Betfred Championship news round-up

BARROW RAIDERS centre Hakim Miloudi is hoping his partnership with winger Theerapol Ritson can help keep their side on the boil.

The Cumbrians have impressed on their return to the Championship after a two-year absence.
Paul Crarey’s team went into their home clash with London Broncos seeking a fifth win out of five in the league.

And they are looking forward to Sunday’s BBC-screened visit of Super League Huddersfield Giants in round six of the Challenge Cup.

That’s after victories at Rochdale Hornets and at home to Workington Town, who were beaten 32-18.
Ritson scored his seventh try of the season against his former club after bagging 22 last year, when Barrow were League One champions.

Miloudi, who moved from Palau Broncos midway through 2021, scoring two tries in eight games, got his third of this campaign in the 34-24 win at Widnes Vikings.

“I’ve been with Tee since I signed last year. He’s fast, he’s powerful,” said the France international, who has previously played for Hull and Toronto Wolfpack.

“I like to have a player like that near me because I can step and do something and he will finish it.

“I’m happy with the effort of the team. Everyone is giving everything for the shirt. I’m excited.”

Crarey’s side were 18-12 down at the break against Workington, and he admitted the clash was tighter than the scoreline suggested.

“Towards the back end of the first half we took our middles off and moved Danny Toal there to give us that energy to push the ball around,” he said.

“That paid off with a try bang on half-time which gave us a lifeline.

“We kept our middles out until 17 minutes to go, then they started to play around the ball. There was only going to be one winner in that period.

“We’re just glad to have made it into the next round.”


BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear was left to rue the two that got away after a last-gasp Challenge defeat by Leigh Centurions.

But he says his side, missing illness-hit trio Steve Crossley, Brad England and Elliot Hall, should take heart from a spirited performance.

The teams went into the Odsal clash knowing a sixth-round trip to Super League side Hull KR awaited the winners.

Bradford led going into the final five minutes, but Ed Chamberlain’s try and Ben Reynolds’ fourth goal made it 20-16 to Leigh.

“It was tough to take, and we were all desperately disappointed,” said Kear, twice a Challenge Cup winner as a coach.

“We really wanted to get to the sixth round, and I don’t think we got what we deserved from such a strong performance.”

The five fifth-round winners also go into the 1895 Cup, and Kear added: “Being involved in that competition was a target, but we’re scuppered.

“We had a very fractured preparation with a sickness sweeping through the camp which meant players missing training.

“We were without six the previous Tuesday, four on the Thursday, then three on the Saturday, the lads who missed out.

“But the squad coped and we had 17 lads raring to go, and I think that was clear to see.

“The effort, commitment, workrate, application and willingness to work hard for each other was fantastic. It really pleased me.”

Kieran Gill and Matty Dawson-Jones scored tries, while Dec Patton landed four goals for Bradford. The Bulls were beaten 38-4 in a league clash at Leigh, also in front of the Premier Sports cameras, four weeks earlier.

And Kear added: “We were all down immediately afterwards, but wWhen we were able to have a rational review, we saw plenty of positives.

“From a month earlier to Monday’s game, we have improved immensely, and that’s very rewarding.”
Cup elimination means Bradford now have a blank weekend.


FEATHERSTONE ROVERS forward Luke Cooper is keen to tackle Catalans Dragons in the sixth round of the Challenge Cup in Perpignan on Saturday.

The 27-year-old played loose-forward and scored a try as Brian McDermott’s men beat Batley Bulldogs 54-20 in the fifth round.

The Catalans clash is a repeat of Cooper’s Featherstone debut at the same stage of the competition back in 2015.

And he reckons it will provide a great gauge of where Rovers have reached in their bid to make it to Super League.

Featherstone, who lost 34-14 at home to Hull in the last 16 of the Cup last year, will head for France having lost at Toulouse Olympique in October’s Million Pound Game.

Since then they have brought in McDermott as coach and reinforced their squad, and went to Batley for the second successive Sunday aiming to make it six wins from six league games this year.

Seven years ago, when McDermott guided Leeds Rhinos to Challenge Cup glory against Hull KR at Wembley, Catalans were 37-34 winners against Rovers, for whom Luke Teasdale (2), Jack Ormondroyd, Sam Day, Alex Foster and Ryan Verlinden scored tries and Remi Marginet landed five goals.

“It was all a bit crazy,” recalled Cooper, who came through the club’s development system and has proved a consistent performer.

“I wasn’t expecting to play, but a few of our guys pulled out and I got my chance and really enjoyed the experience.

“There was a great atmosphere, because the fans there are really passionate, and we took a good following.

“It’s great to be going there again, and it’s a chance to test ourselves against a really good Super League side and get an indication of where we are at and where we need to try to get to.

“Catalans have come on a lot since 2015 and have reached both the Challenge Cup final and the Grand Final.”


LEIGH CENTURIONS coach Adrian Lam believes reaching the sixth round of the Challenge Cup can have a helpful knock-on effect in the league.

The former Wigan Warriors chief, who takes his team to Super League side Hull KR on Saturday, saw Ed Chamberlain’s late try help clinch a 20-16 win at Bradford Bulls.

It was the first time Leigh, who also had Adam Sidlow and Nene Macdonald (with tries) and Ben Reynolds (four goals) on the scoresheet, had led in the tie.

“When you have a lot of new players, you try to teach them some lessons out on the training field,” said Lam.

“But you need to go through processes on the pitch as well, and we have now learned how to find a victory out of nothing.

“You can’t put a value on how important that is as a group, and I think it was the next stepping stone for us.”

Lam added: “There was elation but also a bit of relief, and I was really proud we hung in there to win.

“Bradford is a tough place to visit. It’s a smaller pitch and they played a different style of rugby to what we had faced so far.

“We were twice down by eight points and also at one stage down to twelve men (after Caleb Aekins’ yellow card in the 56th minute).

“Bradford will have been gutted because they played well enough to win and they probably deserved to.

“But we found a way through, and you can’t coach that, it has to come from within the group.

Leigh’s victory also means they are involved in the 1895 Cup for the first time since the inaugural competition in 2019.

Back then they beat Workington Town 62-12 and Barrow Raiders 19-18 before a 12-8 semi-final defeat by Widnes Vikings, also at home.

This year, the five Challenge Cup fifth-round winners will contest the 1895 Cup.


NEWCASTLE THUNDER backrow Brad Day says he is enjoying his new challenge after leaving Super League hopefuls Featherstone Rovers for the North-East.

Heading up the A1 allowed Day, who scored five tries in twelve outings for Featherstone last year, to go full-time.

And the Yorkshireman, who played his junior rugby for East Leeds before breaking into the senior game with Castleford Tigers, where he previously played in the Academy, believes that will benefit his game hugely.

“It was sometimes tough trying to balance work, rugby and my personal life,” explained the 27-year-old, who joined Newcastle at the same time as Leigh Centurions fullback Craig Mullen.

“I can now focus not just on training, but also things like diet and rest and getting my match preparation and recovery right. That can be hard when you’re going out to work.”

Day made his sole Castleford appearance in 2014, from the bench in a 48-10 defeat at Warrington Wolves.

After his release by the Tigers, he spent four seasons at Batley Bulldogs before switching to Featherstone ahead of the the 2019 campaign, when he played in 28 games and scored twelve tries.

“I loved my time at Batley and Featherstone,” he added.

“But it felt like the right time to move, and (coach) Eamon O’Carroll and director of rugby (Denis Betts) really sold Newcastle to me and my partner.

“They put a lot of effort into getting players’ families involved as well, and it’s a great city.

“It’s a bit like Leeds, where I’m from, so I feel comfortable, but also a bit different, and I’m enjoying getting to know the place better.

“The club have lots of ambition, and hopefully I can do some good stuff here.”

Newcastle, who have signed their former halfback Dan Coates from London Broncos, are aiming to build on last season, when they consolidated after moving from League One to the Championship through a bidding process.


SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston says it will be a case of better late than never when his side meet Hull in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup on Saturday.

The two were due to clash at the same stage of the 2020 competition – until the pandemic put an end to the season for both Championship and League One clubs.

While Sheffield, whose wins over Halifax and Workington Town turned out to be to no avail, kicked their heels, Hull beat Castleford Tigers before losing to Wigan Warriors in the quarter-finals of the restructured Cup.

This time Sheffield, who fell 30-6 at the first hurdle against York City Knights last year, have seen off National Conference League Hunslet Club Parkside 40-20 and League One North Wales Crusaders 50-30.

With their new Olympic Legacy Park home still not complete – they are set to play their first game there against Widnes Vikings on Monday, May 23 – Sheffield will face Hull at Featherstone Rovers’ Millennium Stadium.

“It’s an interesting one,” said Aston, who was the Lance Todd Trophy winner when he helped the original Eagles shock Wigan 17-8 to win the Cup at Wembley in 1998, when John Kear was coach (the side also included current assistant coach Keith Senior and was skippered by Paul Broadbent, whose 23-year-old son Blake played against North Wales).

“We drew them before Covid hit and it was cancelled, so perhaps someone is looking down on us since we got it again.

“It’s going to be tough, because they are a quality Super League side. But it’s a great game for us and one to get excited about.

“We can enjoy it and have a dig without there being any pressure.”

Thanks to their fifth-round win, Sheffield are among the five teams to qualify for the 1895 Cup, which they won in 2019.

The Eagles have taken Featherstone halfback Tom Holmes on a two-week loan.


YORK CITY KNIGHTS fear winger Olly Butterworth will miss the whole of this campaign because of a shoulder injury.

The 24-year-old paratrooper and former Great Britain bobsleigh international was a close-season signing from Sheffield Eagles.

The South Yorkshire side picked up the former rugby union player from South Wales after he impressed on the Army Rugby League scene.

His sole appearance for the Eagles, in the 34-28 win over Swinton Lions in the penultimate game of 2021, brought a try.

And he crossed for two on his first outing for York, a 46-6 warm-up win over Midlands Hurricanes.

But he suffered a dislocated shoulder during the follow-up pre-season game against Castleford Tigers.

He has had further problems during training and now faces surgery, with coach James Ford explaining: “That’s probably his season.

“We took the medical advice and tried to manage the injury, but during training, he was tackled and fell on it, and dislocated it again.

“Now he definitely needs an operation now so the medical team are sorting that.”

Ford, speaking to local newspaper The Press, added: “It’s a blow because Olly is a world-class athlete.

“We brought him in knowing that he was raw but that he had a great attitude and a desire to learn the game.

“We still believe that there’s a real player there. It’s a shame that we’ve lost a body for the season.”

Ford has other wing options in Will Oakes, signed from Dewsbury Rams, and Joe Brown, from Bradford Bulls, and youngsters Brad Ward and AJ Towse, who are both Heworth products.

Ward, 18, played in the Challenge Cup ties against Newcastle Thunder and Whitehaven.

“I think we’re seeing the emergence of Brad, who had a cracking game against Newcastle and did okay in a challenging game at Whitehaven,” added Ford.

On-loan Huddersfield Giants forward Ronan Michael sustained an ankle injury in the latter tie.


BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says pitting his wits against Brian McDermott has been educational.

But last season’s Championship Coach of the Year insists he will remain his own man as he attempts to guide his charges to the play-offs for the second season running.

Batley hosted McDermott’s Featherstone Rovers in the league seven days after losing 54-20 to them in the fifth round of the Challenge Cup.

“As a coach, you try and learn from everybody,” said ex-Keighley Cougars chief Lingard.

“Brian has done everything in the game, so I would be daft not to look at him and how he goes about things.

“But I’ve never coached in Super League or a full-time environment, and there’s no point in me going into Batley with that head on.

“You have to coach to a club’s own style, players and environment.”


DEWSBURY RAMS have taken Halifax Panthers secondrow Cole Oakley on an initial two-week loan.

The 21-year-old was a close-season signing from Warrington Wolves, but has so far struggled for game time at The Shay.

He had a loan stints at Newcastle Thunder (ten appearances) and Rochdale Hornets (two) last year.

“Cole has gone to Dewsbury to get some minutes under his belt,” said Halifax coach Simon Grix.

“He had a pretty solid pre-season, but we’ve got good senior players in his position, so chances have been hard to come by so far.

“This move provides an opportunity to play at Championship level, which will do him good and provide us both with a yardstick.”


HALIFAX PANTHERS are looking forward to their own episode of Friday Night Lights next month.

That’s after the kick-off of their Good Friday (April 15) derby at Bradford Bulls was put back from 3pm to 7pm.

It’s Halifax’s first visit to Odsal since June 2019, when they lost a tight clash 24-20 just weeks after winning 20-16 there in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.

The 2020 campaign was curtailed by Covid before the sides clashed, while last year’s fixture, which Bradford edged 27-26, took place while the Bulls were still groundsharing at Dewsbury Rams.

Halifax beat Bradford 24-21 at The Shay later in the season.

The Panthers have three games before their Odsal showdown, the first at home to Leigh Centurions in front of the Premier Sports cameras tonight (Monday, March 21).

Their game at Workington Town, postponed last month because of a waterlogged pitch, has been rearranged for Sunday (2pm), while Whitehaven visit The Shay seven days later (April 3).


LONDON BRONCOS coach Jermaine Coleman is making the most of blank weekends as he works to mould his new-look side into a cohesive unit.

Elimination from the Challenge Cup at the hands of visitors Bradford Bulls in round four left London to focus on the league.

The Broncos had a fortnight between their home game against York City Knights, who they pushed hard before going down 26-24, and their trip to Barrow Raiders.

And the next outing for Coleman’s men isn’t until a week on Sunday, April 3, at home to Bradford, when they will seek revenge for their 34-8 Cup defeat.

Coleman, who moved from London Skolars at the end of last season and has overseen a large-scale change to the playing pool after the capital club went from full to part-time status, said: “We’re working hard to fix up our defence and to apply more pressure on teams.

“We didn’t do it against York, allowing them to transition up the field too easily. We need to address that and it’s a real area of focus.

“We’re trying to take advantage of these two-week blocks between games.”


WHITEHAVEN coach Jonty Gorley is finally allowing mention of St Helens as the Cumbrian club gear up for Saturday’s big Challenge Cup clash.

The sixth-round tie, which starts at 2pm and will be streamed live on The Sportsman website, is the talk of the town.

But while desperate to give the holders a run for their money at the LEL Arena, Gorley says the league is even more important.

And he was desperate not to let his players lose focus on the home showdown with Sheffield Eagles.

Whitehaven made it three wins running with their 38-12 fifth-round home victory over York City Knights (after beating Doncaster 60-0 in round four and Dewsbury 40-12 in the Championship).

And Gorley explained: “When the draw was made, we were having a recovery session, so watched it live.

“When we got St Helens, the roof pretty much came off, and I have to admit I was as excited as anyone.

“But after the dust settled, I told the players if I heard the words St Helens until after the Sheffield match, it meant a fine.”

Forward Karl Olstrom has rejoined the squad after a break from the game.


WIDNES VIKINGS are the sole focus for on-loan Warrington Wolves player Eribe Doro.

The prop, who turns 21 on Saturday, joined the Vikings, for whom he made three appearances last season, on a one-month deal the week before the season started.

Last month, it was extended for the remainder of the campaign, with no call-back option for the Super League club.

Oldham-born Doro, who came through the Warrington Academy and has made four appearances, is out of contract at the end of this year.

“I’m loving my time here, I’m enjoying my rugby and being around the lads, and at the moment, I’m just focused on being here and doing what I can for the team,” he said.

Widnes are waiting for clarification on the extent of a knee injury for Shane Grady, while fellow forward Levy Nzoungou is sidelined long-term by an Achilles tendon problem picked up during training.

Winger Ollie Brookes hopes to back from his hamstring injury within a month.


WORKINGTON TOWN coach Chris Thorman says his squad should take heart from their Challenge Cup fifth-round performance at Cumbrian rivals Barrow Raiders.

The Derwent Park team chief’s options were severely limited by a string of injuries and a suspension for secondrow Caine Barnes (he has just taken Warrington Wolves fullback Luke Broadbent on a one-month loan).

“We’re doing it tough at the minute, but I was proud of the effort,” said Thorman, whose side led 18-6 before Barrow scored 26 unanswered points.

Barnes’ fellow forwards Jake Lightowler (knee), Marcus O’Brien (shoulder) and Matty Henson (ankle) were also ruled out while Hanley Dawson was unavailable.

Steve Scholey and Dave Weetman have still to return from injuries sustained last season, when Workington were promoted.

Barrow coach Paul Crarey had praise for Town, saying: “Congratulations to them for their massive effort and also their fans, who sang all game to inspire their team.

“Credit should go to Workington for coming and putting on a show. They broke us up and made it hard. It was a really tough derby.”

Forward Conor Fitzsimmons scored a try as he made his 100th career appearance.

The Workington-born 23-year-old started his carer at Castleford Tigers, making two appearances, and featured 22 times on loan to his hometown club in 2017.

He spent the following two seasons at Newcastle Thunder, playing 48 times, before signing for Town in 2020.

Workington’s home game against Halifax, postponed last month because of a waterlogged pitch, has been rearranged for Sunday (2pm).

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