Halifax vs Widnes Vikings

Last time out

Halifax ran the leaders of the championship, Hull KR, close last time out after having beaten them in the last round of the championship. Kieran Moss secured a quickfire double in the first ten minutes of the game to put Hull eight points in the lead. It wasn’t long before Halifax replied though, with Ben Heaton Crossing in the 10th minute and after Steve Tyrer added the extras Fax only trailed by two. Hull extended their lead soon after as Matty Marsh dummied and sliced through the Halifax defence to score. Jamie Ellis added the extras and the eight-point lead was restored. Halifax, however, scored two tries in the second part of the first half with Ben Heaton finishing off two well-worked moves to complete his hat-trick and put his side into the lead at half time. Halifax continued their one-man crusade and crossed again to go eight points up with under half an hour left to play. Halifax couldn’t hold on though, and fell foul of a massive second have come back from Hull with tries from Lawler and Scruton. Despite being on top for large parts of the game, Halifax couldn’t come away with the win with Hull coming back to take the game 26-22.

Widnes made a promising start to their Qualifiers campaign but fell foul of a second half comeback from Warrington that saw last year’s grand finalists run away fourteen point winners. Jack Hughes opened the scoring for the visitors but it wasn’t long before the home side replied through Jack Buchanan. Despite being under the cloud of Rangi Chase’s drugs ban Widnes started the first half very well, adding a second try to go 12-6 in front just 10 minutes before half time. In fact, it came from their other stand off, Joe Mellor went under the sticks after running an inside support line off Lloyd White, who subsequently slotted the corresponding conversion.

Widnes continued to put pressure on Warrington at the start of the second half and were rewarded with a 47th minute penalty that stretched their lead to 8 points. Warrington rallied and Tom Lineham scored two minutes later with a sublime finish in the corner. Widnes’ defence held firm for the next ten minutes but and it looked as though they might just get the much needed win before Warrington scored three unanswered tries, two conversions and a penalty goal in the last 18 minutes of the game. At the final whistle you could only feel as though it was a missed opportunity for Widnes Vikings and a bullet dodged for the Wolves. Regardless, it looks as though the two sides won’t have too much trouble staying up and will no doubt relish playing inferior championship sides.

Key Battle

Steve Tyrer vs Tom Gilmore. Tom Gilmore returns for Widnes and will fill the void left by Rangi Chase’s ban. He comes up against the high-flying veteran Steve Tyrer who is pivotal for the Championship side, providing invaluable experience and control for his side. If Halifax are to win this, Tyrer will need to be on his best form and off the back of last week, he looks very able to produce a big performance in the coming weeks. Tom Gilmore, however, is set to return from injury and will need to make an instant impact with Widnes now harbouring a loss in their Qualifiers record. He has shown promise throughout the season but injuries have checked his progress to hit top gear and he’ll be eager to make his mark on the game early. Both of these half-backs have the ability to put their side on the front foot through their kicking games so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

Prediction

Halifax have got stuck into some the top Championship sides in the past few weeks and it would be nice to see them give a Super League team a run for their money. They come into this one in good form, where as Widnes come in off the back of a disappointing loss as a result a second half Warrington come back so they’ll be hurting. Although Halifax have the home advantage I can’t see them beating Widnes but they should be able to run them close. Widnes by 8.

19-Man Squad

Halifax: Ed Barber, Mitch Cahalane, Brandon Douglas, Jacob Fairbank, Shane Grady, Simon Grix, Ben Heaton, Ben Johnston, Ben Kaye, Alex Mammone, Brandon Moore, Elliot Morris, Scott Murrell, James Saltonstall, Will Sharp, Michael Sio, Steve Tyrer, James Woodburn-Hall, Rob Worrincy.

Widnes: Chris Bridge, Jack Buchanan, Greg Burke, Hep Cahill, Jay Chapelhow, Danny Craven, Gil Dudson, Rhys Hanbury, Chris Houston, Jordan Johnstone, Manase Manuokafoa, Stefan Marsh, Joe Mellor, Tom Olbison, Charly Runiman, Corey Thompson, Danny Walker, Lloyd White, Matt Whiteley.

 

London Broncos vs Featherstone Rovers

Last time out

London fell two points short of a major upset at the Stade Gilbert Brutus. The Broncos broke the deadlock early on before Catlans replied soon after to level the scores. Catalans began to build pressure and after countless impressive defensive efforts on their own line, London went up the other end and capitalised of a Catalans error to score first phase of a scrum 30m out from the Dragons’ line. It was, in fact, the Broncos’ very own ‘Dragon’ who crossed to put the Championship side back in the lead.

The Broncos struggled to hold on to their lead and defended repeat sets own their own line before eventually letting Brayden Williame cross on the stroke of half time. Luke Walsh slotted the conversion and put the home side into the lead and it took a long while before Jarod Sammut could level the scores with two points of his own from a second half penalty. Walsh knocked over a penalty of his own just five minutes later before Louis Anderson all but put the game to bed with a try in the 67th minute.

Walsh kept his 100% record off the tee for the day and added the extras to put the Catalans side 20-12 up with just over ten minutes to play. Broncos rallied hard to mount a comeback effort and after building pressure in the closing stages, Mark Ioane took a quick tap to barge over as the final hooter went and Sammut converted but it was too little to late for the boys from London, going down 20-18 to the Super League side.

On the other hand, Featherstone hosted Leigh Centurions in the first qualifiers clash between a Super League and Championship side. Unfortunately for the home side the gap in class was clear from the off with Leigh scoring two tries in quick succession within the first 10 minutes of the game. Featherstone replied, however, with a try from former Super League stalwart Darrell Griffin. After cutting the Centurions’ lead to 6 with a conversion from Ian Hardman, Featherstone soon leaked more points with Brown crossing for Leigh in the middle part of the first half to put Leigh ten points clear at half time.

Leigh maintained pressure through the second half and scored three unanswered tries in the first minute of the second half despite Featherstone looking threatening on numerous occasions. Misi Taulapapa got a try back for the visitors with fourteen minutes to play but it was too little too late, as the Leigh Centurions halted any chance of a comeback with a great finish from Greg McNally just five minutes from time. Leigh walked away from their old rivals with a 38-12 win and two invaluable competition points to put them a step closer to safety. If Featherstone Rovers are to have a chance in this middle eight they’ll need to do a lot better.

Key Battle

Broncos have bolstered their pack this week, bringing in Lewis Bienek and Tom Spencer with Junior Roqica and Michael Channing dropping out of the squad. For Featherstone, James Lockwood misses out through suspension while Jordan Baldwinson and Jason Walton have been included in the 19-man squad. The last meeting between these two sides, Featherstone had the edge in the forwards for the majority of the game with the likes of Darrel Griffin and Jason Walton dominating their opposite men. Despite being dominated in the pack, London still managed to win by using their backs to out-score Featherstone in what was a fairly loose game. If Featherstone are to win this one they’ll need to dominate the London pack once more, however, they’ll most likely struggle with London having shown a much improved performance in the forwards last week in Perpignan.

Prediction

It’ll be a fast track down in Ealing and that should suit the Broncos’ attacking style. Although Featherstone played well against Leigh last week, I can’t see them having much of a look in here with the Broncos pack running harder and tackling harder than they have for much of this season. The Broncos backs are far classier and should pile on the points off the back of a good platform from their forwards. London by 16.

19-Man Squad

London Broncos: Ackers, Barthau, Battye, Bienek, Boudebza, Davis, Dixon, Evans, Gee, Hellewell, Kear, Ioane, Pewhairangi, Pitts, Sammut, Spencer, Walker, Wilde, Williams.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Ulugia, Taulapapa, Briscoe, Briggs, Thackeray, Griffin, Carlile, Bostock, Davies, Moore, Mariano, Wildie, Walton, Hardcastle, Igbinedion, Brooks, Farrell, Baldwinson.