Batley Bulldogs v Toulouse Olympique – Batley Bulldogs welcome Toulouse Olympique to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday, with the West Yorkshire club looking to bounce back after losing to Dewsbury Rams for the third time this season. Toulouse beat Halifax at the Summer Bash and if they play to a similar standard, it could well be a long afternoon for the Bulldogs.

Last Time Out

Batley Bulldogs lost 13-12 against Dewsbury Rams in the final game of Summer Bash 2017. The Bulldogs led 8-4 at the break thanks to tries from Danny Cowling and Wayne Reittie. The former’s try came moments after Dom Brambani returned to the field following his sin-binning for tipping. Dewsbury’s points were kicked from the tee as James Glover notched two penalty goals. In the second period, James Harrison extended Batley’s lead with their third try of the game but the Bulldogs were unable to push on from there and Dewsbury fought back. Aaron Brown made a break from halfway and couldn’t be stopped despite the attention of Dave Scott and Shaun Ainscough. Glover converted and he levelled the game soon after thanks to another penalty. Paul Sykes slotted over the winning drop goal in the final quarter as Batley rued missed opportunities after a penalty and a number of failed one pointers were off target.

Toulouse Olympique were impressive as they beat Halifax 32-22 at Bloomfield Road. The French club were 20-6 up at half-time thanks to tries from Kane Bentley, Rhys Curran and a brace courtesy of Tony Maurel. Mark Kheirallah also kicked a penalty in the final seconds of the half. Steve Tyrer bagged Halifax’s only four pointer of the first period. After the restart, Tyrer cut into the deficit with his second try of the game before Olympique hit back with tries from Curran and Anthony Marion either side of the hour mark. Rob Worrincy and James Woodburn-Hall both notched consolations for Fax, who couldn’t keep tabs on a strong Toulouse team.

Key Battle

Batley will need to show a bit of steel in the forwards if they’re to have any chance of getting anything from this match. Toulouse’s strong pack has been lauded by second tier pundits and fans alike and it’s up to the Bulldogs to front up to Olympique at the weekend. Will Maher has been selected in Castleford’s squad for their match against St Helens so there may be a return on the cards for James Brown. Strong running forwards including Tom Lillycrop and Alex Rowe will be vital to Batley’s cause on Sunday and if they’re on their game, the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium becomes a tough place to visit. However, Toulouse’s regular front-row partnership of Clement Boyer and Bastien Canet have been consistently brilliant this season, as well as impact subs Tyla Hepi and Kalausa Leha. Olympique’s away form was questioned at the start of the campaign but they have answered their critics in emphatic fashion and their forwards will be expected to roll their side down the field and dominate the Bulldogs.

Prediction

The Bulldogs’ hopes of a top four finish are fading by the week and that will come as a disappointment to everyone at the club as they’ve not been able to push on from last year. It’s been a turbulent first season in charge for Matt Diskin but he will be wanting his side to finish the season strong ahead of the Championship Shield. A victory against Toulouse will go down well for the time being but it’s easier said than done against Sylvain Houles’ men, who have been phenomenal so far this season – Toulouse by 18

Dewsbury Rams v Bradford Bulls – Both Dewsbury Rams and Bradford Bulls will have been happy with their respective Summer Bash performances, despite the latter losing on the first day of the event. The Bulls put up a great fight against Hull Kingston Rovers before Dewsbury Rams brought the curtain down with victory over local rivals Batley Bulldogs. Now it’s time for the Rams and Bulls to go head to head in a relegation four pointer.

Last Time Out

Dewsbury Rams picked up yet another win against Batley Bulldogs as they beat their Heavy Woollen neighbours 13-12 at Bloomfield Road. Neil Kelly’s men were 8-4 down at the break despite two penalty goals from James Glover. Danny Cowling and Wayne Reittie were the try-scorers for the Bulldogs, who were temporarily down to 12 men during the first period after Dom Brambani’s sin-binning. James Harrison extended Batley’s lead after the restart but Dewsbury hit back with nine consecutive points as they tasted victory once again. Aaron Brown touched down for a converted try before Glover levelled the game with a penalty. Paul Sykes kicked the winning drop goal as the game edged closer to its conclusion.

Bradford Bulls gave Hull Kingston Rovers a run for their money but the table-toppers triumphed 20-19. Bradford were 8-7 down at half-time but Leigh Beattie’s side did take the lead through James Bentley. Andrew Heffernan responded for the Robins with a four pointer before debutant Dane Chisholm put the Bulls ahead with a drop goal. Jamie Ellis kicked a penalty with moments of the first period remaining as Tim Sheens’ men went into the sheds just one point ahead. Ellis furthered Hull KR’s lead in the second half with another penalty but Chisholm was on fire against his former club and his interception try sent the Bulls fans crazy while silencing the Robins fans. Heffernan and Jordan Abdull looked to have wrapped up the game for Rovers with tries either side of the hour mark but a late Ethan Ryan score set up a grandstand finish, but it wasn’t meant to be for the West Yorkshire club.

Key Battle

Dewsbury Rams have brought Macauley Hallett to the club from Batley Bulldogs, in a swap deal with Jason Crookes. Hallett was terrific for Swinton last season but hasn’t been able to replicate his form for the Bulldogs. Neil Kelly will be hoping a change of scenery will spark Hallett, and his fellow outside backs, into action. James Glover has been one of the Rams’ best players this season and has played in a number of positions. The goal-kicker played in the centre position against Batley, with Lucas Walshaw in the other slot. Hallett’s introduction gives Kelly a couple of options as he could put Walshaw back into the second-row or the ex-Lion could get a chance on the wing in place of Lewis Fairhurst. It will be interesting to see how the Rams line up in the backs against Bradford, who showed what they’re capable of against Hull KR last weekend. Ethan Ryan and James Bentley both got on the scoresheet from the centre position against the Robins, which also highlighted the superb academy system at the club. Bradford boss Leigh Beattie will have been very proud of his players at the Summer Bash and if they can keep those performances going, they have a big chance of survival.

Prediction

Bradford’s 19 man squad doesn’t feature Mikolaj Oledzki or Dane Chisholm so there will be opportunities for other players to shine against Dewsbury. Chisholm hobbled off against the Robins and was replaced by Joe Keyes, who showed glimpses of quality with a few touch-finding kicks while Colton Roche and Ross Peltier – both used in the front-row in the past – were at second-row and loose forward respectively. Dewsbury are two points behind tenth-placed Swinton Lions in the table so another win this weekend will be timely for Neil Kelly’s men, who will be revitalised after yet another derby day victory – Bradford by 14

Featherstone Rovers v Hull Kingston Rovers – Featherstone Rovers play host to Hull Kingston Rovers at the LD Nutrition Stadium on Sunday, with Jon Sharp’s men aiming for revenge after losing to the Robins earlier on this season. There’s not been many bad days for Featherstone in 2017 but their performance against London at the Summer Bash will certainly go down as one. The  Robins were made to work hard for their victory against Bradford Bulls in Blackpool and it’s expected that they will have to do the same against Featherstone this weekend. Tim Sheens’ side will need to smarten up their act ahead of the Qualifiers, although they’ve still only lost one league game all year.

Last Time Out

Featherstone Rovers were beaten 42-16 by London Broncos in game two of the first day at the Summer Bash. The West Yorkshire club couldn’t muster a point in the first period as they went into the sheds 14-0 down after a superb first half performance from Broncos half-back William Barthau. Jarrod Sammut and Alex Walker both touched down for London before Kieran Dixon kicked a penalty. After the break, John Davies notched Featherstone’s first try of the contest before London hit back with two scores in as many minutes. Andy Ackers and Walker crossed for the capital club, who looked like a side meaning business. Both sides went down to 12 men when Ian Hardman and Elliot Kear were shown yellow cards for fighting before Michael Channing registered a four pointer against his former side. Four tries in the final quarter were evenly split as Scott Turner and Davies notched for Rovers before Barthau and Dixon got on the scoresheet for London.

Hull Kingston Rovers were pushed all the way against Bradford Bulls but the table-toppers came out on top 20-19 to round off the first day of action in Blackpool. The Robins led 8-7 at the break after a converted try from Andrew Heffernan and a penalty courtesy of Jamie Ellis. James Bentley was Bradford’s try-scorer in the first period. In the second half, Ellis kicked another penalty before the Bulls regained their lead through Dane Chisholm who scored an interception try. Tries either side of the hour mark from Heffernan and Jordan Abdull gave the Robins a two score lead but a late Ethan Ryan four pointer did set up a tense finish, which Hull KR rode out.

Key Battle

John Davies was head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates against London Broncos, but not just because of the two tries he scored. The former Sheffield and Batley second-rower was exceptional in all aspects of his game and he is now getting the recgonition he deserves for his impeccable consistency. Frankie Mariano and James Lockwood also started in the back-row for Featherstone, who had another bad day at the Blackpool office. Jack Ormondroyd, Brad Tagg and Darrell Griffin all came off the bench to share the workload but to no avail. The return of Michael Knowles to the 19 man squad will have pleased Featherstone fans. When he plays, Knowles’ impact means a lot to the squad with his great work rate and skilful plays. The Robins had Maurice Blair, Danny Addy and Ben Kavanagh in their back-row against the Bulls. With the likes of Rob Mulhern, Liam Salter and Joe Cator on the bench, the Robins are blessed with talented players throughout their squad and it’s not a surprise they’ve only lost twice in all competitions this year. Chris Clarkson replaces Joe Wardill as the only change to KR’s 19 man squad ahead of this weekend.

Prediction

With two points separating Featherstone from fifth-placed Halifax, Jon Sharp’s side can’t afford many performances like the last one. Although things haven’t got any easier for them, taking on the likes of Hull KR means they can’t slack off and they will have to compete for 80 minutes or they’re going to be taught a lesson. The Robins won’t have been pleased with their Summer Bash performance and a fluent attacking performance is something they will be aiming for at the LD Nutrition Stadium this weekend – Hull KR by 20

London Broncos v Halifax – A big game in terms of the Championship top four and this year’s Qualifiers. The Broncos are two points clear of Halifax, who are currently fifth in the table and playing catchup. With eight games remaining of the regular season, there’s still a lot of rugby to be played but Richard Marshall knows his side need to beat the likes of London if they’re to stake a serious claim for a return to the middle eights. Expect a full-blooded encounter between two talented teams.

Last Time Out

London Broncos bolstered their chances of a top four finish with a 42-16 victory over Featherstone Rovers. Andrew Henderson’s men were 14-0 up at the break after tries from Jarrod Sammut and Alex Walker as well as a penalty from Kieran Dixon. John Davies cut into the deficit with the opening try of the second half before London hit back with two tries in as many minutes. Andy Ackers and Walker were the try-scorers for the Broncos before both sides went down to 12 men after sin-binnings to Elliot Kear and Ian Hardman. Michael Channing extended the capital club’s lead before four tries were evenly split in the final quarter. Scott Turner and Davies registered consolations for Featherstone before William Barthau and Dixon ended a successful afternoon for London with a try apiece.

Halifax’s top four bid took a hit as they were beaten 32-22 by Toulouse Olympique. Richard Marshall’s men were 20-6 down at half-time and they conceded twice in quick succession in the opening stages thanks to Kane Bentley and Tony Maurel. Steve Tyrer responded for Fax before Maurel and Rhys Curran both touched down. Mark Kheirallah made amends for his earlier missed conversions as he kicked a penalty late on in the half. After the restart, Tyrer completed his brace to give the West Yorkshire side a boost but two consecutive tries from the French side sealed the win. Curran and Anthony Marion crossed for Olympique before Halifax responded with consolation tries courtesy of Rob Worrincy and James Woodburn-Hall.

Key Battle

William Barthau and Jarrod Sammut starred for the Broncos against Featherstone, showing why London are a good bet for a top four finish. Barthau set up the opening two tries of the game and also assisted another in the second half before crossing the whitewash himself. Sammut’s off-the-cuff style gives London an x-factor that makes them a dangerous animal to contend with. Ben Johnston and Scott Murrell were the halves for Halifax against Toulouse but the duo were unable to guide the West Yorkshire club to a valuable victory. However, Fax did fight back towards the end and showed some character by not giving in and helping Toulouse to an easy ride for the full 80 minutes.

Prediction

It’s getting towards the business end of the season as the cliche goes and both sides are in the running for a Qualifiers place. Games like Sunday are perfect for entertainment and drama while showing what a great division the Championship is. Both sets of fans will be on edge for 80 minutes as their respective teams try to edge closer towards the middle eights. It’s going to be a good one! – London by 10

Sheffield Eagles v Rochdale Hornets – Both sides come into this match after gaining victory in Blackpool but who will carry over their momentum at the Beaumont Legal Stadium? The Eagles had a comfortable lead against Swinton Lions before John Duffy’s men stormed to within six points of the South Yorkshire club by the end. Sheffield coach Mark Aston will be wanting a more complete performance against the Hornets, who came from behind to beat local rivals Oldham during day one of the Summer Bash.

Last Time Out  

Sheffield Eagles picked up their first ever Summer Bash win with a 30-24 triumph over Swinton Lions. The Eagles were 8-6 down at half-time after Chris Atkin notched all eight points for Swinton while Matty Fozard touched down from dummy-half for Sheffield. Will Hope and Menzie Yere both bagged tries before the hour mark as Mark Aston’s men attempted to put the game beyond Swinton’s reach. Garry Lo and Fozard then crossed for a try apiece before Simon Brown kicked a penalty goal. However, three tries in five minutes saw the Lions claw their way back into the game but they were unable to force another four pointer with seven seconds remaining. Shaun Robinson,  Connor Farrell and Ben Austin all touched down for Swinton, who will have fancied their chances if they had started the comeback earlier on in the tie.

Rochdale Hornets kickstarted the Championship action at the Summer Bash by beating Oldham 38-28 at Bloomfield Road. The Hornets had to come from 26-8 down to beat their local rivals in a rather fiery contest which saw three yellow cards and a red. Rochdale were three scores down at the break  but the early exchanges were rather even with Scott Turner and Miles Greenwood swapping tries. Both teams had a man sent to the sin-bin with Jo Taira and Richard Lepori seeing yellow, the resulting penalty went the way of Oldham who kicked a goal courtesy of Scott Leatherbarrow. Jake Eccleston levelled matters for Rochdale before three tries without reply for Oldham put Scott Naylor’s side in a great position. Lepori returned from the sin-bin to score twice after George Tyson scored the easiest try of his life. Eccleston completed his brace before the break to breathe some life into the Hornets before the second half. After the restart, Leatherbarrow kicked another penalty but that proved to be the end of their scoring for the afternoon. Rob Massam, Ben Moores and Jordan Case all notched before the hour mark to make the score 28-28 before things got even better for the Hornets. Lewis Galbraith scored an eight point try before Danny Yates kicked a penalty. Yates and Oldham’s Sam Gee ended the afternoon off the field following yellow and red cards respectively.

Key Battle

Despite his side’s near capitulation against Swinton, Mark Aston will have been happy to see his side bounce back from their defeat to Toulouse. The props, including Scott Wheeldon and Mark Mexico, are great players who give a lot of go-forward in the middle of the pitch. Jordan Cox and Kyle Trout, the latter being more of a back-rower, came off the bench against Swinton to put in some good work and Aston’s options have been bolstered ahead of this weekend with the call-up of James Green from Leigh Centurions. Rochdale haven’t been afraid to get their hands dirty during their first season back in the Championship and they received two yellow cards in their game against Oldham. Jo Taira and Gavin Bennion were the starting front-rowers for the Hornets, the former being sin-binned for punching in the first half. Lee Mitchell and Matty Hadden provided fresh legs from the bench as Rochdale came from behind to beat Oldham and end their recent run of bad results.

Prediction

The Eagles have had a good couple of months, with results seeing them move away from relegation trouble. Sheffield coach Mark Aston will be wanting his side to push on till the end of the season as they look to stage a late bid for a top four finish. Although that may not come to fruition, the Eagles will be wanting to be in a strong position for their Championship Shield campaign and getting the better of Rochdale this weekend will help them. The Hornets showed their worth with a great comeback against Oldham and they will be aiming for a more polished performance against Sheffield on Sunday – Sheffield by 16

Swinton Lions v Oldham – Both sides lost at the Summer Bash, with Swinton Lions fighting back to lose by just six points against Sheffield Eagles while Oldham surrendered a comfortable lead against Rochdale Hornets. Swinton have lost their last two league matches while the Roughyeds are three games without a win.

Last Time Out

Swinton Lions lost 30-24 against Sheffield Eagles after being 30-8 down in the final five minutes. John Duffy’s side were 8-6 up at the break after a converted try and penalty goal from Chris Atkin. Matty Fozard notched the Eagles’ only four pointer of the first period. In the second half, Sheffield scored four consecutive tries and a penalty to seal the win. Will Hope, Menzie Yere, Garry Lo and Fozard all touched down before Simon Brown kicked a goal. However, Swinton’s fightback saw them move to within six points of their opponents with seven seconds remaining. Shaun Robinson, Connor Farrell and Ben Austin were the try-scorers for the Lions but their hail mary play in the last set didn’t come up trumps as Lo ran the ball out of play.

Oldham were beaten 38-28 against Rochdale Hornets in the first Championship game of the Summer Bash weekend. The Roughyeds were 26-12 up at the break but the opening exchanges were rather even with Scott Turner and Miles Greenwood swapping four pointers inside the opening eight minutes. Soon after, both sides were down to 12 men after sin-binnings to Richard Lepori and Jo Taira. Scott Leatherbarrow kicked the resulting penalty before Jake Eccleston levelled matters for the Hornets. Oldham registered three tries before the break thanks to George Tyson and a brace from Lepori. Eccleston completed his brace heading into the second half as Rochdale showed signs of a comeback. After the restart, Leatherbarrow kicked a penalty but the Hornets soon responded with four consecutive tries. Rob Massam, Ben Moores and Jordan Case all touched down to level the scores before Lewis Galbraith scored an eight point try to turn the game on its head. Danny Yates added salt to the wound with a penalty before he was sin-binned while Sam Gee was red carded in the same incident.

Key Battle

Swinton’s forwards dominated in the final quarter with Connor Farrell and Ben Austin both scoring during the comeback which ultimately came short. Andy Bracek and Austin were the starting front-rowers while Farrell, Adam Jones and Rob Lever were in the back-row. Anthony Bate and Josh Barlow provided impact from the bench and they will be expected to do the same once again on Sunday as they look to gain more breathing space from the relegation zone. Nathan Mason and Adam Neal were the props for Oldham against Rochdale, with debutant Luke Adamson, Danny Langtree and Jack Spencer the back-rowers. Liam Thompson, Joe Burke and Michael Ward were used from the bench. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle of the forwards as both sides are evenly matched across the board.

Prediction

Swinton will be aiming to put together a more complete performance in front of their home fans, especially after coming so close to pulling off an unlikely comeback at the Summer Bash. Meanwhile, Oldham will be looking to make amends after relininquishing their lead against Rochdale in Blackpool. It may well be a close contest but the Lions showed a lot of fight against the Eagles and if they can produce similar then they will claim the points – Swinton by 8