LEIGH CENTURIONS stand-off Ben Reynolds says he’s looking forward to treading the Tottenham Hotspur turf when Adrian Lam’s side face Featherstone in the 1895 Cup Final on Saturday.
And the former Rovers loan player, who was born in nearby Pontefract, says the big match provides a chance to take another step on the road he hopes will lead to Leigh’s return to Super League.
The 28-year-old Castleford product, who made six appearances for Featherstone on loan from Wakefield in 2019 and is in his third spell with the Centurions, is one of only seven current squad members who featured last season, when Leigh dropped out of Super League after claiming only two wins in 22 games.
This time around they are challenging Featherstone at the top of the Championship and went into their home clash with Workington on the back of a 52-0 win at Batley – their tenth in eleven league games.
Their only defeat was by a 28-6 margin at Featherstone in the second match of the season.
Saturday’s showdown will provide a gauge of how the squad put together by head of rugby Chris Chester and ex-Wigan coach Lam, who was appointed in mid-November, are gelling.
“We’re just trying to build each week, and the final is another chance to do that,” said Reynolds.
“It’s exciting and a big occasion for everyone involved, and it also gives us some big-match experience and the fans a good day out.”
Winger Keanan Brand, a close-season signing from Warrington after playing 13 times on loan at Leigh last season, scored three of the team’s nine tries at Batley.
And Reynolds was equally pleased with the shut-out, explaining: “We were very focused on our defending, and to get a zero at a tough place is pleasing.
“We know we can score points. By defending well, we give ourselves an even better chance of winning games.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS recruit Bailey Antrobus is eager to reignite his career – and book a World Cup place – after his hopes of progressing to St George Illawarra Dragons’ NRL team stalled.
The 22-year-old backrower is in Wales coach John Kear’s training squad (he qualifies through the heritage rule) and had been aiming to underline his credentials to feature in this year’s tournament by stepping up from the Sydney club’s New South Wales Cup side to the first grade.
Having progressed through the ranks at the Dragons, he has made twelve appearances for their second team, four of them this year, and now aims to boost York’s play-off push after signing a deal until the end of the season.
James Ford’s side went into their home game against Halifax third in the table on the back of seven straight league wins and nine in eleven overall.
“It wasn’t quite working out at my club in Australia but still, I’d like to say a great thanks to them for everything they’ve done,” explained Antrobus, who will wear squad number 28.
“I wanted to move and push for a top league so I spoke to my manager and, after talking about my British heritage, we started looking over here.
“It will be great to experience something different halfway around the world and it would be great to help York push towards Super League.”
Knights coach James Ford said: “Bailey is a versatile, athletic young player who has played at a good level in Australia.
“He comes well recommended by people we hold in high regard and having looked at a fair number of his games, I think he has a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to working with him.
“He fits into our strategy in that he’s young, hungry, up and coming and keen to fulfil his ambitions and we’re really excited to help him to do so.”
LONDON BRONCOS will hit the road in July, with their Championship round-17 home meeting with Sheffield to be played at the Kuflink Stadium in Northfleet, Kent.
Previously known at Stonebridge Road, it’s the ground of non-league football club Ebbsfleet United.
The Broncos have this year entered into a long-term groundshare agreement with another football club, AFC Wimbledon, at their recently-built Cherry Red Records Stadium.
But the 9,000-plus capacity venue is unavailable for the Sheffield game on Sunday, July 3 because of pitch maintenance work.
The home clash with Featherstone on Sunday, July 10, will be at Wimbledon.
The Broncos hope playing at Northfleet, 25 miles away from Wimbledon, will help raise the profile of the game in Kent, where they plan to play one game each season.
The club was based at The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic FC and historically in Kent, in 1996 and for the 2000 and 2001 seasons, all of which were spent in Super League.
And they played one-off Super League games at Gillingham FC’s Priestfield Stadium in both 2012 and 2013.
Chief executive Jason Loubser said: “Ebbsfleet is a great venue for us to use while essential work is carried out at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, which will enable ourselves and partners AFC Wimbledon to play on the best possible surface in the year ahead.
“It’s always been our ambition to grow Rugby League across the region, and we hope our plans to host a one-off match each season in Kent can accelerate us in fulfilling this objective.
“We understand easy access to the game is key for our core fanbase. It’s why Ebbsfleet offers the perfect solution due to its proximity to the A2 and train stations that serve central London in 18 minutes.
“We hope to see many Broncos fans there on the day – and hopefully we can expose our club to a new audience in the South-East.
HALIFAX PANTHERS assistant coach Liam Finn hailed Ben Tibbs after the centre claimed a hat-trick of tries to help his side seal a sixth straight win.
Tipped by coach Simon Grix as one to watch when he was signed from Huddersfield ahead of the 2021 campaign, the 21-year-old has had to wait for chances.
After his hopes of regular Reserve action with Huddersfield in 2020 were ended by the Covid-enforced cancellation of that competition, he played only four times for Halifax last season, but showed signs of his ability by scoring a try in each of the victories over Newcastle and Swinton at The Shay.
On top of his hat-trick in the 38-24 home win over Sheffield, when the Panthers scored seven tries in total, Tibbs carried ten times for 140 metres and made 23 tackles, missing only one.
On his arrival, Grix pointed out: “Ben is a well-rounded player. Physically he has some work to do to compete with men on a weekly basis, as most young players do, but given time he has the potential to be a good Championship player.”
And after the success against Sheffield, Finn said: “Ben has been really patient.
“In the first week of season, Simon told him wasn’t in the 17, and needed to go and play for Huddersfield Reserves (on dual registration).
“His response was really mature. He told us he understood what stage he was at and that when he got his chance, he would be ready, and he’s been as good as his word.
The defeat of Sheffield followed wins against Workington (away), Whitehaven (home), Bradford (away), Barrow (home) and Newcastle (away).
Finn added: “We were really pleased with first half, after we soaked up a bit of pressure.
“We got ourselves into the game, put ten sets together on the spin, put them under a lot of pressure and managed to get a few scores off the back of it.”
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood looked forward to the prospect of tackling two games in four days over next month’s long Bank Holiday weekend with a depleted squad and insisted: “We’ll just get on with it.”
The survival-seeking Yorkshire side, who went into their home clash with Barrow on Sunday with just two wins from eleven league matches, visit Halifax on Thursday, June 2, then host Whitehaven three days later.
That double follows a blank weekend because of the Challenge Cup and 1985 Cup Finals at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
And Greenwood is hoping to have more selection options, with fullback Calum Turner, who has had ankle surgery, winger Ben Blackmore (shoulder), halfback Matty Beharrell (fractured eye socket) and second rower Jason Walton (ankle) all potentially returning.
The Tetley’s Stadium chief is also keeping close tabs on his former Super League forwards Chris Annakin and Dale Ferguson, both of whom have seen a specialist after struggling to overcome concussions.
“They’ve had some ongoing symptoms, and it’s obviously something we want to get to the bottom of,” said Greenwood.
“They’ve not been training, so it’s open-ended on when they might be back.
“That’s a blow, because with an already-small squad, we really miss our more experienced lads, but it is what it is, and we have to get on with it.”
Greenwood, who has a quartet of players on loan – Huddersfield fullback Aidan McGowan and prop Robson Stevens, Bradford frontrower Samy Kibula and versatile Featherstone forward Kyle Trout – accepts his side are in the thick of a battle to avoid the drop.
“The table is taking shape with a few different sections within it,” he added.
“Obviously Featherstone and Leigh are leading the way, although York are challenging up there as well, then there’s a middle tier.
“We need to be beating the sides around us and trying to pick off a few above to close the gap, and we’ll keep plugging away.”
WHITEHAVEN director Ashley Kilpatrick has welcomed the arrival of teenage Castleford hooker Cain Robb on a month’s loan.
The Cumbrian club have three ‘nines’ – Aussie Alex Bishop, ex-Hull man James Newton and Scotland international Callum Phillips – sidelined.
A spate of injuries has dented their bid to make the play-offs for the second season running.
Robb, who made his Castleford debut in last season’s 70-18 home defeat by Salford, winning the man-of-the-match award, and has figured five times in all (three this season), featured in Jonty Gorley’s side for the first time in the 56-16 loss at Widnes.
That was a fifth defeat in six league games, which left the club too close to the foot of the table for comfort.
Gorley also played the versatile Perry Singleton, who has moved from neighbours Workington for a month in a ‘loan swap’ with prop Glenn Riley, against Widnes. The ex-Barrow man played centre.
Robb joined Castleford from West Hull, coming through their Scholarship and Academy ranks (he was part of the squad that won eleven out of 14 games at that level in 2021) and earning an England Youth call-up.
Having played at Featherstone, Whitehaven have a blank weekend before their June long Bank Holiday weekend Heavy Woollen double, a home clash with Batley on Thursday week, June 2, then a trip to Dewsbury on Sunday 5.
“It’s great news that we’ve been able to add Cain to the squad for a month,” said Kilpatrick.
“After playing a handful of Super League games for Castleford, he is highly thought of by his club. He has also played for Yorkshire as well as England at youth level, so has experienced a high standard of rugby.
“We would like to thank (Castleford coach) Lee Radford and (head of rugby and development) Danny Wilson for making the move happen to help us out with having no recognised hookers available at the moment.”
BRADFORD BULLS interim coach Mark Dunning believes more patience would have brought a better outcome against York.
Dunning had been hoping to follow up on a 34-22 win at Whitehaven in his first match after stepping up following the departure of John Kear, to whom he had been assistant.
But the City Knights were 20-6 winners at Odsal, condemning Bradford to a fourth defeat in five ahead of their 36-20 home victory against Newcastle Thunder on Saturday.
While just 4-0 up at half-time, York had built a 20-0 lead before Elliot Hall claimed the Bulls’ late consolation try, which Dec Patton converted.
“I don’t think we fell away, but the longer the game went on, the players seemed to try too hard, rather than being patient,” said Dunning.
“The drop-off after 55 minutes didn’t happen again. We saw the last York attack, we scrambled to stop them scoring, then scored ourselves in the last set.
“But we have to be smarter and be happy to build pressure and ask questions.
“There were three or four incidents where York took their opportunities when we didn’t with ours.
“Credit to York for taking advantage, but we’ve got to do better than gifting points away.”
Dunning say there has been no blame game, explaining: “We’re a group, and as staff and players, nobody will get thrown under the bus.
“There were uncharacteristic errors from people that don’t make them on a week-to-week basis.
“The endeavour was there and the attempt to play, but it was a bit rushed and dumb in areas.
“We’ll stick together, and keep working hard, but we can’t fix everything straight away.
“One thing the Bradford people want to see is a group of players that care and put their bodies on the line and I think for large parts of the York game, they saw that.”
WIDNES VIKINGS back Matty Fleming is set to play his 100th career game in the Premier Sports-televised clash at Sheffield tonight (Monday, May 23).
The 25-year-old, who made his twelfth Widnes appearance in the 56-16 home win over Whitehaven last time out, when he played centre, was a close-season signing from Dewsbury, where he played 23 times and scored seven tries in 18 matches last year.
Fleming started his career at St Helens, featuring 18 times between 2015 and 2017, when he had a ten-game loan stint at Leigh.
He then joined London Broncos, featuring on 24 occasions, 14 of them (with six tries) in Super League in 2019.
The year before, he made twelve dual-registration appearances for London Skolars.
Vikings skipper and fullback Jack Owens is ready to start running again as he continues his recovery from a knee operation.
The 27-year-old is yet to feature this year after picking up the injury in pre-season.
Second rower Shane Grady, also out with a knee issue, is progressing well as he eyes a return after the Challenge Cup blank weekend.
Winger Ollie Brookes is awaiting the outcome of a hamstring scan while experienced halfback Danny Craven is back in full training.
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS recruit Tyla Hopi said he felt “like a shaken can of cola” when making his debut against Dewsbury.
The 28-year-old Kiwi forward and son of former Hull player Brad Hepi has moved from neighbours Castleford, joining his former Toulouse team-mates, fullback Mark Kheirallah and halfback Johnathon Ford, as additions to the promotion-chasing squad.
Hepi, who topped 100 appearances for the French side between 2016 and 2019, having previously played for Hull KR and Whitehaven as well as New South Wales Cup side Wyong Roos and Auckland team Point Chevalier Pirates, said: “It was great to get my first game for a while.
“I felt excited – like a shaken can of cola. This is a great club, with a great bunch of boys who have made me feel really welcome.
“Featherstone Rovers have a great history, and I have a huge amount of pride in wearing this jersey.”
Having hosted Whitehaven, Rovers face Leigh in Saturday’s 1895 Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
BARROW RAIDERS prop Carl Forster says the derby win over Workington can provide a platform for the reminder of the campaign.
Both sides came up from League One last year, but while Town have struggled, Barrow’s challenge has been stronger.
The 26-12 home victory, watched by 2,451, was their sixth in eleven games (they have also recorded a draw) ahead of the visit to Dewsbury.
It also ended a losing sequence which had gone back four games, including the 1895 Cup semi-final home defeat by Featherstone.
The two-point haul was achieved without halfback Jarrod Sammut – who was on international duty for Malta – and the suspended Hakim Miloudi.
Ryan Johnston came in and, like Forster, who had missed the previous two matches due to illness, scored a try.
“It was really important we got back to that winning feeling and mentality,” said the former St Helens, Salford, Whitehaven and Rochdale player.
“We needed to get back to the standard we expect of ourselves. We’d played some tough games, which we weren’t exactly expected to win.
“This was one we knew we were expected to win, and we managed to do that. We just need to keep building.”
Forster says he enjoys passing on his experience to the younger members of Paul Crarey’s squad.
“Those lads are great,” he added.
“They are willing to do the hard graft and are wanting to learn all the time.
“It’s nice to pass on small details and see them improve week by week.”
Barrow host promotion-chasing Leigh on Bank Holiday Thursday, June 2, before Widnes visit the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium on Sunday 5.
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard wants his side to learn the lessons of their “humbling” 52-0 defeat by Leigh.
The Yorkshire team had won their previous four games to bolster their bid for a second successive play-off appearance.
But the promotion-chasing Centurions were too powerful for their hosts, running in nine tries in front of the Premier Sports cameras.
Lingard said: “Leigh were outstanding, both defensively, where they were really clinical, and with the ball.
“I thought we competed for the first 20 minutes or so, but we struggled to get any decent field position, and after that, Leigh rolled us.
“They kept building pressure, putting the ball in good areas and getting repeat sets, and if you keep knocking on the door, it will open.
“We started to do things we don’t normally do. Instead of being patient and building some pressure, we tried to force plays and turned the ball over.
“That was perhaps due to the physical effects of doing so much defending. It saps the energy, so you aren’t as effective with ball in hand.
“We have to dust ourselves down, learn the lessons from the game and show some resilience.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER captain Josh Woods says he’s all set to help his side “kick on” after returning to action alongside Tongan forward Ukuma Ta’ai.
The pair, signed from Wigan and Huddersfield respectively ahead of last season, have both had surgery.
They helped Eamon O’Carroll’s side win 52-22 in their Championship round-eleven fixture at London Broncos.
Ex-New Zealand Warriors man Ta’ai came off the bench to score a try.
“It’s great to be back,” said 24-year-old Woods.
“It’s felt like a long time after the operation, rehab and plenty hours in the gym.”
The win at Wimbledon followed a sequence of three straight defeats, and he added: “It’s a tough trip, so to come back with the points is great.
“We spoke about regrouping, and with Alex Foster (the former Castleford second rower) also back, we have more competition for places.
“In patches, we looked really good, and hopefully the performance was a taste of what’s to come.”
Thunder went down 36-20 on their visit to Bradford Bulls on Saturday.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston shows no signs of giving up on his bid to persuade Anthony Thackeray to carry on playing.
The 36-year-old, who remains an influential figure for the Yorkshire side, has indicated his intention to call time on his career at the end of the current campaign.
Thackeray will be aiming to help Sheffield claim a first win in four games against one of his former clubs Widnes in the Premier Sports-televised clash tonight (Monday, May 23) which marks the Eagles’ first at the new-look Olympic Legacy Park in the city.
Having also played for Hull, Castleford, Halifax, Dewsbury and Featherstone, he joined Sheffield in 2019.
“Tubbs (Aston) has been onto me a little bit about going round again,” he told the Sheffield Star.
“We had a text conversation not long ago and he said ‘another twelve months’. I sent a few laughing emojis and said ‘I’ll be watching from the stands’.”
WORKINGTON TOWN have slashed admission prices for their Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday clash with London Broncos at Derwent Park on Thursday week, June 2 (12.30pm).
It’s £10 adults, £8 OAPs, £5 for 16 to 18-year-olds and free for under 15s (under twelves must be supervised) if tickets are bought before Friday.
Town want to attract as big a crowd as possible for the clash of two teams fighting to avoid the drop to League One.
Chris Thorman’s depleted side, promoted last season, headed to promotion-chasing Leigh on Sunday after having lost all eleven league games.
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