In what is going to be a jam-packed weekend of Kingstone Press Championship action, the division descends on Blackpool, and Bloomfield Road, for the inaugural Summer Bash. We will kick off this bumper preview with the first match of the weekend, which will be the first ever iPro Sport Cup Final between North Wales Crusaders and Swinton Lions

Saturday 23rd May..

North Wales Crusaders v Swinton Lions at 12:00pm – Two of the relegated sides from 2014’s Kingstone Press Championship go head-to-head at the weekend when they contest the first iPro Sport Cup Final. North Wales and Swinton come into the match after wins in round seven of League 1.

Last Time Out

North Wales welcomed Hemel Stags to the Racecourse Ground. A big win was predicted with the bookies and the Crusaders duly obliged with a 74-14 triumph. The Welsh side were 30-4 up at the half as five tries in the opening 40 minutes had given the hosts a healthy advantage. Ian Mort, Jono Smith and Rob Massam had all touched down within the first 12 minutes before Alex Anthony clawed four points back for Hemel. Smith registered his brace on the 26th minute and the 30 point barrier was reached on the stroke of half-time as Alex Thompson crossed the whitewash. Massam, Smith and Stephen Wild continued the scoring after the break with four pointers each, Elliot Cosgrove got his first of two for Hemel in the 54th minute. Smith and Massam were having a field day on the scoresheet as the former went in for his fourth before the latter recorded his hat-trick just after the hour mark had passed. In the final quarter, Karl Ashall and Cosgrove exchanged tries before Callum Wright notched the 13th, and last, North Wales try of proceedings with a minute remaining.

Swinton Lions warmed up for their upcoming iPro Sport Cup Final date with North Wales in perfect fashion as they got the better of League 1 heavyweights Keighley Cougars. The Lions won 29-16 at Park Lane after being 12-6 up at half-time thanks to tries from Connor Dwyer, Chris Rothwell and Mike Butt while Keighley’s try came courtesy of captain James Feather. A drop-goal from Ben White in the 47th minute put two scores between the sides before Shaun Robinson extended the hosts’ lead. Oliver Pursglove and Dwyer exchanged scores as the final ten minutes approached, and those ten minutes saw two tries scored within them. One went to Paul Handforth of Keighley and the other to Swinton’s stand-off White as his side saw out the game with relative ease.

Key Battle

Both Swinton and North Wales have good front-row forwards, with some good experience and talent occupying the positions. For the Lions, they started with Jordan James and Ben Austin as prop forwards with Andy Ackers playing out of dummy half for the match against Keighley. James is a highly experienced player, a usual regular in Super League up until this season, so Swinton have pulled a coup in getting him to ply his trade in League 1. A honourable mention to hooker Ackers, who is very sharp out of dummy half and had a trial with Warrington Wolves in pre-season. For North Wales, they started with Jonny Walker and Joe Burke in the prop forward positions while Callum Wright was in at dummy half versus Hemel. The front-row battle will be a good one in this cup final. The setting of attacking platforms in the midfield can go unnoticed but it’ll be well worth to keep tabs on it during the first game of this year’s Summer Bash.

Prediction

A big match for both. A date on the Sky cameras is always a good one for sides outside of Super League. Swinton will come into the match more battle-hardened than Crusaders, so they may just nick the spoils on that basis. It’ll be a close game, either way! – Swinton by 8

Workington Town v Whitehaven at 2:30pm – The Cumbrians kick off the Championship action in Blackpool. Both sides will be eager for a victory as they are languishing in the lower echelons of the division.

Last Time Out

Workington had a must-win game against Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium in round 13 of the Kingstone Press Championship. A win was what they got, and in emphatic fashion, by 37-6 in Paul Cooke’s final match as Doncaster head coach. The Cumbrians were only 10-6 to the good at half-time as tries from dual-registered pair Rhodri Lloyd and Lewis Tierney proved the difference in the first 40. Dave Scott opened the scoring for Doncaster after 13 minutes. Lloyd completed his brace in the second half before Tierney scored a second half brace to bring up his hat-trick for the match. Brett Phillips and Jack Murphy were the final two try-scorers, and Jamie Doran even added a drop-goal in the last minute for good measure. A job well done for Phil Veivers’ men.

Compared to Workington’s day in Yorkshire, Whitehaven had a shocker as they were defeated by 60-18 against a Halifax side who are gunning for a top four challenge in the backend of the season. Six points was the difference at half-time as the hosts had a slender advantage due to tries from Tommy Saxton, Steve Tyrer and Adam Robinson. Whitehaven’s tries came from Dion Aiye and Craig Calvert. Dane Manning, James Saltonstall and Ben Johnston all added tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Tyrer and Robinson completed their doubles either side of the final quarter. Scott Murrell and Ed Barber poached a try apiece in the last 14 minutes of the tie, rounding off a good day at the office for the West Yorkshire side.

Key Battle

With five tries scored altogether by dual-registered pair Lewis Tierney and Rhodri Lloyd against Doncaster, it will be interesting to see whether both are available to play for Workington at the weekend. If they are, then Whitehaven may have some trouble as winger Ed Chamberlain was taken off in the first minute against Halifax last week with a suspected broken leg. The replacement for Chamberlain may be full-back Richard Lepori, who can also play on the wing, but Tierney showed his frightening pace against the Dons last week and he will be extremely hard to handle if selected.

Prediction

Workington will be wanting to do the ‘double’ over Whitehaven, plus gaining two wins in as many weeks which is vital for their survival hopes. Whitehaven took a pummelling against Halifax last week and it’ll show great resilience and strength for them to bounce back at the first time of asking, and against their nearest and dearest rivals – Workington by 16

London Broncos v Sheffield Eagles at 4:45pm – Andrew Henderson will be taking on his former club in a coaching capacity for the first time this Saturday as Mark Aston’s Eagles look to reinforce their position as a definite top four club against London. The Broncos won’t have played for nearly two weeks on Saturday while Sheffield’s last game came on Tuesday when they beat Dewsbury Rams.

Last Time Out

London Broncos hosted Featherstone Rovers at The Hive, the Rovers came into the match with an unbeaten away record and they kept that going after this date with the southerners. A 40-32 loss for London will have disappointed coach Henderson, as will the fact that star hooker Brad Dwyer has been recalled by Warrington Wolves after the £50,000 departure of Micky Higham to Leigh Centurions. In this tie, the Broncos were 16-12 down at half-time despite tries from Jamie Thackray and Daniel Harrison. Featherstone got on the scoresheet via Ben Blackmore, Jy Hitchcox and Andy Bostock, and the visitors dominated the first quarter of the second half and extended their lead handsomely. Four pointers from Jamie Cording, Luke Teasdale and Nathan Chappell looked to have put the game beyond doubt but London replied well with scores of their own through Rhys Williams, Ben Hellewell and Jarrod Sammut. The game was back to within eight points but a Jack Bussey try sealed the win for Rovers, leaving a Harrison last minute try for Broncos as a consolation.

Sheffield Eagles welcomed Dewsbury Rams for a midweek matchup at the Keepmoat Stadium. The match turned into a real war of attrition, as you could probably tell by the half-time score of 4-2 to the hosts. A Brett Seymour penalty goal was cancelled out and more by a try from Scott Turner in the last few minutes of the half. Menzie Yere doubled Sheffield’s points tally in the opening stages of the second period with a try but an Anthony Thackeray score under the sticks levelled matters. However, the Eagles stood up when they needed to and ended the game on top. Rob Worrincy scored a very important try in the corner after a cut-out ball by half-back Dominic Brambani created an overlap. Kyle Briggs just about converted from the corner to put Sheffield six points ahead, and then, in the minutes afterwards, Brambani sinked a drop-goal to win the game outright for the Eagles.

Key Battle

As previously mentioned, London will be hit hard by the news of Brad Dwyer’s recall to parent club Warrington Wolves. Dwyer, who was on loan at Swinton for most of last season, was one of London’s star performers in the first half of the 2015 season but now coach Henderson has reshuffled his hooking pack and brought himself into the Broncos 19 man squad for the game.  For the Eagles, they’ve been steady in the hooking department since the signing of Keal Carlile who replaced Australian Blake South who went back home due to personal reasons. The speed and guile out of dummy half has been rearing its head for Sheffield in recent weeks and that’s something London will have to deal with. Stopping the go-forward from either James Davey or Carlile will be key to London’s chances at Blackpool.

Prediction

Sheffield will go into this match definitely fancying their chances of another two points, and their second victory over London this season. But, the Broncos will be travelling to Blackpool with revenge on their mind as well as looking to get back on track after the loss to Featherstone in round 12. Which way will this one go? – Sheffield by 14

Bradford Bulls v Halifax at 7:00pm – To round off the first day’s action at the 2015 Summer Bash, we have an all West Yorkshire bout between Bradford and Halifax. The Bulls haven’t had a game since round 12 but Halifax got the better of Whitehaven on home turf last Sunday.

Last Time Out

Bradford travelled up to Cumbria for a match with Whitehaven, the team who faced Halifax in round 13. It wasn’t all one-way traffic like many people expected it to be, with the Bulls only one score up at half-time. 16-10 was the score in favour of the visitors after tries were notched by Adrian Purtell twice and Lee Gaskell. Scott McAvoy and Connor Holliday were the try-scorers in the final six minutes of the half for Whitehaven. The score was tied on 50 minutes when James Newton ducked over the line, it was well and truly game on and the Bulls were held for a period but a Danny Addy try in the 66th minute put the cat amongst the pigeons. A late Danny Williams double put the score beyond Whitehaven’s reach, which was a bit of an injustice as the game was a lot closer than it says on the scoreboard.

Halifax were the next opponents of Whitehaven, who were licking their wounds from a tough defeat by Bradford in the previous round. Richard Marshall’s side made light work of the Cumbrians as the West Yorkshire side came out victorious 60-18. Yet again, though, Whitehaven only found themselves six points behind at half-time with the score at 18-12 to the hosts. Halifax got on the board through Tommy Saxton, Steve Tyrer and Adam Robinson before Whitehaven replied through Dion Aiye and Craig Calvert. But, the floodgates were well and truly opened in the second half when Dane Manning, James Saltonstall and Ben Johnston all registered four pointers within the first 15 minutes of the match restarting. Tyrer, Scott Murrell and Robinson also posted tries in the second half before Ed Barber recorded his first try in Halifax colours on the 80th minute.

Key Battle

The three-quarters of Halifax have seemed more compact as a group in the last few weeks, with Ben Heaton a consistent performer in the blue and white. Alex Brown has also left the club temporarily to join Batley Bulldogs on loan for an initial month, leaving the wing berths to James Saltonstall and Tommy Saxton at The Shay. With attacking fluency on show against Whitehaven, if Halifax can put on a similar show on Saturday then we may see the three-quarters get a lot of ball. In Bradford’s last match, also against Whitehaven, in round 12, Danny Williams proved vital in the closing stages as he wrapped up the game with a well-timed brace. Also, Williams’ centre partner Adrian Purtell grabbed a double up in Cumbria so those two players will go to Blackpool with form on their side so the Saltonstall-Heaton pair will need to be on their game to stop the Bulls duo. Adam Henry and Etu Uaisele were the other two three-quarters for Bradford, the pair shone against Sheffield a couple of rounds ago.

Prediction

There’s been gradual improvement over the course of this season for Halifax, with good attacking performances starting to become more of a regular thing which will have pleased the fans. The potential for a top four finish is there, especially as Danny Craven is now settling into the scrum-half position after his loan move from Widnes. From a Bulls perspective, they just need to keep gaining the wins and keeping pressure on Leigh at the top. Nothing more than a win will do for James Lowes’ men in Blackpool. and they’re favourites to take the spoils – Bulls by 13

Sunday 24th May

Dewsbury Rams v Batley Bulldogs at 12:45pm – A Heavy Woollen derby to kick off the final day of the Summer Bash. Dewsbury will be wanting to beat Batley for the second time this season after they got the better of their neighbours in the previous meeting at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium in April.

Last Time Out

Dewsbury had a short turnaround from their Challenge Cup match last Friday with Warrington, as they travelled to South Yorkshire for a match with Sheffield Eagles on the following Tuesday. The game between two of the teams with solid hopes of a top four finish was edgy and riddled with mistakes for the most part, and it was the hosts who came out on top 15-8. Dewsbury took the lead after half an hour through a penalty goal by Brett Seymour but the advantage was relinquished when Scott Turner touched down for Sheffield in the dying embers of the first half. A Menzie Yere try doubled Sheffield’s tally for the match but an Anthony Thackeray converted try with 15 minutes remaining levelled matters. Rob Worrincy touched down in the final ten minutes for the Eagles before the spoils were sealed for Sheffield as Dom Brambani sinked a drop-goal.

Batley were in cup action last weekend, and so nearly caused an upset at the Select Security Stadium where they lost out to Widnes by four points. A 26-22 defeat will have had a sense of so near yet so far for John Kear’s men but, after getting a standing ovation from the Widnes fans, they will have taken great pride in their performance. Things looked to be going swimmingly for the Vikings at half-time as they took a 20-6 lead into the sheds. Lloyd White and Alex Rowe exchanged the first scores of the tie before Patrick Ah Van and Kevin Brown, on two occasions, made acquaintances with the whitewash. Cameron Phelps extended the Vikings’ lead after the break but Batley weren’t going to lay down and having their bellies tickled. Wayne Reittie and Matty Fozard both touched down before the hour mark was reached, leaving Batley two scores behind going into the final 20 minutes. Reittie had his brace on the 68th minute and the game was well and truly in the balance but Widnes had enough to see them over the line and into the quarter-finals despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts.

Key Battle

Both James Craven and Ryan Fieldhouse have returned to their respective side’s lineups in recent weeks. Craven, an off-season signing from Keighley, had a slow start to life at Batley but was getting into a nice run of form before getting injured. Fieldhouse signed for Dewsbury from Halifax with a serious knee injury already obtained from a match for his former side in September. The last line of both defences will be wanting to make a good impact in Blackpool, either by being on the shoulder of the rampaging forwards or chiming into the three-quarter line.

Prediction

The belief in the Batley camp will be at a high level going into this match against Dewsbury. The Rams suffered a defeat against Sheffield on Tuesday and will be needing a win in this one to keep in contact with the top four. There won’t be much between the two sides but the Bulldogs will be very determined to avenge the defeat to their neighbours earlier on in the season — Batley by 8

Doncaster v Hunslet Hawks at 3:00pm – The currently coach-less Doncaster will go into this match after a 37-6 home loss to Workington Town last week which proved to be the final match in charge for Paul Cooke. Hunslet had no game last week, their last match was a 40-4 loss away at Dewsbury.

Last Time Out

In what was the best chance of a win for Doncaster in quite some time, Workington had Lewis Tierney and Rhodri Lloyd to thank for five of their seven tries in a dominating performance by the Cumbrians. Dave Scott gave Doncaster an early lead on 13 minutes but a try apiece for Lloyd and Tierney put Workington in front going into the break. After the restart came a procession of Town tries, two more from Tierney and one from Lloyd along with Brett Phillips and Jack Murphy also getting on the scoresheet. Jamie Doran finished the game off nicely with a drop-goal. 

Hunslet Hawks travelled to Dewsbury for round 12 of the Kingstone Press Championship. Despite a Charlie Martin try putting the Hawks ahead in the second minute, Dewsbury dominated proceedings and it showed on the scoreboard when the final whistle came. Luke Adamson and Dale Morton made sure Dewsbury had the lead at half-time as they cancelled out Martin’s earlier score. Morton scored two more four pointers in the second half, plus Anthony Thackeray, Toby Adamson and Brett Seymour all added to the scoreboard with one try each. 

Key Battle

The back-row of Doncaster is probably where they can cause most problems on the field with talented players such as Steve Snitch and Mike Emmett, who lined up for the Championship’s current basement side last weekend. Snitch will be a big part of the squad this week as Doncaster are currently without a head coach and the former Castleford man is one of the most experienced players. The Donny duo will be going up against Hunslet’s back-row which consisted of Charlie Martin, Callum Casey and Liam Mackay against Dewsbury. 

Prediction

Hunslet will go into this match as heavy favourites due to the predicament that Doncaster are in, as well as the obvious positions where both teams stand in the league. If the Hawks stick to the basics then it should be an easy win for them. Doncaster will be wanting to prove their worth in this match but it’ll take one hell of an improvement from the Workington game if they’re going to take the spoils from this one – Hunslet by 20

Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers at 5:15pm – The last game of the 2015 Summer Bash in Blackpool. Both sides start the weekend in the top four, with Leigh up at the top with their unblemished record while Featherstone are in fourth.

Last Time Out

Leigh Centurions picked up yet another Super League scalp as they downed Wakefield 36-30 in a classic at the Rapid Solicitors Stadium. Wakefield had a hefty advantage at half-time, though, as they went in 24-6 to the good. Chris Riley and Nick Scruton both scored a try apiece for Wakefield, Joe Arundel added a brace before Craig Hall kicked a last minute penalty goal to extend the lead to three scores. Leigh’s only try in the first half came from Ryan Brierley. But, after Liam Kay and Danny Kirmond were both sent to the sin-bin, Leigh worked their way back into the clash through Jonathan Pownall and Bob Beswick on 47 and 55 minutes respectively. Tom Armstrong’s try, after a lovely chip-and-chase by Brierley, levelled the scores but there’d be another twist in the tale when Jon Molloy retook the lead for Wakefield with a score of his own. Leigh had the final say with Sam Hopkins and Oliver Wilkes scoring a try each to win the game for the visitors.

Featherstone Rovers travelled to France for a bout with Super League’s Catalans Dragons in round six of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. Both sides rested some key personnel but people were still expecting a comfy Dragons win. Well, it didn’t turn out like that at all! Alex Foster scored the first try of proceedings after 10 minutes for Featherstone before Willie Tonga and Julien Bousquet put Catalans into the lead. Luke Teasdale and Elliot Whitehead exchanged scores in the final quarter of the half, Catalans had a 18-12 lead at the break. A red card for former Lance Todd Trophy winner Jeff Lima put the Dragons in a precarious position, even more so when Jack Ormondroyd tied the game with a try. Teasdale had his brace for Rovers in the minutes after Ormondroyd’s score and the Championship side were in front once more, up until Michael Oldfield equalised. Debutant Sam Day scored a try to remember for Featherstone on the hour and as the game ticked into the final quarter, Rovers had a massive chance to write another chapter in their cup shocks which was last edited in 2012 when they beat neighbours Castleford. However, two tries in two minutes for the hosts turned the game on its head. Morgan Escare and Thomas Bosc provided the killer blows, before Stanislas Robin kicked a drop-goal. The one pointer was very handy in the end as Ryan Verlinden burst over the line with moments to spare but the conversion attempt wasn’t on target.

Key Battle

The forwards of Featherstone really stood up to Catalans’ big men in Perpignan, and they have another challenge on their hands this weekend when they take on Leigh. New arrival Ryan Verlinden made his debut against Dragons and put in some good runs, even grabbing himself a try for his troubles. For Leigh, prop forward Oliver Wilkes scored the winner against Wakefield so both sides have forwards who know where the try-line is. Watch out for the clash between the props of both sides, it may get a bit spicy!

Prediction

It’s fair to say Featherstone are in a way better position now than what they were for their last match against Leigh. The introductions of Garreth Carvell, Ryan Verlinden and Reni Maitua have really helped the forwards and they can now stand up to any side in the division with the power they possess. Everybody knows what Leigh have in their locker, they’ve seemingly forgot how to lose. Will this Sunday’s match be the end of their impressive winning streak? – Leigh by 8

Thanks for reading the Summer Bash 2015 preview on Nothing But League. It’s going to be a brilliant weekend of rugby league, and we hope everyone has a brilliant time by the seaside!