The rest of the Kingstone Press Championship fixtures this weekend are previewed below. Nothing But League’s ‘highlight matches’ of round nine include Bradford Bulls v London Broncos and Sheffield Eagles v Leigh Centurions. Both of their respective previews can be read by clicking on the links above.
Batley Bulldogs v Featherstone Rovers – Two teams that suffered losses over the Easter period. The hosts are two points behind Featherstone in the league, will they be level come 4:35 on Sunday?
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Batley travelled to The Hive to take on London Broncos. The Bulldogs knew the task they were up against as the Broncos were playing some good rugby compared to how they were at the start of the campaign. The Bulldogs were three scores down at half-time after Matt Garside, Daniel Harrison and Ben Hellewell all notched for London. Sean Hesketh posted Batley’s first points of the game after the restart, barging his way over the whitewash in true prop forward fashion. Elliot Minchella replied for the Broncos before a mini-revival occurred for the visitors. Wayne Reittie and Hesketh once more crossed the try line and at 24-18 with five minutes remaining, anything was possible. However, Oscar Thomas slotted over a drop goal to put the game beyond doubt for the Broncos. So near yet so far for John Kear’s Bulldogs.
Featherstone played host to Sheffield, a team who were third in the table going into the tie. It turned out to be a very disappointing evening for the Rovers, who were on the receiving end of a 33-4 scoreline. The Eagles had the impetus from the off with a Menzie Yere try in the opening few minutes. After that, Scott Turner and Quentin Laulu-Togagae registered scores along with a penalty goal from Patch Walker. Andy Hay’s side went into the break 20-0 down, and were booed off the field by their fans. Things didn’t get much better after the restart as Misi Taulapapa found the try line on the 45th minute. Will Sharp replied well for the Rovers with a solitary four pointer before a drop goal by Michael Knowles and a last minute score from Walker ended proceedings
There’s been a lot of change between the half-backs of both clubs over the past few weeks. Batley’s changes are through no fault of their own as scrum-half Scott Leatherbarrow has been ruled out with a broken hand. Hooker Anthony Nicholson has been filling in for Leatherbarrow, partnering Cain Southernwood in the halves. For Rovers, their options are varied. Remy Marginet has featured in the past, as well as hooker Sam Irwin, but Paul Sykes and Gareth Moore took the reins on Monday. Whether or not Andy Hay chooses to switch the pivot roles around remains to be seen but stability is needed, especially in that position. The battle between the halves will be pivotal at the weekend, and on the slope of Mount Pleasant, a good kicking game always helps to pin teams back.
Batley bounced back well from their defeat to Dewsbury by scaring London Broncos last Monday, but ultimately didn’t come away with the spoils. Their lack of ideas in the final third of the field against their neighbours on Good Friday will have worried John Kear, and if the same happens against Featherstone, the same result will occur. Featherstone were out-enthused against Sheffield in the last round of matches, although their forward pack took a strain after 20 seconds as Paul Wood was taken off with an injury. If the Rovers are to finish in one of the top four places, games like these need to be won – Featherstone by 14
Doncaster v Dewsbury Rams – Both teams were defeated on Easter Monday, but who will get back on track this weekend?
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Doncaster made the trek up to Cumbria for a bout with James Coyle’s Whitehaven. Unfortunately for the Dons, they were downed 41-16. Braces from Haven duo Ed Chamberlain and Craig Calvert certainly didn’t help Doncaster’s cause. It was the aforementioned pair who scored the first two tries of the match, before Danny Nicklas replied with a score of his own for Doncaster. Tyla Hepi and Scott McAvoy rounded up the scoring for the first half with a try apiece. James Newton notched for the hosts soon after the restart and the Dons were well and truly having a mare before Ben Reynolds and Peter Fox got a try each to reduce the arrears to 14 points. The Chamberlain-Calvert double act continued into the latter stages of the tie as they both scored the final tries of the clash. John-Paul Brocklebank added a drop-goal for good measure in the final minutes.
Dewsbury were visited by Bradford, with the former Super League side looking to keep tabs on table-toppers Leigh Centurions. The Rams competed well with Bradford but couldn’t quite get the better side of them, as James Lowes’ side were 30-16 winners at Tetley’s Stadium. Jay Pitts and Etu Uaisele got the scoring underway for the visitors before Dale Morton got one back for Dewsbury with an interception four pointer. Lee Gaskell and Byron Smith both got on the scoresheet for Bradford and Dewsbury respectively in the opening stages of the second half, but the Bulls had that bit more firepower and ran away from their counterparts with three tries on the bounce. Ryan Shaw extended the visitors lead before Danny Addy notched a brace to seal the two points. Jason Crookes scored a consolation try for Dewsbury against his former side but the damage was already done and the Bulls kept hold of second place in the table for another week at least.
The battle of the centres should be an interesting one to keep an eye out for on Sunday. The talent in the Dons’ centres is noticeable with Liam Welham and Lee Waterman starting against Whitehaven. Welham and Waterman are good players and will cause Dewsbury a few problems at the weekend. Dewsbury had Scott Hale and Jason Crookes in the centres against Bradford. A noteworthy absentee for the Rams was Shane Grady, who got into the Championship Team of the Year for 2014. Grady broke his thumb in the Heavy Woollen derby on Good Friday and will be out of the squad for around 4-6 weeks. Will the Dons be able to exploit the void left by Grady’s absence or will Dewsbury be able to cope without one of their star players?
The Dons have lost all eight of their Championship fixtures so far, and they’ll be needing to win one soon or they’ll be far behind the pack. Dewsbury go into the match after one win and one loss from the Easter period. This will be a game they’ll be targeting a victory in, and they’ll be favourites to take the two points back to West Yorkshire – Dewsbury by 12
Halifax v Workington Town – Halifax got past Hunslet by the skin of their teeth on Easter Monday. Will it be a smoother ride against Phil Veivers’ Workington at the weekend?
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Halifax welcomed fellow West Yorkshire outfit Hunslet into The Shay for what turned out to be a pretty edgy encounter. The lead changed hands rather quickly in the first half, Alex Brown went over for Fax’s first of the tie before Rob Mulhern and Jimmy Watson put their side in front. A six minute barrage of tries then gave the advantage back to the hosts. Ben Heaton, Chris Taylor and Steve Tyrer all touched down for a 22-12 lead. Luke Briscoe cut the deficit to four points just before half-time, and this sparked Hunslet into life going into the second half. It didn’t take long for Vinny Finigan to get on the scoresheet and restore the Hawks’ lead but they couldn’t hold on by the end of the match. Scott Murrell notched a try and a penalty goal before James Saltonstall put the icing on the cake for Halifax. Job done but it wasn’t pretty.
Workington travelled to Leigh to take on the unbeaten Centurions. Despite the score being 6-6 after ten minutes, the full-time status of Leigh was clear to see as they came out 54-6 winners. Sean Penkywicz and Carl Forber exchanged early scores for the Centurions and Cumbrians respectively before Penkywicz went over for his brace. Adam Higson completed the half’s scoring with a try of his own. After the break, Ryan Brierley and Liam Kay both recorded four pointers in the early stages. Debutant Gareth Hock scored a brace while Michael Platt and Gregg McNally went over for one apiece.
The battle in the halves will be intriguing, especially if you consider Halifax have some injury problems at present. Three-quarter Chris Taylor partnered Scott Murrell in the halves against Hunslet but they still came out on top. Murrell has been one of Fax’s best players this season and his class is invaluable to the team. For Workington, they visited Leigh with Jamie Doran and Carl Forber in the haves. Forber has been a regular fixture in the Workington team for a good while now, but Doran has been with Town for a few months. The Wigan youngster won man of the match against Whitehaven on Good Friday, where he showcased his talent and potential in the most important game of the Cumbrian’s fixture list.
Halifax are a good team, and none more so on home turf. Workington never usually travel well but they’ll be well up for bouncing back after their loss to Leigh. Fax’ need to string a few wins on the trot together to get back in contention for a top four spot.. – Halifax by 12
Hunslet Hawks v Whitehaven – A rather important match for both teams, who are currently sitting in mid-table with the echelons of relegation only slightly behind them.
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Hunslet travelled across West Yorkshire to take on Halifax at The Shay. Despite not coming away with the win, they could be proud of the performance they put in against a team who have been a strong outfit in the Championship over recent years. Alex Brown opened the scoring for Halifax before Rob Mulhern and Jimmy Watson crossed for the visitors. Ben Heaton, Chris Taylor and Steve Tyrer all went over the whitewash for Halifax before Luke Briscoe replied for the Hawks to make the score 22-18 going into the break. Vinny Finigan touched down in the opening minutes of the second half, meaning Hunslet had the lead back in their grasp. It was only until the final seen minutes of the game when Halifax won it, through a try plus a penalty goal from Scott Murrell along with a stunner of a score from James Saltonstall.
Whitehaven hosted Doncaster, both teams were in need of a win and the Cumbrians got just that, and in style. Craig Calvert and Ed Chamberlain both went over Whitehaven in the early stages before Danny Nicklas got a score back for the Dons. Tyla Hepi and Scott McAvoy extended the hosts’ lead by half-time with a try apiece. James Newton put a comeback beyond doubt with a four pointer after half-time, but Ben Reynolds and Peter Fox fought for Doncaster’s cause with singles. Calvert and Chamberlain completed their braces while John-Paul Brocklebank slotted over a drop goal on what was a brilliant day for James Coyle’s Whitehaven.
Ed Chamberlain, on dual-registration from Widnes Vikings, and Craig Calvert both started in the wing positions against Doncaster, and to good success as well. Both players scored braces and were dangerous every time they picked up the ball. For Hunslet, Vinny Finigan and Richie Barnett were the wingers against Halifax. Finigan scored a try and had a respectable game, Barnett was scoreless but any missed tackles this Sunday will prove costly as he’s still got good pace. The wing battles will be exciting to watch, who will come out on top?
This matchup is between two evenly matched teams. Hunslet have beaten Dewsbury and Doncaster at home this season and they’ll be targeting a win in this fixture too. Whitehaven have struggled this season, with both of their league wins coming on home turf. Which team will come out on top, or will the score be tied after 80 minutes of play? – Draw