Saturday..

Featherstone Rovers v Dewsbury Rams – Featherstone Rovers, fresh from their Challenge Cup round six success against Halifax, take on Dewsbury Rams as the Championship clubs return to league action this weekend. The Rovers had to dig deep to beat Halifax, especially after two outside backs – Luke Briscoe and Chris Ulugia – went off injured and didn’t return. Dewsbury Rams were also in cup action but were heavily defeated by Wakefield Trinity.

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup with a 24-12 victory over Halifax at the LD Nutrition Stadium. The hosts went into the interval 13-6 following tries from John Davies and Scott Turner as well as a drop goal courtesy of Anthony Thackeray. Ben Heaton notched Fax’s only score of the first half. After the break, Turner doubled his tally with a superb finish in the corner. Halifax’s job was made harder ahead of the final quarter as Shane Grady was sin-binned for tripping but in his absence, Richard Marshall’s men cut the deficit to five points thanks to Ben Johnston’s 61st minute effort. A second drop goal from Thackeray came before interchange back Josh Hardcastle sealed the win with a try seven minutes from time.

Dewsbury Rams were beaten 54-6 at the hands of Wakefield Trinity at the Tetley’s Stadium as Mason Caton-Brown starred with four tries. The former Salford flyer started the scoring in the fifth minute before Matty Ashurst, Sam Williams and Bill Tupou all touched down to put the visitors 24-0 up at the break. Aaron Brown registered Dewsbury’s only try of the match as the Championship side tried to make a comeback but their effort was in vain as Caton-Brown and Tupou completed their braces either side of the hour mark. Ashley Gibson followed with a try of his own before Caton-Brown doubled his tally to four with two more scores in as many minutes.

Key Battle

Scott Turner certainly showed his ability as one of the best wingers in the Championship with a two-try performance against Halifax on Thursday, a match which was broadcast on Sky Sports. Turner will be wanting to show his former side what they are missing. While on the other wing, MisI Taulapapa may move from the centre to the flank with Josh Hardcastle coming in at centre. Injuries to Chris Ulugia and Luke Briscoe meant coach Jon Sharp had to shuffle the pack mid-game against Halifax but it hardly affected the team, highlighting their strength in depth. Dale Morton and James Glover were named as the wingers for Dewsbury against Wakefield last week, despite the latter usually playing at centre or in the halves. The Super League visitors had good fortune in the outside backs and Neil Kelly will be wanting his Rams squad to learn from the experience and give Featherstone a run for their money.

Prediction

Featherstone Rovers are looking like a side ready for the Qualifiers. Their place in the middle eight hasn’t been sealed just yet but if their form continues, it won’t be too long until it is. Jon Sharp has got a great setup at the club, both on and off the field, and there is certainly a lot of potential there. Meanwhile, Dewsbury will be looking for a win to try and move closer to tenth-placed Swinton who are four points clear of the West Yorkshire club. Two competition points against Featherstone would be a major boost for the Rams, who have strengthened their ranks recently with the signings of Shaun Squires and Gareth Moore – Featherstone by 18

Toulouse Olympique v Sheffield Eagles – Toulouse Olympique welcome Sheffield Eagles to Stade Ernest Argeles, with the French side looking to get back to winning ways after losing to Swinton Lions in round 13. The Eagles avenged their defeat to Bradford Bulls earlier on in the season by comfortably beating them at Beaumont Legal Stadium. If the Eagles win on Saturday, they will become the first side to do the double over Toulouse this season.

Last Time Out

Toulouse Olympique suffered a disappointing 27-20 defeat away at Swinton Lions. The visitors, who had star half-back Johnathon Ford ruled out due to injury, were 16-6 down at the break with Rhys Curran coming up with their only four pointer of the first half. Connor Dwyer registered two tries before Chris Atkin kicked three penalty goals to put the Lions in a good position. After the restart, Kuni Minga cut the deficit for Toulouse prior to Atkin adding another penalty goal to his tally. Paul Marcon and Gavin Marguerite both touched down to put Sylvain Houles’ side in the lead but Swinton fought back to claim the spoils. Dwyer and Andy Thornley were the try-scorers as John Duffy’s side picked up a superb victory.

Sheffield Eagles made light work of Bradford Bulls as Mark Aston’s men triumphed 52-16. The South Yorkshire club notched four tries without reply in the first half, thanks to Ryan Millar, Sam Scott, Scott Wheeldon and Liam Johnson. At 24-0 up heading into the break, everything was looking bright for Sheffield and things got even better in the second period when Matty Fozard bagged a quick-fire brace. James Kelly scored a debut try for the Eagles in the final quarter before Kyle Trout exposed some lacklustre defending to power over. Bradford did start to play some good stuff towards the backend of the tie, with three tries going their way in the final minutes. Oscar Thomas, Johnny Campbell and Evan Hodgson all crossed for the Bulls while Sheffield surpassed the 50 point mark courtesy of Scott’s second try of the contest.

Key Battle

Toulouse had to play Swinton with a rather untested half-back combination of Mark Kheirallah and Stan Robin. Kheirallah, who is one of the best full-backs in the Championship, had to play out of position and that didn’t suit the former NRL player while Robin wasn’t at his best without usual partner Johnathon Ford. Olympique will be hoping for a more fluid attacking performance at the weekend as they look to put their foot on the gas ahead of the final stages of the season. Sheffield coach Mark Aston will have been proud of his players after their performance against Bradford. After making a late change to his side, with hooker Matty Fozard moving into the halves in place of Elliot Minchella and James Kelly coming off the bench, things went swimmingly for the Eagles. Fozard scored twice while Kelly also got on the scoresheet on a very good afternoon for the steel city club.

Prediction

Excluding their cup defeat to Batley Bulldogs, Toulouse have been exceptional on home turf this season and it will take something special to overturn them at Stade Ernest Argeles. Sheffield come into the game after a good win at home which has moved them further away from the danger zone. Things have been looking up for the Eagles but they may come unstuck this weekend – Toulouse by 14

Sunday..

Bradford Bulls v London Broncos – After receiving a heavy beating against Sheffield Eagles, Bradford Bulls will be aiming to finally move on to zero points on the league table when they face London Broncos. The Broncos hammered Oldham at Trailfinders in round 13 to move back into the top four. Coach Andrew Henderson will be asking for more of the same from his players but will they deliver?

Last Time Out

Bradford Bulls lost 52-16 against Sheffield Eagles at the Beaumont Legal Stadium. The Bulls were 24-0 down at the break after tries from Ryan Millar, Sam Scott, Scott Wheeldon and Liam Johnson. In the second half, Sheffield struck four more times without reply as Matty Fozard bagged a brace before James Kelly and Kyle Trout both touched down. Oscar Thomas, Johnny Campbell and Evan Hodgson all touched down for the Bulls in the final quarter before Scott completed his brace for the Eagles in the dying embers.

London Broncos thumped Oldham 74-12 on home turf as six players registered braces for the capital club. Kieran Dixon and Ben Hellewell got the ball rolling for the Broncos with a try apiece before Rhys Williams got in on the try-scoring act. Api Pewhairangi was unable to convert any of the three scores but he put his frustration to one side by ending the half with two tries of his own. Hellewell also completed his brace before the half-time hooter, while George Tyson got on the scoresheet for the Roughyeds. Daniel Harrison was the next player to notch a brace and he did so in quick time. Jarrod Sammut, Dixon and Mark Ioane crossed before the final quarter, in which London scored three times and Oldham once. Jay Pitts, Williams and Sammut were the try-scorers for the hosts, and Liam Thompson grabbed the Roughyeds’ second try of the afternoon.

Key Battle

The signing of Jordan Lilley on a loan deal will come as good news for Bradford Bulls, who are in need of a spark to help them past their minus points total. While Lilley was with the Bulls in his first spell, he was in superb form and the youngster will be wanting to provide similar performances alongside the experienced Leon Pryce, or Oscar Thomas. The Broncos will be in great spirits after their superb victory over Oldham. With so many players scoring, confidence will be high and the players will be wanting to replicate that showing. Jarrod Sammut came off the bench to score twice for London and his impact could be vital heading into the business end of the regular campaign. Api Pewhairangi and William Barthau have also showed their worth during this season and Andrew Henderson will be happy with the set of players he has got in his ranks.

Prediction

You would expect the introduction of Jordan Lilley, Mikolaj Oledski and Cameron Smith will have a positive impact on the Bulls this weekend. They certainly need it after their last performance, that is for sure. Any more performances like the one against Sheffield will go down like a lead balloon with the fans and the players will know that. London will know that the Bulls will be fired up and there may be times where they have to ride a few storms. But the Broncos have great quality – experienced quality at that – in their squad and they will rightly be the favourites going into this one – London by 14

Halifax v Rochdale Hornets – Halifax were knocked out of the Challenge Cup by Featherstone Rovers in their last match but Richard Marshall’s men have been in good league form and they will be wanting to continue that when they face Rochdale Hornets. Rochdale were also beaten by Featherstone in their last outing but Alan Kilshaw’s men are still five points clear of the drop zone.

Last Time Out

Halifax lost 24-12 to Featherstone Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium as their cup run came to an end at the sixth round. Richard Marshall’s side were 13-6 down at the break after Ben Heaton notched the visitors’ only try of the first half. John Davies and Scott Turner both got on the scoresheet for Featherstone prior to an Anthony Thackeray drop goal. Turner completed his brace in the 47th minute before Fax’s Shane Grady was sin-binned for tripping. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Ben Johnston cut the deficit to just five points but Rovers managed the game well especially through Thackeray who kicked another drop goal soon after. The win was sealed when Josh Hardcastle touched down in the final stages.

Rochdale Hornets were beaten 38-8 by Featherstone in round 13 of the Championship. The Hornets were up against it from the off, as Rovers bagged two tries in the opening nine minutes. Josh Hardcastle and Ian Hardman both touched down before Miles Greenwood responded for Rochdale’s opener. Hardman and Scott Turner completed their braces before half-time, while Michael Knowles also got on the scoresheet. Rochdale were 28-4 down at the break and things got worse after the restart, thanks to four pointers from Matty Wildie and Misi Taulapapa. Rob Massam registered a consolation effort two minutes from time but there was little to cheer about for the Hornets.

Key Battle

Brandon Moore was handed a tough assignment against Featherstone Rovers as the youngster started at hooker against the experienced Keal Carlile and interchange replacement Matty Wildie. Ben Johnston started on the bench for Halifax while Connor Robinson was in the halves, the latter providing an option for a stint at dummy-half. Richard Marshall has a good squad of players who like a playing an entertaining brand of rugby. Young players such as Moore and Robinson add to that mantra perfectly. Ben Moores and Jay Lobwein shared hooking roles in Rochdale’s last match, the latter coming off the bench. Moores has scored five tries in the league so far and has showed what he is capable of while Lobwein has made just two appearances from the bench. Coach Alan Kilshaw may want to use Lobwein more as the season goes on, with a deep squad proving valuable to many teams in the division.

Prediction

Halifax have won their last six home matches in all competitions and they will be looking to extend that run as they aim to put pressure on fourth-placed London Broncos. They put in a solid effort against Featherstone in the cup but just came up short while Rochdale are on a barren run of nine league games without a win. It will take a special effort to break that unwanted streak away at Halifax – Halifax by 20

Hull Kingston Rovers v Swinton Lions – Both teams were dumped out of the Challenge Cup by Super League teams last weekend but who will bounce back with a victory in the league? Hull KR renewed their recent rivalry with Salford Red Devils while Swinton took on Wigan Warriors.

Last Time Out

Hull Kingston Rovers lost 24-14 against Salford Red Devils at the AJ Bell Stadium last Friday, despite having a 14-6 lead at half-time. Shaun Lunt showed his class with a brace before Jamie Ellis kicked a penalty goal to put the Robins 14-0 up. Ryan Lannon bagged a try three minutes before the break to spark the Red Devils into life. After the restart, Craig Kopczak and Kriss Brining both got on the scoresheet as the hosts took the lead for the first time in the match. A professional foul from Jake Butler-Fleming saw the winger sin-binned, with the resulting penalty kicked by Michael Dobson. Eight minutes were left on the clock when Ben Murdoch-Masila touched down to all but seal the win for Salford. Another Dobson penalty followed soon after as the Super League club booked their place in the quarter-finals.

Swinton Lions were beaten 42-12 by Wigan Warriors but John Duffy’s men could be proud of their performance in front of a home crowd. The Warriors led 18-0 at the break following tries from Joel Tomkins, Liam Farrell, Joe Burgess and Liam Marshall, who had a magnificent year at Heywood Road last season. Grant Gore opened Swinton’s scoring account for the game in the 42nd minute before Wigan notched four tries without reply. Burgess completed his brace prior to four pointers from Tom Davies, Josh Ganson and Nick Gregson. Both sides were down to 12 men for Ganson and Gregson’s tries after Mike Butt and Willie Isa were sin-binned for fighting. Butt made amends for his earlier misdemeanour with the final try of the contest on 75 minutes.

Key Battle

Ryan Shaw and Jake Butler-Fleming were the wingers for Hull KR against Salford last Friday. Neither got on the scoresheet but both will be hoping that their side’s free-scoring form returns on Sunday against the Lions. The Robins have been the leading team in the Championship this season and having the likes of Shaw and Butler-Fleming in their outside backs proves what a strong squad they have. But whoever is selected by Tim Sheens to fill those roles on the wing will have a tough job on their hands against Shaun Robinson and Mike Butt. Robinson has scored four tries in 13 games but he has been an important part of the Lions setup for a number of years while Butt has been in inspired form. Nine tries in as many league games isn’t to be sniffed at and the winger will be hoping to put in another superb performance this weekend.

Prediction

Hull KR coach Tim Sheens will be wanting his players to get back to business this weekend as they aim to keep their brilliant Championship form going. The Robins will have been disappointed to have surrendered their lead against Salford last time out but that needs to be put to the back of their minds as if they rest on their laurels, Swinton will punish them. John Duffy’s men will be eying up an upset and after their victory over Toulouse in their last league match, it will be interesting to see how they perform – Hull KR by 26

Oldham v Batley Bulldogs – Oldham come into the game after suffering a big defeat away at London Broncos while Batley Bulldogs have been in awful form, losing their last five games in all competitions. Who will bounce back at the Manchester Regional Arena?

Last Time Out

Oldham lost 74-12 against London Broncos at Trailfinders Sports Ground. The Roughyeds were 30-6 down at half-time, with George Tyson coming up with a converted try for the visitors. Api Pewhairangi and Ben Hellewell both notched braces for the Broncos, while Kieran Dixon and Rhys Williams bagged singles. Daniel Harrison kept the ball rolling for London after the break with a brace prior to tries before the hour mark from Jarrod Sammut, Dixon and Mark Ioane. Jay Pitts and Williams touched down for four pointers in the final quarter before Oldham’s Liam Thompson and Sammut exchanged scores.

Batley Bulldogs were beaten 68-4 by Hull Kingston Rovers at KCOM Craven Park. The hosts were 38-0 up at the break after braces from Ryan Shaw and Andrew Heffernan as well as tries from Rob Mulhern, Jordan Abdull and Zach Dockar-Clay. Jamie Ellis and Jake Butler-Fleming kept the momentum going after the restart with a try apiece. Shaw completed his hat-trick on the hour mark before Dockar-Clay and Batley’s Mikey Hayward swapped four pointers. The final try of the game came through Butler-Fleming, and his second score of the afternoon.

Key Battle

Both sides were on the receiving end of big defeats in round 13 and wholesale improvements need to be made ahead of this contest. Admittedly, the losses came against full-time teams but neither club will have expected such a hammering. The forwards will be looking to muscle up and lead from the front, the likes of Adam Neal and Michael Ward are integral to the Roughyeds’ setup and they will be wanting to make big contributions to the cause. Nathan Mason and Joe Burke also played against the Broncos and if selected, they will be aiming to repay the fans. Batley have been on a downward spiral for the past month or so and a win would be timely, to say the very least. Tom Lillycrop and Will Maher were the starting front-rowers for the Bulldogs against the Robins, while James Brown and Alex Rowe didn’t feature. Adam Gledhill was the only recognised prop on the bench for Batley, with three back-rowers – Alex Bretherton, Joe Chandler and James Harrison – alongside him. It will be interesting to see if Diskin rings the changes or not.

Prediction

It’s a tough one to call as Oldham have had a mix bag of results recently and are moving away from their Bower Fold home for this match. Batley need to start showing some character or they will have to settle for a season of mid-table mediocrity, or maybe worse. This one could go either way – Batley by 10