Batley Bulldogs v Bradford Bulls – After beating Dewsbury Rams for the first time this season, Batley Bulldogs will be eyeing up another victory when they take on Bradford Bulls at the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium on Sunday. A brilliant final quarter from the Bulldogs was enough to see off the Rams while Bradford were beaten by the table-topping Hull Kingston Rovers.
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Batley Bulldogs beat Dewsbury Rams 36-20 on home turf thanks to five tries in 17 minutes which turned the game on its head. After going into the half-time interval 8-6 down, Matt Diskin’s men bounced back in style as former Dewsbury duo Dom Brambani and Joel Farrell both got on the scoresheet to complete the comeback. Robbie Ward opened the scoring for Dewsbury on seven minutes before ex-Bulldog Alex Brown doubled the lead soon after. Paul Sykes was unable to convert either try. Batley went down to 12 men due to a dangerous tackle from James Brown but the hosts didn’t concede while the forward was off the field. In the last minute of the half, Batley got on the scoreboard through Dane Manning’s four-pointer. Pat Walker converted. In the second half, Dale Morton crossed to further Dewsbury’s lead before two tries in as many minutes from Jason Crookes and Wayne Reittie helped turn the tide. Even when they hit the front, Batley didn’t take their foot off the pass and three tries in the final quarter sealed a superb victory. Brambani, Farrell and Reittie all touched down before Dewsbury’s Macauley Hallett – who left the Bulldogs last month – was sent off for dissent. Gareth Moore registered a consolation penalty try in the dying embers of the game but that wouldn’t dampen Batley’s spirits as they got back to winning ways.
Bradford Bulls lost 42-10 against Hull Kingston Rovers as Danny Addy returned to the Provident Stadium to score a hat-trick for the Robins. Bradford were only 18-10 down at half-time and they scored the first try of proceedings thanks to Liam Kirk. Jake Butler-Fleming, Justin Carney and Addy all responded with tries for the visitors but the last try of the half went to Bradford’s new signing Cory Aston. After the break, Addy and Chris Clarkson notched a try apiece before the former completed his hat-trick. Rob Mulhern bagged the final score of the contest with five minutes to spare.
Batley will be wanting their backs to be as potent as they were against Dewsbury. The strong running duo of Wayne Reittie and Jason Crookes combined for three tries while Dom Brambani also got on the scoresheet. Sam Smeaton was on the wing for the Bulldogs while half-back Cain Southernwood had been selected at centre. However, everything came together for the hosts and they will be hoping for the same again when they take on Bradford. The Bulls were always going to be up against it when Hull KR came to town but with only an eight point deficit at the break, it showed they can compete. Cory Aston bagged a try on debut for the Bulls while the likes of Ed Chamberlain and Ashley Gibson were both given starts. Bad news came in the week though as it was revealed winger Ethan Ryan will miss the next four to six weeks with a broken jaw.
It’s going to be a real tough ask for Bradford to get out of the mess they’re in at the bottom of the table. They will need to win near to all of their matches from now on to have any chance of survival. The Bulldogs will be hoping to put another nail into the coffin and on home turf they will be favourites – Batley by 14
Featherstone Rovers v Halifax – A massive game for both clubs as they jostle for positions in the top four. Featherstone are one point shy of second-placed London Broncos, with the difference between a second and third place finish being an extra home game in the Qualifiers. Potentially a big money spinner. Meanwhile, Halifax are in the top four after their win over Toulouse in round 21 and they have two games remaining to claim over half a million pound in central funding. An unbelievable feat for the part-time club, who featured in the inaugural middle eights in 2015.
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Featherstone Rovers booked their place in the Qualifiers with a 32-14 victory against Oldham at Bower Fold. The visitors were 16-4 up at half-time thanks to tries from Josh Hardcastle, Chris Ulugia and James Lockwood. Matt Wilkinson notched the Roughyeds’ only try of the opening 40 minutes. The second period saw Scott Turner and Luke Briscoe extend Featherstone’s lead with a try apiece before Sadiq Adebiyi touched down for Oldham. Anthony Thackeray and George Tyson exchanged tries for the Rovers and Roughyeds respectively as the visiting fans started to celebrate their team’s superb achievement of a top four finish.
Halifax put themselves in the driving seat for a place in the Qualifiers as they beat Toulouse Olympique 16-8 at Stade Ernest Argeles. The West Yorkshire club went into the break 8-4 to the good as Steve Tyrer and Adam Tangata responded to Clement Boyer’s third minute try. After the restart, Tyrer kicked a penalty to make it a six point game but Toulouse soon piled on the pressure with their second try of the afternoon. Mark Kheirallah touched down following a Stan Robin pass but the full-back couldn’t level the scores as his conversion was off target. That left Fax with a two point lead and they wrapped up the win when Ben Johnston scooted over next to the sticks. Tyrer kicked the conversion. Toulouse ended the game with 12 men due to Bastien Canet’s sin-binning for dissent.
A victory for Featherstone this weekend would set them up nicely ahead of their second successive stint in the Qualifiers. Beating a tricky Fax side is always an achievement and Jon Sharp will be looking towards the ever reliable Anthony Thackeray to come up with the goods once again. Thackeray has created a great partnership with Matty Wildie as of late and Sharp won’t be wanting to split the half-back pairing up. This weekend, though, sees Halifax arrive at the LD Nutrition Stadium with great confidence following their win over Toulouse. The last try of that game came courtesy of Ben Johnston and he will be on cloud nine up until the start of Sunday’s match. Alongside him in the halves is usually the experienced operator Scott Murrell. Both players will be eager to replicate their heroics against Toulouse when they take on the Rovers this Sunday.
Featherstone have done the hard work by making the top four but they won’t want to rest just yet as they can still finish in the top two and pip London to the post. Another home game would be brilliant for the club’s coffers. Halifax have two tough fixtures to come but if they win this one and Toulouse lose to Hull KR, their last match of the season will become irrelevant and the top four party can begin. It should be a good one down at Post Office Road – Featherstone by 10
Hull Kingston Rovers v Toulouse Olympique – While Hull Kingston Rovers have been getting ready for the Qualifiers and their bid for promotion to Super League, it’s all started to go a bit pear-shaped for Toulouse Olympique. The French side have dropped out of the top four due to a dreadful run of form. Losses have come against London, Dewsbury, Oldham and Halifax and now they’re needing snookers to get back into Qualifiers contention. Halifax, the team who have replaced Olympique in the top four, take on Featherstone Rovers and Hull KR in their final two matches while Toulouse face the Rovers next weekend.
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Hull Kingston Rovers beat Bradford Bulls 42-10 as Danny Addy starred against his former club with a hat-trick of tries. It was the Bulls who took the early initiative thanks to a Liam Kirk try but the Robins soon replied with three scores of their own. Jake Butler-Fleming, Justin Carney and Addy all touched down before Bulls’ new signing Cory Aston cut the deficit to eight points at the break. In the second period, Addy and Chris Clarkson both crossed the whitewash as the Robins’ victory was all but sealed. Addy then completed his hat-trick before Rob Mulhern bagged the final try of the game on 75 minutes,
Toulouse Olympique dropped out of the top four as Halifax triumphed 16-8 at Stade Ernest Argeles. Toulouse got off to a flying start as Clement Boyer scored against his former side but the West Yorkshire club bounced back with two tries to go 8-4 up at the break. Steve Tyrer and Adam Tangata were the try-scorers and it was advantage Fax at the break. Tyrer kicked a penalty goal to extend his side’s lead to six points before Mark Kheirallah scored Toulouse’s second try of the afternoon. However, the full-back couldn’t convert and Halifax still led by two points. In the final minutes of the match, Ben Johnston sealed a magnificent win for the visitors as he crossed next to the sticks. Tyrer converted. Bastien Canet ended the game off the field as he was sin-binned for dissent.
Toulouse need to pull something special out of the bag and without their star half-back Johnathon Ford, who has been injured for a large part of the season, it’s questionable whether they have the quality to do so. Louis Jouffret and Stan Robin were the halves against Halifax but a large amount of errors, from both sides, made for a rather unspectacular game between two teams chasing the last Qualifiers spot. Robin has been included in the France national squad for the upcoming World Cup and he’ll be wanting to test himself against Super League opposition in a few weeks time. Helping his side to victory against the Robins would be a massive achievement considering the dominance of Tim Sheens’ side over the regular season. Danny Addy played in the halves for the second consecutive week in round 21 and he was rewarded with a hat-trick. Playing alongside Jamie Ellis, Addy – who is usually selected in the back-row – is learning from one of the best half-backs in the second tier so he won’t go far wrong. Young star Liam Harris may get a run-out if available but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sheens go with a full-strength side against a team who can really turn on the style when they want to.
Hull Kingston Rovers have been impeccable on home turf in the Championship this season and they’re in good shape for their Qualifiers stint. Tim Sheens won’t be wanting to see any let-up from his team though and they will need to stay on guard for two tough matches to end the regular campaign. Toulouse will be highly motivated to ruffle a few feathers and get back to winning ways in the most surprising of circumstances. A win here would put them in a decent position going into next week when they take on Featherstone and Halifax face Hull KR – Hull KR by 22
Rochdale Hornets v London Broncos – Rochdale Hornets come into this game after a dramatic victory over Swinton Lions in round 22 while London Broncos are safe in the knowledge that they’ll be returning to the Qualifiers for a second straight season. The Hornets are three points clear of the Lions, who are in 11th, and a win here would certainly help ease any relegation worries. London are one point ahead of third-placed Featherstone and the reward for a top two finish is four home games in the Qualifiers. A lot still to play for, for the Broncos.
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Rochdale Hornets picked up an important 33-28 victory over Swinton Lions at the Crown Oil Arena. In an action-packed contest, which saw ten tries and three sin-binnings, the Hornets just scraped past the visitors. Chris Atkin got the scoreboard ticking for Swinton with the opening points of the game. A penalty goal edged Swinton in front before Danny Yates responded with the first try. Atkin notched an eight point score for the Lions before Jono Smith and Josh Barlow were both shown yellow cards. Mike Butt extended Swinton’s lead once the pair had returned to the field but it wasn’t long before the visitors went down to 12 men again. Joe Bretherton was sin-binned for dissent and Rochdale capitalised moments later through Ryan Maneely. However, the final try of the half went to Butt as John Duffy’s men led 20-12 at the interval. After the restart, Josh Crowley and Jake Eccleston both scored tries, either side of a Yates penalty. Jack Murphy put Swinton back in front ahead of the final quarter, in which the end result was always in the balance. Smith regained Rochdale’s lead before Atkin levelled the scores thanks to a penalty. Rochdale found an extra gear in the dying embers of the contest and a Lewis Foster goal, followed by a Rob Massam try handed the spoils to the hosts.
London Broncos dominated Sheffield Eagles on the way to a 52-16 victory. Ben Hellewell notched four tries for the capital club as the Scotland international ran the South Yorkshire side ragged, alongside Jarrod Sammut and Api Pewhairangi. Sammut, Daniel Harrison and Hellewell all scored tries inside the opening 20 minutes as the hosts went 18-0 up. Matty Fozard and Matt James replied with four pointers of their own for Sheffield but London hit them with a sucker punch late in the half through Api Pewhairangi. In the second period, Hellewell and Eagles’ Remy Marginet swapped tries before the former completed his hat-trick. Pewhairangi soon added his second try of the game and the Broncos weren’t stopping for nobody as Andy Ackers and Hellewell followed the half-back over the whitewash in the final quarter.
Lewis Galbraith will be available for selection this weekend after the Hornets centre had his eight-game ban for verbal abuse quashed on appeal. He missed last Sunday’s game against Swinton as Jack Holmes and Jake Eccleston both played in the centres, with the former also getting on the scoresheet. It’s a timely boost for the Hornets, who will want to head into the Championship Shield with a bit of momentum. Meanwhile, London’s Ben Hellewell relished the chance of moving back to centre as he scored four tries against Sheffield. The Scotland international has found himself playing in the back-row for the past few months but he has now staked a solid claim to keep his centre berth. Michael Channing was the other centre but the former Featherstone man failed to get over the whitewash, as did his wingman Elliot Kear.
A big one for both sides, who will be looking to end the regular season in fine form. The Hornets have started to pick up victories here and there which is important as they won’t want their great start to the season to go to waste. Meanwhile, London showed what they’re capable of in their last game and more of the same should lead to a Broncos victory on Sunday. But they can’t go underestimating the Hornets, as Alan Kilshaw will have his men motivated to spoil the party – London by 20
Sheffield Eagles v Oldham – Sheffield Eagles return to the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday with hope of getting back to winning ways after losing to London Broncos in round 21. Oldham were also defeated by a top four side as Featherstone Rovers got the better of Scott Naylor’s men at Bower Fold. Both sides could do with a win to extend the gap between themselves and the relegation zone as the Championship Shield stage of the season draws ever closer.
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Sheffield Eagles were beaten 52-16 by London Broncos at Trailfinders as the capital club sealed their top four finish. London were dominant on home turf and were 18-0 up inside as many minutes courtesy of tries from Jarrod Sammut, Daniel Harrison and Ben Hellewell. Matty Fozard and Matt James replied with a four pointer apiece for the Eagles, the latter’s try coming minutes after Jake Spedding was taken to hospital for a head injury. However, it was only a precaution and the dual-registered Saints man has recovered. Before the break, London scored their fourth try of the contest as Api Pewhairangi stepped past the defence and over the whitewash. In the second half Hellewell and Remy Marginet exchanged tries before the former completed his hat-trick. Pewhairangi then notched his second score of the afternoon before Andy Ackers and Hellewell finished off the rout by both touching down.
Oldham lost 32-14 against Featherstone Rovers at Bower Fold in round 21. The Roughyeds were 16-4 down at the break with their only try coming from Matt Wilkinson. Josh Hardcastle, Chris Ulugia and James Lockwood were the try-scorers for the visitors. In the second half, Scott Turner and Luke Briscoe extended Rovers’ lead prior to Sadiq Adebiyi powering over for Oldham. Anthony Thackeray and George Tyson swapped scores in the latter stages of the game as Featherstone, like London against the Eagles, confirmed their Qualifiers status.
Remy Marginet and Matty Fozard paired up in the halves against London, with Simon Brown not selected despite being in the 19 man squad. Whether we see the return of Brown against Oldham remains to be seen but it’s guaranteed that the Eagles need a strong kicking presence towards the backend of the set if they’re to challenge the Roughyeds. Sam Wood and Dave Hewitt took to the field as the half-backs for Oldham against Featherstone and it proved to be too tough of a challenge for the hosts as they were beaten. However, this weekend’s game against Sheffield is definitely winnable and Scott Naylor will be wanting an 80 minute performance from his men as they look to complete the double over the Eagles. An injury crisis has seen many first team players in the treatment room so it’s fair to say the Roughyeds are doing it tough at the moment but a spirited battle against the Rovers will have certainly brought confidence.
Both sides currently sit outside of the relegation zone but Oldham are only one point clear of 11th-placed Swinton so a win at the Beaumont Legal Stadium would be handy. Sheffield are eight points in front of the Lions and seven in front of the Roughyeds. Mark Aston’s men can’t really afford to slip up too many times ahead of the Shield as that’s when the pressure really starts to ramp up. Due to Oldham’s injuries, it may well be a tough afternoon for them but there’s always a chance when it comes to Championship rugby and they will be quietly confident about this one – Sheffield by 10
Swinton Lions v Dewsbury Rams – It’s been a harsh couple of weeks for Swinton Lions. On the pitch they have dropped into the bottom two but more problems have occurred off the field of play. The resignation of John Roddy started the bad news and as the club’s debts were released to the fans, the real scale of the battle facing Swinton came to light. Chris Atkin is out of the door, having joined Hull KR effective immediately with an announcement soon to be made. However, John Duffy’s men keep on fighting and their next test comes against Dewsbury Rams. Both teams lost their respective matches in round 21 but who will take the spoils in this one?
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Swinton Lions lost 33-28 against Rochdale Hornets at the Crown Oil Arena. The Lions led 20-12 at the break thanks to an eight point try from Chris Atkin and a brace from Mike Butt. Atkin also kicked a penalty for the Lions. Danny Yates and Ryan Maneely both notched for the Hornets, who had Jono Smith sin-binned during the half while Swinton’s Josh Barlow and Joe Bretherton were shown also shown yellow cards. In the second period, Josh Crowley and Jake Eccleston crossed the whitewash either side of a Yates penalty. Rochdale’s lead didn’t last for long as Jack Murphy scored a four pointer to put the Lions 28-26 up. Smith regained the Hornets’ advantage on the hour before Atkin kicked his second penalty of the game to level the scores. Unfortunately for the visitors, a drop goal fro Lewis Foster and a Rob Massam try three minutes from time separated the sides come the end.
Dewsbury Rams surrendered a two score lead in the second half as they lost 36-20 against local rivals Batley Bulldogs. Neil Kelly’s men led 8-6 at the break courtesy of tries from Robbie Ward and Alex Brown. Dane Manning scored the only try of the hosts, who were down to 12 men at one stage due to a sin-binning for James Brown. After the break, Dale Morton furthered the Rams’ lead before two tries in as many minutes for Batley put them in front. Jason Crookes and Wayne Reittie were the try-scorers and the hosts soon piled on the misery for Dewsbury as Dom Brambani, Joel Farrell and Reittie all touched down in the final quarter. Macauley Hallett was sent off for dissent on his return to the Fox’s Biscuits Stadium but in his absence, the visitors did register a consolation penalty try through Gareth Moore.
It’s going to be a tough run-in for the Lions without star playmaker Chris Atkin. The Lions had struck a deal with Hull KR a few weeks ago which said Atkin would leave for the Robins in 2018 but both clubs have agreed to an imminent deal. It brings in some much needed income for Swinton but their current playing situation has taken a hit because of the transfer. Josh Woods was Atkin’s partner in the halves against Rochdale so it will be interesting to see who replaces the KR-bound scrum-half. Ben White has been in and around the team without nailing down a starting spot while Grant Gore has been injured since mid-season. The Rams, with Paul Sykes and Gareth Moore in the halves, will be rubbing their hands ahead of this weekend but they can’t take Swinton lightly. However, Moore has been a terrific signing by Neil Kelly while Sykes has regained his form and been a key part of the Rams’ revival.
Swinton are a club who are hurting at this moment in time. Their off-field situation is far from ideal ahead of the most important part of the season but John Duffy will be wanting to keep his players focused on Sunday’s game. The Lions need to restore a little bit of feel-good factor back into the club and a win against Dewsbury would do just that. The Rams have been superb since Neil Kelly took over and due to their defeat last week, they’ll be expected to come back better and stronger because of it – Dewsbury by 14
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