HALIFAX PANTHERS winger Lachlan Walmsley is hoping for another appearance in a play-off eliminator at The Shay – and this time the Scotland international wants to finish on the winning side.
The 24-year-old Australian heritage player made his Bravehearts’ debut in the 30-30 draw against Jamaica at Featherstone last year, soon after featuring for Whitehaven in their 24-20 eliminator defeat at Halifax.
He switched to the Yorkshire club – along with Whitehaven team-mate Louis Jouffret – during the close-season, and has made a big impact, with his four-try haul in the 42-10 home win over Newcastle putting him on 24 for the season in all competitions ahead of the visit of Bradford.
Simon Grix’s side finish with games at Widnes, in front of the Premier Sports television cameras, next Monday (September 5) and at home to Featherstone on Sunday, September 11 knowing a third or fourth-placed finish will bring a home play-off tie.
“The crowd and atmosphere at The Shay are unreal,” said Walmsley, who recently signed a contract extension to keep him at Halifax until 2024 (Halifax have just agreed a similar deal with powerhouse forward and former Cook Islands international Adam Tangata).
“It was great to get another win in front of our fans (against Newcastle) and for me to get those four tries capped it off.
“There are a few things for us to work on, but it was a good team effort, and now we want to keep pushing on.”
Walmsley, who scored 16 tries for Whitehaven last season, hailed the return of forward Brad Knowles in the Newcastle clash.
The 29-year-old close-season signing from Sheffield suffered a partial dislocation of the hip and a damaged hamstring during the opening game of the season in January.
“It was really good to see Knowlesy back,” he added of the former Featherstone player.
“He put in a good performance, especially considering he’d been out a while.”
LEIGH CENTURIONS coach Adrian Lam says supporters should savour a special day in the club’s history.
While the season will primarily be defined by whether the Centurions clinch a return to Super League, Lam was proud to see two new club records set in the home clash with York.
Leigh chalked up a new record 100-4 victory, beating the previous highest of 92-2 against Keighley in April 1986 (Tommy Dickens’ side were promoted as second-tier champions that year).
Meanwhile Krisnan Inu’s 16-goal haul bettered Mick Stacey’s previous club vest of 15 against Doncaster in the Second Division in March 1976 (promotion was also gained that season, under Kevin Ashcroft).
Lam’s side went into their round-25 home game against Widnes needing 15 further points to better the all-time record for a league campaign, held jointly by Dickens’ Leigh in 1985/86 (34 matches) and Huddersfield, when Tony Smith’s side topped the Northern Ford Premiership in 2002 (28 matches).
Lam quipped: “What about those four points (conceded)?” – but the former Wigan chief then hailed his players’ persistence in playing for the full 80 minutes, after five of the 17 tries were notched in the last ten minutes.
“Going into the second half, I thought if we put it on them the way we’d urged them to, because I’d been a bit disappointed with some of the first-half performance, we had a chance of 80,” he said.
“To go beyond that is brilliant, and something you don’t see very often in the professional game, so the fans have had a special day to remember.
“I’ve got a good bunch of men, and some of skill they showed was unbelievable.”
Former New Zealand and Samoa international Inu arrived in late February after playing for French side Lézignan, and Lam added: “He has been outstanding, and has broken a club record that has stood for a long time.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS chief executive Martin Vickers says Brian McDermott’s side will fight all the way to take the club into Super League.
Rovers, then coached by James Webster, fell agonisingly short last year, when beaten 34-12 by Toulouse in the Million Pound Game in France.
And Vickers, the former UK business manager of Toronto Wolfpack, who was with the Canadian club, then coached by McDermott, when they beat Rovers in the 2019 Million Pound Game to make the top flight, insists that if promotion isn’t achieved this year (with Leigh the hot favourites to go up), the goal will remain the same in 2023.
Featherstone, who beat Workington 64-18 in their final regular-season home game on Saturday, remain second to the Centurions, who beat them in two out of three league clashes this season, and in the final of the 1895 Cup.
In a statement on the club website, Vickers said: “This is a really busy time off the field, with lots of contractual discussions going on, and we should have plenty of good news to share in the next few weeks. I think there will be a few surprises in there!
“Being in the position we are, it can be a challenge with uncertainty about which league we will be playing in in 2023, but I would reassure all supporters that we will continue to work hard to deliver a quality team on the field.
“Working hard is a key part of our identity at this club, from the chairman Mark Campbell down, we pride ourselves on hard work and working smartly in order to deliver a first-class playing squad. There is really no stone left unturned in achieving this goal.”
Vickers thanked the club’s various sponsors, explaining: “These deals deliver in totality six figures, which at a time when our TV broadcast revenues have reduced by almost £200,000 in 2022 and 2023 has been a vital source of revenue.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER are facing a close-season of change after director of rugby Denis Betts’ confirmation that he will leave Kingston Park at the end of the current campaign.
The development comes in the wake of the announcement that the North-East club will revert to part-time status after a year as one of just two full-time clubs in the second tier, the other being leaders and promotion favourites Leigh.
Former Wigan and Great Britain second rower and Wigan and Widnes coach and England assistant coach Betts has been at club since March 2019 and has spent the last two months in caretaker charge following the departure of Eamon O’Carroll as team chief.
Betts was instrumental in the appointment of both O’Carroll and his predecessor Simon Finnigan, with both coaches have played under him at Widnes.
Finnigan took Newcastle to the League One play-offs in 2019 while O’Carroll helped the club consolidate in the Championship last season after their elevation from League One in December 2020 through a bidding process (after Leigh moved from Championship to Super League by the same method).
They finished eleventh out of 14 clubs in 2021, operating a hybrid part and full-time system and gaining seven wins and a draw from 20 league matches, and had designs on further progress this year.
However Thunder, who originally played in Gateshead but moved across the River Tyne in 2015 after coming under the same ownership as top-flight rugby union team Newcastle Falcons, will go into Saturday’s home game against York with seven wins and a draw from 25 league games after losing 62-10 at home to Barrow on Saturday.
In the ten matches for which Betts, assisted by Michael Heap, has been at the helm, there have been two wins and a draw.
Newcastle host York this Saturday before a final game of the season at Whitehaven seven days later, after which the 52-year-old will depart.
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Liam Finn knows third-tier rugby is on the horizon for his club for the first time since 2009.
But he has challenged his side to go all out to add to a current tally of seven points over their final three matches of a highly-disappointing season.
Dewsbury go into their Premier Sports-televised home derby against Batley tonight (Monday, August 29) boosted by a third win of the season, and first under the coaching of Finn, who was appointed in June.
It came against basement side Workington, who were beaten 22-16 in Cumbria to complete a double after a 19-18 home win in April, when Lee Greenwood was at the helm.
Dewsbury also defeated Sheffield, their hosts in the final game on Friday, September 9 (after a trip to Barrow on Sunday), 12-10 at the Tetley’s Stadium in February.
The hard-fought game at Workington was a ninth for Finn, who oversaw a 24-24 draw at Newcastle last month, and he said: “It feels good.
“It was a bit scrappy in the second half, but that’s where we are at the moment, and we knew the chances were a win wasn’t going to be pretty, because it doesn’t work like that.
“In the first half, we were really good. Our attitude was great, we were composed and we did what we had been working on in training, moving the ball, making metres and getting to their edge defenders.
“We needed a little more organisation when on their line, but we were pretty good, and the half-time score (12-0) reflected that.
“Errors at the start of the second half hurt us. We let them back into it, and the final stages became a dogfight, but we got over the line.
“I’m really glad for the lads to taste a victory, and hopefully it will spur them on to get a few more.”
LONDON BRONCOS claimed another top-six scalp as they chalked up a third straight win, but interim coach Mike Eccles insisted: “We can play better.”
Four weeks after beating Halifax 38-10 at the Cherry Red Records Stadium, the capital side saw off Batley 30-20 back at Wimbledon.
That victory, sealed with tries by Iliess Macani, Alex Walker (2), Sitiveni Moceidreke and Paul Ulberg, plus five Oliver Leyland goals, followed wins against Newcastle (away) and Workington (at home).
Having struggled earlier in the campaign, the Broncos have picked up under head of performance Eccles, who stepped up after Jermaine Coleman departed the club in May with only three points gained from twelve league fixtures (from a draw at Barrow and a home win over Dewsbury).
They were second-bottom of the table at that point.
Eccles had gained seven wins from the same number of games ahead of the visit to Whitehaven, with Dewsbury (away), Sheffield (in a home game played at Ebbsfleet United Football Club) and Bradford (away) also defeated, and his side were up to tenth, ten points clear of the drop zone.
The Broncos finish up with two home matches, against leaders Leigh on Sunday and Barrow seven days later, September 11.
“It was a win, and a good win,” said Eccles.
“But in our debrief, we told the players we’re capable of much better.
“To play how we did and still beat a good team like Batley is a really encouraging sign and shows just how far we’ve come.
“I never had the feeling the players were going to down tools after Batley’s first try. I have every faith in them to be competitive against any side at this level until the final hooter.
“We weren’t great either with or without the ball. Our completion was poor, and the outcome was worse. But we got the win.
“We set our own internal standards and expectations and that helped us kick on.”
YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford was happy to see his side beat Sheffield Eagles 20-12 on Friday – but says he won’t accept a repeat of the substandard showing in the previous game at Leigh which led to a highest-ever points concession for a professional club from the city.
The Knights went down 100-4, coming close to the record 98-0 defeat suffered by the original club (by then known as York Wasps) at Rochdale in April 2001.
While York are sure of a play-off place, the Leigh thrashing it was a second successive defeat and sixth in eight after a run of eleven wins in twelve league outings.
York were severely depleted for their meeting with the divisional leaders and promotion favourites, who beat them 40-4 at the LNER Stadium in February.
But Ford, whose side made the play-offs in 2019 but finished ninth last season, refused to make any excuses.
“Lots of our performance against Leigh was an utter disgrace,” he said.
“We’ve got some blokes who think they’re trying hard. But they’re not.
“It’s not just this game, it’s about the weeks and the months before. I expect them to compete better. In the second half, we couldn’t tackle them. It was embarrassing.
“We didn’t compete physically or mentally. We’ve got some blokes who have clocked off.
“I was absolutely gutted for the fans and everyone associated with the club.”
Captain Chris Clarkson added: “It was very disappointing.
“I thought we tried to defend on our own, as individuals rather than as a team.
“Leigh were great, they played really well, but we went into survival mode early on and we should have stuck together better as a seventeen, and defended together with more talk.
“I think we were more reactive than proactive to what they were doing rather than anticipating what they were going to do and solving it before things happened.”
WIDNES VIKINGS coach John Kear says recent defeats, while disappointing and unwanted, are helping him clarify his plans for next season.
The 30-18 home loss to Sheffield was a third in four matches for the former Bradford coach, who enjoyed a quartet of successive wins straight after his arrival at the DCBL Stadium.
Kear was particularly disappointed with the second-half showing after Widnes led 12-10 at half-time, and said: “We could have been further ahead, but we’d still put ourselves in a position to go on and win the game.
“But we panicked a little. We made too many errors and we lacked composure, and the ease with which Sheffield scored was disappointing. Concede 30 points and the chances are you’ll lose.
“I knew things would crop up between my arrival and the end of the season, and we will address our issues.
“They will also play a part in making up our minds on retention and recruitment.
“We have to keep the right players and know the areas in which we need to strengthen.”
Having visited leaders Leigh, Widnes host Halifax in front of the Premier Sports television cameras next Monday (September 5).
WORKINGTON TOWN will host Workington Reds Ladies football team as the club aim to increase stadium usage and therefore revenue.
Town officials are working hard to ease the club’s financial worries, and have welcomed the women’s side of Workington FC.
While the men’s football team, who play in Division One West of the Northern Premier League (level eight on the pyramid), are based are Borough Park, close to Town’s Derwent Park, staging Reds Ladies’ games there has proved problematic because of damage to the pitch, especially in the often-wet winter months.
The Reds Ladies, of the North West Regional League Division One North (level six), are set to start using Derwent Park from the middle of next month.
It’s hoped all three teams will be housed in the planned new community stadium, which is set to be built ‘on the footprint’ of Borough Park.
Town director Graeme Peers said: “The Reds Ladies were looking for a permanent base after playing games at various locations over the last few seasons.
“We are looking to maximise stadium usage and generate revenues so it was a good fit for both clubs.”
BARROW RAIDERS second rower Danny Langtree is the latest player to extend his stay at the club.
The former Oldham man was signed in the wake of last year’s promotion from League One and has helped Paul Crarey’s side reach this season’s play-offs.
The 31-year-old, back in action after hamstring and bicep injuries and a try-scorer in Saturday’s 62-10 win at Newcastle, has penned terms through to 2024.
The St Helens product follows in the footsteps of fellow forward Sam Brooks, who recently signed a contract extension to the end of next year.
“I’m happy to be staying and glad everything’s sorted so I can concentrate on finishing this season as strongly as possible,” he said.
“It’s been a bit disappointing with the injuries, but with the lads doing so well on the pitch, it’s been a good place to be.”
Barrow Chairman Steve Neale said: “We’re delighted to add Danny to our growing list of retained players.
“We were always confident in his ability, and although he has had a couple of injuries, he is now proving himself and is a massive asset to the team.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach Mark Dunning hopes halfbacks Jordan Lilley and Billy Jowitt will be back for the start of next season after undergoing surgery on ankle and shoulder injuries respectively.
With experienced Dec Patton serving a seven-match ban for eye gouging, which will run into the 2023 campaign, Dunning has turned to teenager Myles Lawford, recently playing him alongside Sam Hallas.
Lawford caught the eye in the impressive 20-16 win at York, but the Bulls were unable to secure a follow-up success as they went down 12-4 against Whitehaven, an eighth home defeat of the campaign.
Dunning, whose side visit Batley on Sunday, was left to bemoan a lack of creativity, explaining: “It is down to the lack of a regular halfback pairing and the size of the (Odsal) pitch.
“We have two game plans – one for home and the other away – and as a collective, we didn’t execute well enough against Whitehaven.
“The effort was good but you have to be absolutely meticulous with minor details at Odsal, and the margins are fine.”
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard was disappointed by his side’s 30-20 defeat at London Broncos but pleased to have given forward Louis Collinson a run-out from the bench.
The former Castleford Academy backrower, who joined Batley over the close-season, has been on loan at League One Cornwall, but is back in West Yorkshire ahead of the play-offs.
“We’ve made a few changes to the team in recent weeks to try and rest some players and keep others tuned in, because you never know what’s around the corner in terms of injuries,” explained Lingard, whose side go into their Premier Sports-televised derby at Dewsbury tonight (Monday, August 29) having lost three games running.
“That maybe hasn’t helped us in terms of results, but there are other factors that we have been trying to address, and we obviously want to go into the play-offs on the back of a few wins rather than a run of defeats.”
Batley host Bradford on Sunday.
WHITEHAVEN coach Jonty Gorley will take his side to Workington on Sunday with sympathy for the ongoing financial struggles of his former club, but focused on securing a third derby win of the season.
Haven might have been beaten 18-14 by Town in the pre-season Ike Southward Memorial Trophy clash, but they won 22-14 at the LEL Arena in April and 28-10 at the Summer Bash at Headingley in July.
Gorley both played for Workington and was assistant coach to Gary Charlton, now Haven’s director of rugby, at Derwent Park.
While Town’s relegation has been confirmed, Haven went into action at home to London Broncos knowing a win would make their likely second-tier survival mathematically certain.
Gorley wants to finish with a flourish, saying: “Workington played well against us last time, so we’ll need to be on our game.
“The derby is a big thing for both sets of fans. We’re two up at the moment, and want to make it three.”
SHEFFIELD EAGLES scrum-half and skipper Anthony Thackeray is close to another career milestone as Mark Aston’s team prepare to host Featherstone on Friday and Dewsbury seven days later, having lost 20-12 at another of his former clubs, York.
The 36-year-old, who is in his fourth season with the Eagles, having started out at Hull, needs just seven more points to reach 1,000 for his career.
Thackeray has totted up 226 for Sheffield after 32 for Castleford (2007 and 2008), 54 for York (2007 and on loan in 2011), 177 for Featherstone (2008 and 2016-2018), 194 for Widnes (2009-2011), 140 for Halifax (2012-2013) and 170 for Dewsbury (2014-2015).
He has suggested he will retire at the end of the season, although Aston will hope to persuade him otherwise.
Tom Holmes, the former Super League player signed from Featherstone in June following an Eagles loan spell, has been mooted as a replacement.
The above content is also available in the regular weekly edition of League Express, on newsstands every Monday in the UK and as a digital download. Click here for more details.