Batley Bulldogs v Swinton Lions – After hammering Sheffield Eagles in round four, Batley Bulldogs welcome Swinton Lions to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium. The Bulldogs were in clinical form against the Eagles and they will be wanting a repeat performance in front of a home crowd. Swinton travel to Batley following a 30-13 loss to Featherstone Rovers last weekend.
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Batley Bulldogs beat Sheffield Eagles 54-10 at the Beaumont Legal Stadium, Wakefield, to make a statement to the rest of the league about how dangerous they can be in full flow. Joel Farrell and Tom Holmes, both on debut for the Bulldogs, were magnificent as the forwards dominated and the halves controlled the game to perfection. Alistair Leak broke the deadlock for the Bulldogs before Elliot Minchella swiftly responded with a try of his own. However, the rest of the half – and match for that matter – belonged to the visitors as they scored four tries without reply before the break to go into half-time 26-6 up. Brad Day scored twice, with Holmes and Wayne Reittie both crossing the whitewash to give Batley a healthy lead. In the second half, Dom Brambani touched down to extend the Bulldogs’ advantage before Sheffield’s Will Hope was sent to the sin-bin. The Eagles had lost their heads and Batley capitalised in fine style. Reittie, Macauley Hallett and Holmes all crossed while Hope was off the field and even when he returned, Mikey Hayward notched his side’s final try of the game. Dane Chisholm provided a consolation for Sheffield but missed the conversion from in front of the sticks.
Swinton Lions fell to a 30-13 loss against Featherstone Rovers at Heywood Road. John Duffy’s Swinton side were 7-6 up at half-time after a try from Andy Thornley alongside a penalty and a drop goal courtesy of Chris Atkin. Matty Wildie bagged Featherstone’s only try of the first half. Michael Knowles put Featherstone into the lead for the first time with a penalty goal before Andy Bostock barged over to make it a seven point game at 14-7 with 20 minutes to go. Another penalty from Knowles gave the visitors more breathing space before the mountain became steeper for Swinton as second-rower Connor Dwyer was sin-binned following a team warning. In his absence, Jason Walton wrapped up the victory for Featherstone with a try seven minutes from time. Thornley and Ash Handley then swapped scores for the Lions and Rovers respectively, either side of yet another Knowles penalty.
There was no bad performances from the Bulldogs against Sheffield, the re-emergence of Cain Southernwood should make fans optimistic that the creative side of their team is returning to last year’s form. Southernwood and Brambani ran the show for Batley and now they will be wanting to do the same on home turf. It shouldn’t be an easy ride for them though as Swinton have shown time and again they can dig in and really make things difficult for the opposition. It took a lot for Featherstone to get past them while London also had a tough time of it against the Lions. Grant Gore and Chris Atkin were the two half-backs in their last match, with the former a recent arrival from Whitehaven. The pair have started in all four of Swinton’s games and they will be a danger with the boot for many defences as the season goes on.
After such a convincing victory against Sheffield, coach Diskin will love another 80-minute performance from his Batley players. With the notorious slope at ‘Mount Pleasant’, the Bulldogs have a real advantage if they can use it to full effect which is something they did last year. However, in their last visit to the Mount, Swinton beat Batley 32-24 so it’ll be interesting to see if history repeats itself – Batley by 14
Featherstone Rovers v Rochdale Hornets – Featherstone Rovers will aim to win their fifth consecutive league match as they take on Rochdale Hornets at the Big Fellas Stadium. The Rovers have started the season on par with the well-fancied Hull Kingston Rovers so they’re in good company at the top of the table. Rochdale Hornets currently sit in fifth place after wins over Dewsbury and Bradford. It should be noted that they performed admirably in their losses to Hull KR and Halifax. The Hornets are in a good position and this weekend will be a good acid test for them.
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Featherstone Rovers beat Swinton Lions 30-13 to extend their unbeaten start to the season. The Rovers went into half-time 7-6 down despite Matty Wildie’s converted try. Andy Thornley bagged Swinton’s only try of the first period before Chris Atkin struck a penalty and a drop goal, the latter proving to be the difference. In the second half, the visitors scored three tries and Michael Knowles kicked three penalty goals as the West Yorkshire side sealed a big win. Andy Bostock, Jason Walton and Ash Handley were the try-scorers for Featherstone while Thornley doubled his tally for the match in reply. Walton’s four pointer was scored while his side had a numerical advantage thanks to Connor Dwyer’s sin-binning in the 65th minute. Job done for the Rovers!
Rochdale Hornets lost 20-6 against Halifax on Sunday at the Crown Oil Arena. The Hornets took the lead on seven minutes through Rob Massam, whose try was converted by Lewis Palfrey. Ed Barber replied for the visitors before Steve Tyrer kicked a penalty goal to give Halifax an 8-6 lead at half-time. In the second half, Tyrer extended his side’s lead on 52 minutes before the Hornets shot themselves in the foot with two sin-binnings in as many minutes. Gary Middlehurst and Ben Moores were the guilty parties and their West Yorkshire opponents took full advantage with a Tyrer penalty goal and a Rob Worrincy try to wrap up the win.
John Davies was an unsung hero during his one-season stint at Sheffield Eagles and now he’s gaining the same reputation at Featherstone. Davies is part of a back-row which is a real handful with the likes of Michael Knowles and Brad Tagg bringing both skill and power to the cause. Frankie Mariano and Brett Delaney started on the bench for Rovers, with both having shed loads of experience which will help Featherstone in the long run. Rochdale battled well against Halifax but came out on the wrong side of the scoreline. Danny Bridge, Josh Crowley and Gary Middlehurst were the back three for the Hornets, the latter was shown a yellow card for his troubles too. Jordan Case and Jo Taira were called upon from the bench and the same should be expected again unless coach Alan Kilshaw decides to bring in some players from dual-registration partner Warrington Wolves. Rochdale will need to stand up and be strong against a tough Featherstone pack, and if past games are anything to go by they shouldn’t have many problems doing that.
Featherstone’s quality is being noticed around the league but that won’t be on the minds of Rochdale on Sunday as the Championship newbies bid to ruin their opponents’ winning start to the campaign. Jon Sharp has assembled a squad capable of staying in the higher echelons of the table for the full year but they will have to be wary of ‘banana skin’ ties such as this one. The Hornets will play with no fear and as much as that can be a negative at times with reckless play, there’s occasions where the unpredictability can rattle teams – Featherstone by 18
Halifax v Toulouse Olympique – Halifax return to the MBi Shay after defeating Rochdale Hornets in round four, their second consecutive win in the Championship. Toulouse enter round five with their struggles on the road still lingering after being beaten by Bradford Bulls at the Provident Stadium. Will they grab their first win on the road this weekend?
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Halifax beat Rochdale Hornets 20-6 at the Crown Oil Arena, with help from Steve Tyrer who scored 12 points thanks to a try and four goals. Rob Massam put Rochdale in front after seven minutes but Lewis Palfrey’s conversion proved to be their final scoring act of the afternoon. Ed Barber responded with a converted try of his own before Tyrer edged the visitors in front with a penalty. Halifax were 8-6 up at the break and their lead was extended by Tyrer, who touched down with the half just over ten minutes old. Gary Middlehurst and Ben Moores were shown yellow cards as Rochdale’s battle got a little bit tougher, the former’s sin-binning gave Tyrer the chance to kick a penalty and it was an invitation he accepted. With a two-man advantage on the field, Halifax wrapped up the game as Rob Worrincy crossed the whitewash in the final quarter.
Toulouse Olympique suffered a 29-22 loss against Bradford Bulls last weekend. In a frantic opening few minutes, Toulouse opened the scoring through Gavin Marguerite before conceding and having a man sent to the sin-bin. Iliess Macani replied for Bradford and Rhys Curran was shown a yellow card for a dangerous throw moments later. With Curran off the field, James Bentley extended Bradford’s lead as they looked to get a stranglehold on the game. Ethan Ryan and Scott Moore both touched down within five minutes of each other with the hosts going into half-time 22-6 up. After the restart, Ross Oakes got in amongst the tries as he crossed on 53 minutes. Toulouse needed to respond and they did just that with three tries in seven minutes to cut the deficit to just six points. Marguerite completed his hat-trick while Stan Robin also found his way to the try-line. With 67 minutes on the clock, it was all to play for but Bradford saw the game out well thanks to an Oscar Thomas drop goal two minutes from time.
With Scott Murrell and Ben Johnston linking up well in the halves, Will Sharp has had to play at full-back and he has all the attributes to really flourish in that position. Having played there on occasions for his former club Featherstone Rovers, Sharp’s strong running game really lends itself to the full-back role and he should gain some great yards in broken field. Toulouse’s full-back situation is a bit different as Mark Kheirallah was unavailable due to injury so Tony Maurel had to move from his usual wing to fill in at full-back. Paul Marcon came in for his debut for Toulouse in place of Kheirallah. The loss of Kheirallah may prove vital for Toulouse as he was a mainstay in the dominant League 1 team of 2016, alongside fellow treatment table players Johnathon Ford and Kuni Minga.
Halifax have improved since the introduction of Adam O’Brien from Huddersfield Giants. With a bit more direction from dummy-half, the forwards have started to come alive and with Scott Murrell and Ben Johnston pulling the strings Halifax are a tough team to go up against. Toulouse’s poor start away from home may come back to bite them if they’re gunning for a top four spot. They need to sort it out as soon as possible but it will be a hard challenge against Halifax this weekend – Halifax by 18
Hull Kingston Rovers v Sheffield Eagles – Sheffield Eagles take on table-toppers Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park this Sunday, as they try to halt the Robins’ unbeaten start to the season. The Eagles suffered a heavy defeat against Batley Bulldogs in their last match while Hull KR beat Oldham 48-0 on home turf to make it four wins from four in the Championship.
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Hull Kingston Rovers racked up eight converted tries to see off Oldham at KCOM Craven Park. Tim Sheens’ men were 30-0 up at the interval thanks to tries from Thomas Minns, Shaun Lunt, James Donaldson, Nick Scruton and Jordan Abdull. At the other end of the pitch, the hosts’ defence stayed solid throughout the match as they kept the Roughyeds to a blank. The second half saw three more tries for the Robins, scored by Jamie Ellis, Kieren Moss and Minns. A professional performance from Hull KR, which highlighted the strength they have in their current squad.
Sheffield Eagles were beaten 54-10 against an efficient Batley Bulldogs side who did the basics right, and to great effect. Alistair Leak and Elliot Minchella exchanged scores for Batley and Sheffield in the opening stages of the tie before the Bulldogs crossed the whitewash four times without reply before the break. Brad Day bagged a brace, with Tom Holmes and Wayne Reittie also adding a try apiece to give the visitors a 26-6 lead at the break. After the restart, things turned even more sour for Sheffield when former Eagle Dom Brambani touched down prior to Will Hope being shown a yellow card. With a numerical advantage, Matt Diskin’s Batley side notched three tries courtesy of Reittie, Macauley Hallett and Holmes. Even when Hope returned, the visitors managed to get over the opposing try line again through Mikey Hayward. At this stage, Batley were 54-6 to the good with over 15 minutes remaining but the Eagles managed to settle the ship and they also got into double figures through a Dane Chisholm score.
Sheffield’s inability to defend around the ruck has cost them dearly in the past few weeks. Adam O’Brien for Halifax was a constant menace, then Alistair Leak and Tom Holmes both put on a clinic against the Eagles last weekend. This Sunday, Shaun Lunt goes up against the South Yorkshire side and he will need to be kept quiet if Sheffield are to stand a chance in this contest. Matty Fozard may get a move back to his familiar dummy-half role as Eagles coach Mark Aston looks to shake things up to try and find the winning formula after a difficult couple of weeks. Greg Burns started against the Bulldogs so if Fozard gets a start from hooker, the Sheffield-born youngster will be aiming to make an impact from the bench. After close games against Rochdale and London, Hull KR haven’t had it all their own way thus far – despite winning their opening four matches – so they’ll be wanting to put in another good performance to back up their victory against Oldham.
Hull KR have great options in their squad but coach Sheens will want to see consistent performances in the opening months of the season so swapping the squad around may not be on his mind just yet. So far, the East Yorkshire side haven’t faltered and they will go into this weekend as heavy favourites against an Eagles team who will be down in the dumps after a dismal performance against Batley. Mark Aston’s men should be up for the challenge but it’s hard to see them getting a positive result – Hull KR by 22
London Broncos v Bradford Bulls – London Broncos’ away form has been terrific to start the season with three wins from as many games but they return home this weekend to face Bradford Bulls. The Bulls have won their last two matches and sit on -8 points. A victory in this one would really send out a message that they’re on their way back.
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London Broncos beat Dewsbury Rams 20-6 at the Tetley’s Stadium to keep in close contact with the league’s front-runners, Hull Kingston Rovers and Featherstone Rovers. The Broncos held a 12-6 lead at half-time thanks to tries from Junior Roqica and Jarrod Sammut. Hamish Barnes had initially put Dewsbury in front with a try in the 13th minute. In the second period, Sammut kicked a penalty goal to make it a two score game before full-back Alex Walker, in his first game of the season, touched down for the final try of the contest.
Bradford Bulls passed a tough test last weekend as they beat Toulouse Olympique 29-22 at the Provident Stadium. Gavin Marguerite opened the scoring for Toulouse after just two minutes before Iliess Macani responded minutes later. Toulouse second-rower Rhys Curran was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous throw soon after and Bradford capitalised through James Bentley. Further scores from Ethan Ryan and Scott Moore gave the Bulls a comfortable 22-6 lead at half-time. In the second half, things got better when Ross Oakes crossed the whitewash. Toulouse needed to wake up as the game was slipping away. Sylvain Houles’ men went on to score three tries in seven minutes to make it a six point game with 13 minutes remaining. Marguerite completed his hat-trick while Stan Robin also touched down. However, Bradford weren’t going to surrender the lead completely as Oscar Thomas kicked a drop goal on 78 minutes to seal the win.
London Broncos had two Welsh internationals on the wings last weekend as Elliot Kear and Rhys Williams were both selected by coach Andrew Henderson. Neither got on the scoresheet but both players have been important to London’s rebuilding in the Championship under Andrew Henderson. They will be looking to find some good, consistent form as they try to help their side up the table as the season progresses. Meanwhile, Bradford’s wingers – ex-Bronco Iliess Macani and Ethan Ryan – both crossed the whitewash last weekend as the Bulls picked up their second win of the season. Leigh Beattie’s side will travel down to the capital in good spirits despite sitting at the bottom of the table with -8 points to their name. Ryan had a breakthrough season last year while Macani was always a dangerous player in a London jersey and he will be wanting to replicate that form for his new club.
London’s only match at Trailfinders Sports Ground this season ended in a loss as Hull Kingston Rovers returned to East Yorkshire with the spoils. The Broncos have had success on the road this season and now they will be wanting to pick up similar results in the capital. Bradford come to Ealing with some exciting players in their ranks, as well as those who have great experience. There’s a good mix at the club and although they will not be favourites in this one, they will certainly give the Broncos a run for their money – London by 14
Oldham v Dewsbury Rams – Oldham play host to Dewsbury Rams this weekend at Bower Fold. The Roughyeds come into round five after a heavy defeat against Hull Kingston Rovers while Dewsbury Rams lost to London Broncos as their barren run continued.
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Oldham were left firing blank as they were beaten 48-0 by Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park. Scott Naylor’s men were 30-0 down at the break after tries from Thomas Minns, Shaun Lunt, James Donaldson, Nick Scruton and Jordan Abdull. The power of the Robins proved too much but Oldham held them to just three tries in the second half which came courtesy of Jamie Ellis, Kieren Moss and Minns.
Dewsbury Rams were defeated 20-6 by London Broncos at Tetley’s Stadium last weekend. The Rams broke the deadlock on 13 minutes through Hamish Barnes but consecutive scores from Junior Roqica and Jarrod Sammut gave the visitors a 12-6 half-time lead. After the restart, Sammut kicked a penalty goal to make it a two score game. With the final quarter approaching, Alex Walker touched down for the final try of the afternoon to seal the win for London.
The back-row of Oldham is just one of the reasons why Scott Naylor’s men managed to retain their Championship status last year. Last week saw Liam Thompson, Danny Langtree and Jack Spencer start in the back-row for the Roughyeds but Hull KR had a bit too much strength in their locker. However, the talent cannot be dismissed after one game against one of the best teams in the league. Oldham have been a competitive outfit this year, running both Featherstone and London close, and they will be aiming to get back to winning ways against an out of sorts Dewsbury side. Glenn Morrison’s men have had a torrid start to the 2017 season and they need to stop the rot quickly as this league is thriving with good teams. Lucas Walshaw, Scott Hale and Chris Annakin were the back-rowers for the Rams against London while Rob Spicer featured from the bench. With dual registration it’s hard to get consistency in the team but Annakin will certainly improve the team week-on-week if he’s made available by parent club Wakefield Trinity.
It’s a tough situation for Dewsbury at the moment. If it wasn’t for the Bulls’ -12 points deduction at the start of the season, they’d be at the bottom of the table. Scoring tries has been a problem which indicates that the halves need to do a bit more and get their three-quarters involved. It’s still early days yet but games against the teams around them will be vital, such as the one at the weekend. Oldham will want to get as far away from the relegation zone as possible and a victory this weekend will help them in the short term. They’ve come close to picking up some good wins this season, they just need things to click – Oldham by 10
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