London Broncos v Sheffield Eagles – The Eagles take on the Broncos for the second year running in Blackpool as the South Yorkshire side look to gain revenge for their embarrassing loss in 2015, as well as the defeat they suffered earlier on this season. This year has been a complete role reversal in the two teams’ fortunes. London are currently second in the league while Sheffield, in their first season as a full-time side, sit seventh.
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London Broncos dominated Whitehaven at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. Andrew Henderson’s men were 62-4 victors against the Cumbrians and the home fans will have been very impressed with the debut of Api Pewhairangi, who has now signed a permanent contract in the capital. London were 28-0 up at half-time and Pewhairangi scored two tries in five minutes while Rhys Williams, Wes Naiqama and Mark Offerdahl all got on the scoresheet themselves with a try apiece. In the second period, Ben Hellewell struck a quick double to extend his side’s lead even further before Williams and Naiqama both completed their braces. Alex Foster and James Cunningham both notched a four pointer each as the Broncos passed the 60 point mark before Whitehaven got on the board in the last minute through Louis Jouffret.
Sheffield Eagles came close to doing the ‘double’ over Bradford Bulls but the latter just managed to get over the winning line at SHU Sports Park on Friday night. The Eagles lost 25-14 but were in the lead for a good portion of the match. Rob Worrincy and Cory Aston set Sheffield’s stall out in perfect fashion as they both scored a try each in the early going before Oscar Thomas struck Bradford’s only try of the first period to make the half-time score 10-6 to the hosts. Worrincy doubled his tally on 49 minutes and it would have been fair for the Sheffield fans to start to believe their side could grab another victory against the Bulls. But, in Rohan Smith’s first game in charge of the West Yorkshire club, the visitors hit back with a vengeance as Danny Williams and Adam Sidlow scored tries either side of the hour mark to take the lead for the first time. A drop goal from Thomas furthered the lead to five points before Kris Welham sealed the win with a try seven minutes from time.
The work of Andy Ackers and James Cunningham may have gone a bit unnoticed this year even though both players have excelled in the Championship, and under a coach with the dummy-half experience of Andrew Henderson. The duo have been profiting from their fellow forwards dominating in the midfield and they’ve registered a number of tries between themselves so far. They will be hoping to cause more damage to the opposition when they arrive in Blackpool this weekend. For Sheffield, they didn’t have an interchange hooker on the bench against Bradford but they did start with Keal Carlile at dummy-half and Matty Fozard at loose forward. Whether or not this strategy of Mark Aston’s will work remains to be seen but the Eagles need to start raising their game and picking up wins or else they’re going to be thrown into a relegation dogfight.
This game will kickstart the Championship action for the weekend but who will take the spoils? It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out between two sides who are having very contrasting seasons. In a one-off match anything can happen and even though London will go into the game as favourites, they will need to keep tabs on Sheffield’s menacing back-line – London by 16
Whitehaven v Workington Town – The battle of the Cumbrians returns to Blackpool for a second instalment but this time around, it’s Town who are in a precarious position at the bottom of the Championship table. This match could prove to be vital come the end of the season but who will come out on top?
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Whitehaven had a tough time of it down in London as they were heavily beaten by the Broncos at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. Haven were beaten 62-4 and their only try came in the last minute through Louis Jouffret. London had a 28-0 lead at half-time after a brace from Api Pewhairangi was added to with singles from Rhys Williams, Wes Naiqama and Mark Offerdahl. Ben Hellewell started the second half like a man possessed as he grabbed a quick fire double before Naiqama and Williams also completed their doubles. James Cunningham and Alex Foster both got on the scoresheet with a try apiece as London surpassed 60 points before Jouffret could reply with a four pointer of his own for the visitors.
Workington Town ran Batley Bulldogs close at the Zebra Clams Stadium but Phil Veivers’ men were narrowly defeated 31-24. Town opened the scoring through Brett Phillips but Batley replied with a penalty goal from Dominic Brambani before Greg Minikin and Luke Blake both got on the scoresheet with tries. In the second half, Perry Whiteley got Workington back on track with the opener but two tries in three minutes by the visitors gave them a handy advantage. Alex Brown and Dave Scott were the try-scorers but there was another twist in the tale as Town responded with a couple of converted tries of their own. Jarrod Sammut and Jack Murphy crossed the whitewash to tie the game up at 24-24 in the final quarter. However, the Bulldogs kept their nerve and won the game thanks to a Pat Walker drop goal and a vital try from Alistair Leak.
Cumbrian sides are renowned for their strength in the forwards and the front-rowers from both sides will be eager to gain the advantage in the midfield on Saturday. Whitehaven started with Glenn Riley and Ted Chapelhow as their prop forwards for the match against London while Ryan Duffy, Sam Brooks and Ben Davies were on the bench. The firepower is there for Haven but they will be going up against a Workington side who know the importance of this match in their battle to retain Championship status. Marc Shackley and Oliver Gordon were the starting pair in the front-row against Batley while Tom Walker and Ryan Verlinden brought fresh legs off the interchange. There is potential for things to boil over in this one, with it being a Cumbrian derby and a very important one at that.
A tough one to call as both clubs are desperate for a victory to help their own cause in the battle for second tier survival. Workington have been slowly improving over the past few weeks but whether or not they can produce the goods on the big stage remains to be seen. Whitehaven have had previous in picking up some big results, more so earlier on in the season, and James Coyle’s men will be looking for another one at the weekend – Workington by 2
Bradford Bulls v Leigh Centurions – To end the first day of the Summer Bash, the two biggest clubs in the Kingstone Press Championship go head to head as Bradford Bulls take on Leigh Centurions. Rohan Smith started his managerial career at the Bulls with a victory over Sheffield last week while the Centurions maintained their stance at the top of the table by beating Swinton.
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Bradford Bulls managed to scrape past Sheffield Eagles at SHU Sports Park last Friday. Coach Smith had a tough first assignment and his new side were 10-6 down at the break after conceding tries to Rob Worrincy and Cory Aston while getting on the board themselves through Oscar Thomas. Worrincy doubled his tally for the evening soon after the interval and Bradford needed to shape up quickly to get back in the contest. They did just that as tries from Danny Williams and Adam Sidlow put the West Yorkshire side in front for the first time. Thomas kicked a drop goal to extend the lead to five points before Kris Welham sealed the deal with a try in the dying embers.
Leigh kept their impressive run of results going as they defeated Swinton Lions 48-6 in a rather ill-tempered affair at Heywood Road. The Centurions had a 26-6 lead at the break after a couple of tries from Lee Smith along with four pointers from Tom Armstrong, Jonathan Pownall and Richard Whiting. Former Leigh hooker Anthony Nicholson got Swinton on the scoresheet with his side’s only try of proceedings A big fight on 45 minutes meant there was three red cards shown as well as two yellows. Swinton pair Zach Johnson and Josh Barlow were sent for an early bath, as was Leigh’s Gareth Hock while Mike Butt and Adam Higson were sin-binned. The man advantage that the Centurions had for the remaining 35 minutes was put to good use as the visitors crossed the chalk four more times without conceding any more points down the other end. Martyn Ridyard, Dayne Weston, Ben Reynolds and debutant Josh Drinkwater were the second half try-scorers for Leigh. With three minutes left to go, two more yellow cards were shown as Dan Fleming and Jake Emmitt of Swinton and Leigh respectively made their way to the bin after another scrap.
The signing of Josh Drinkwater adds more strength to the Centurions’ half-back position, which currently consists of Ben Reynolds and Martyn Ridyard. Drinkwater is a fine addition to the side and he has previously played in England for London Broncos. Reynolds and Ridyard have been playing well since the departure of Ryan Brierley so there’s now three high quality players for Neil Jukes to choose from. For Bradford, they have been experimenting with Lee Gaskell and Oscar Thomas as an half-back pair for the past few weeks and the results have been good. Thomas has played the majority of the year at full-back but with James Clare taking that berth in recent times, the 22-year-old is now alongside Gaskell while Danny Addy is in his more familiar role at loose forward.
After the thrilling game between Bradford and Leigh earlier on in the year, it will be an absolute treat if we are given a replica in Blackpool. Rohan Smith will know all about the bad blood that comes in this sort of matchup so it’ll be intriguing to see if there’s any dust-ups on the field. If Smith’s Bradford team could get a win against the Centurions at Bloomfield Road, that would state their intentions very well for the remainder of the season. Leigh will be focused on getting another win under their belts and moving one step closer to the Qualifiers, where they’ll be looking to make amends for an horrific effort in 2015 – Leigh by 14