved to be nothing more than a consolation, Matty Fozard ducking over the line on the 77th minute.
Whitehaven hosted Featherstone Rovers at the Recreation Ground last Sunday. The Cumbrians were looking to put a bit more daylight between themselves and Doncaster, whilst trying to jump above neighbours Workington in the process. Unfortunately for James Coyle’s side, a win wasn’t forthcoming as Rovers ran away with proceedings in the second half, triumphing 36-12 in the end. Thomas Minns and Paul Sykes got the scoring underway in the match, giving their side a 10-0 advantage over the hosts. But, it was Haven who took the lead into half-time, due to converted tries from Grant Gore and Sam Brooks. A reaction was needed from Featherstone and they sure gave one to the travelling faithful as they notched 26 unanswered points, starting with a try from Gareth Moore. Sykes, Minns and Moore all recorded their braces before Jamie Cording put the icing on a very well made Rovers cake with a try four minutes from time.
Batley have more than matched teams in the middle of the park this season, and with players like the forever-running prop forward Tom Lillycrop and useful offloader Alex Rowe, it’s clear to see why. Rowe didn’t play against Leigh but may well make a return on home turf against Whitehaven this weekend. Whitehaven will be countering the threat that the aforementioned forwards, and their fellow comrades, present with recent Leigh loanee Jonny Walker and Sam Brooks. Brooks, who started the season at League 1 side Rochdale before making the switch to Cumbria, got on the scoresheet against Featherstone last week and he’ll be hoping to carry that form to the weekend. The Bulldogs have a tough pack to handle, and none more so on home turf, so it’ll be a test for James Coyle’s men to stand up to the challenge in front of them.
Despite the Bulldogs having their fair share of injuries at present, they’ll still go into this match as favourites thanks to home advantage. Whitehaven will definitely be fancying their chances though, a win will see them go level on points with the Bulldogs in the league standings – Batley by 6
Featherstone Rovers v Workington Town – Featherstone moved into 5th position last weekend after their victory against Whitehaven. Currently level on points with Dewsbury, who have Leigh to play this weekend, in 4th it’s a good opportunity for the hosts to potentially move up a position in the standings. For Workington, they’ll be licking their wounds after a loss to Hunslet at home last Sunday. Can they bounce back in West Yorkshire?
Last Time Out
Featherstone made the long journey to Cumbria to take on Whitehaven. At 12-10 down at half-time, it wasn’t looking too bright for the visitors, nor was the prospect of the spoils looking dim. 26 point without reply put paid to Whitehaven’s efforts as Andy Hay’s side stormed the second half with four tries. Thomas Minns and Paul Sykes opened Featherstone’s scoring account for the day during the first half but Whitehaven had the edge going into the sheds at the half due to converted tries from Grant Gore and Sam Brooks. But the lead was soon relinquished, as was the hosts’ chances of getting something out of the game, when Gareth Moore posted a brace, while Minns and Sykes all had completed theirs. When Jamie Cording crossed for the final try of the day, the Whitehaven fans were miffed as to how they had capitulated during a second half filled with Rovers’ dominance.
Workington welcomed Hunslet to the Zebra Claims Stadium, both sides were going into the match eying an important win to lift them away from the squeaky bum area of the table. It was Hunslet who came away with the two points after a tight contest which ended 19-16 in favour of Barry Eaton’s side. Jack Lee and Latu Fifita exchanged a try each for Hunslet and Workington respectively, before the former took charge of proceedings with four pointers from Jimmy Keinhorst and Luke Briscoe. Simon Brown added a drop goal with seconds left to spare in the half, giving the score a rather odd look at 15-6 to Hunslet. Keinhorst extended that advantage after the break, scoring the first score of the second half on the 46th minute. Brett Phillips and Jamie Doran got their side back into the match with a try apiece, Doran’s score came with 13 minutes left to play so there was still time for a winner. That elusive score never came for the hosts, leaving Hunslet very encouraged by their own resilience and the fact they picked up a vital win.
Gareth Moore has recently come back into the Featherstone fold and the former Batley scrum-half played a big part in his team’s victory over Whitehaven last weekend. Both Paul Sykes and Moore, the half-back pairing for the West Yorkshire side, notched braces and their performances can not be mentioned enough. Should Workington get a win at the Big Fellas Stadium this weekend, it’ll have partly come down to stopping the half-backs working their tricks. The Cumbrians have had a rather settled half-back partnership, with Jamie Doran and Carl Forber being the go-to guys for game management and creativity this season. Doran, on loan from Wigan, scored a try while Workington were on the comeback trail against Hunslet, a comeback trail that came to no avail. It’ll be a good battle to watch in the halves this weekend, two rather young halves in Moore, aged 25, and Doran, aged 20, go head to head while the more experienced figures of Sykes and Forber will be leading their teams and trying to spot weaknesses in the opposite defence.
Even though they haven’t won at the Big Fellas this season, it’s expected that Featherstone will get a win on the board sooner rather than later. Workington will be needing a win more than ever, firstly to potentially create more breathing space between themselves and 11th placed Whitehaven, plus they’re currently on a three loss streak after defeats to Hunslet, Halifax and Leigh. Who will come out on top in West Yorkshire this Sunday? – Featherstone by 14
Halifax v Doncaster – Two sides who featured in last weekend’s Keepmoat Stadium double-header face off at The Shay this Sunday. Both teams suffered defeats to Sheffield and Bradford respectively.
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Halifax were starting the day in 4th place, and had their eyes set on cutting the gap between themselves and Sheffield from four points to two points. But, unfortunately for Richard Marshall’s side, that gap increased itself to six points as the Eagles came out on top with a rather emphatic 36-10 scoreline. Quentin Laulu-Togagae scored the first try of the match for Sheffield, their first of six during the 80 minutes. Rob Worrincy had posted a first half hat-trick before Richard Moore struck back with a score of his own for the visitors, just moments before the half-time hooter sounded. A try from Mitch Cahalane brought Halifax back to within two scores of their opponents but a Dominic Brambani penalty goal extended the hosts’ lead. Laulu-Togagae and Brambani rounded up a good day at the office for Sheffield with a try each.
Doncaster welcomed Bradford Bulls to the Keepmoat, both teams were in very different positions and situations going into the clash. Donny were just hoping for their first win and to keep in contact with the struggling Cumbrian sides in front of them while Bradford have Leigh to contend with for top spot in the Championship before the middle eights begin. It was the Bulls who were first to post a four pointer in the tie courtesy of Tonga international Etu Uaisele. Peter Fox replied for Doncaster just three minutes after Uaisele’s opener. A quick Lee Gaskell double-salvo had opened up the match before Mitch Clark became the second Dons player to get on the scoresheet. Dale Ferguson, similarly to Gaskell, had a first half brace to celebrate with tries on the 29th and 34th minute. Adam Henry also crossed the whitewash, but Steve Snitch had the last say on the half’s scoring proceedings as he burst through the Bulls banks to touch down. Early second half tries from Pasqualle Dunn and Matt Groat put Donny in striking distance of their opponents, but Dave Scott missed the conversion from Groat’s score so there was still a two score (eight points) barrier between the two sides. Uaisele grabbed his second try of the match, then prop forward Paul Clough made light work out of a Donny defence that was leaking points but their attack seemed to be scoring plenty down the other end. Gaskell had his hat-trick as the game started to go away from the South Yorkshire side but that fact didn’t stop Fox recording his brace nor Mike Kelly adding a four pointer. The last try of what was a thrilling contest went to Ryan Shaw, who had 20 points to add to his ever-growing collection since joining from Barrow Raiders in the off-season.
Alex Brown had a rather torrid time up against Rob Worrincy last week, but it didn’t help the cause of the former Batley winger that steady centre Sam Smeaton got the better of Chris Taylor for the most part either. I’m sure Doncaster coach Paul Cooke took a bit of notice of the second game at the Keepmoat Stadium, and if he did, he’d have noticed that there may be a bit of a weakness to exploit down in the edges. Pasqualle Dunn and Peter Fox will be the two three-quarters that will come up against Taylor and Brown this weekend, should the lineups from last week stay the same, and the Donny pair did a rather good job of keeping Bradford’s Jean-Philippe Baile and Adam Henry quiet. Henry scored one try in the match but Dunn and Fox seemed to go alright during the match with the latter notching a brace.
Halifax had a bad day at the office last weekend and they’ll be glad to be back at home this weekend. Doncaster will come into the match reinvigorated after their respectable performance last week against Bradford, but will they have enough in their locker to condemn Fax to their second loss in as many weeks? – Halifax by 12
Hunslet Hawks v London Broncos – The capital side travel up to West Yorkshire to face Barry Eaton’s Hunslet Hawks. Will it turn out to be grim up north for London?
Last Time Out
Hunslet made the rather tiring journey to Workington Town in hope that they could get back to West Yorkshire in the evening with a win in the bag. A 19-16 win for the Hawks will have delighted everyone associated with the club, a win anywhere in Cumbria is not to be sniffed at. Jack Lee put the visitors in front after 13 minutes before Latu Fifita posted a reply just over ten minutes later. Jimmy Keinhorst and Luke Briscoe both crossed for Hunslet during the first half, and a Simon Brown field goal made the half-time score 15-6 to the Hawks. Keinhorst got on the scoresheet again after the break, the Hawks were further in front as a result and Workington had some work to do. The work was put in and a couple of tries came which put Town firmly back in contention for the win. Brett Phillips and Jamie Doran crossed for the Cumbrians which made the score 19-16 to Hunslet. The scoreline stayed the same for the remainder of proceedings.
London Broncos were paid a visit by Glenn Morrison’s Dewsbury Rams. Both teams were in the vicinity of the top four, and one team was going to get even closer to that region by the end of the tie. It was Dewsbury who took the advantage and ended up in 4th spot after the end of the weekend thanks to a 20-16 win at The Hive. How important could that result be come the end of this regular season? Things started well for the hosts as Ben Hellewell gave his side an early lead but Karl Pryce hit back with a try on the 20th minute. The score was 6-6 at the half, and it was anybody’s game to say the least. Minutes after the restart, Callan Beckett had crossed the whitewash for Dewsbury and the Rams had the lead. Iliess Macani made things interesting when he scored what would be a converted try on the 51st minute but London’s West Yorkshire counterparts were to, ironically, take the game by the horns as Kieran Hyde sinked a penalty goal before Aaron Brown touched down for what was the winning try. A Macani consolation score was worth six points but that wasn’t enough to gain any of the spoils as Dewsbury travelled back to the Heavy Woollen region with the spoils.
Both teams go into the match with good back-row divisions. For Hunslet, going off the lineup against Workington last weekend, they had Charlie Martin, the dual-registered Jimmy Keinhorst and Liam Mackay all started in the second row and loose forward positions respectively. For London, they had Daniel Harrison, Matt Garside and the season-long-loaned Elliot Minchella. A lot of good work is done in the back-row and the six players mentioned are of high calibre but one players will definitely not be participating. Keinhorst played for Leeds against Huddersfield on Thursday night so he’s not a viable option for Hunslet this weekend, which shows just one of numerous downsides when dual-registration comes into the equation. Can Hunslet live with the full-time Broncos back-row? They did a good job of it against Leigh when they travelled to the South Leeds Stadium so they’ll be up for this challenge.
Hunslet will be wanting to build a bridge between themselves and the relegation battle that’ll be ongoing throughout the season. A win this weekend will go a long way to building that bridge but London have a top four race to be getting on with and a victory for coach Henderson and his troops will be a perfect reply to their loss last weekend – London by 8