Betfred Championship news round up

Whitehaven have taken teenage Wigan hooker Aiden Roden on loan to help cover for the loss of Callum Phillips through suspension.

The former Workington man was handed a four-game ban and fined £250 after being sent off for a dangerous throw during the Challenge Cup first-round win at home to Dewsbury.

Phillips missed Saturday’s league opener at Dewsbury, where Haven were beaten 17-8, and will also be ruled out of the trips to Newcastle on Sunday week, April 18 and Featherstone on April 25 as well as the home game against Bradford on May 2.

“It’s a blow to lose Callum, but having sought clarification from the RFL over the sending off, we accept the decision and the suspension,” said coach Gary Charlton, who is also without Sam Dowsett due to work commitments so was down to just one experienced hooker in James Newton.

“We’re pleased to bring in Aiden and are grateful to Wigan for their help, and hopefully, the loan will benefit all parties.”

The 19-year-old Lancashire Academy representative player featured in the Warriors’ pre-season clash with Salford and was among the replacements at Dewsbury.

Charlton’s assistant Jonty Gorley added: “Aiden comes with good raps from people who know him. He’s a tough nine who has come through a great system at Wigan.”

Wigan’s head of youth Darrell Goulding said: “This is a great opportunity for Aiden to test himself at a high level and get regular game time.

“He has played a big part in the successful Academy and Reserve teams over the past few years with his solid defence and distribution skills.”

SWINTON LIONS have handed a Championship chance to 20-year-old centre Dan Clare and taken experienced prop Tom Spencer on loan from Leigh.

Clare, who previously played for Shevington Sharks and Blackbrook, has impressed during a two-month trial period with the Lions.

Coach Stuart Littler, who is preparing for Sunday’s home Challenge Cup third-round clash with Super League Warrington, said: “Dan is a very likeable character who has fitted into our dressing room with ease.

“He has a robust frame for a centre and really has some speed to burn in open play. We are looking forward to working with him and seeing where that development leads us.

“I’m sure our fans will be glad to see us add another quality youngster into our ever-developing squad.”

Spencer, 30, is in his second spell at Leigh, having started at Wigan, where he made seven Super League appearances.

His first stint with the Centurions ran from 2014-16, after which he spent two seasons at London Broncos. He rejoined Leigh in 2019 and last season played three times pre-lockdown.

Littler, who handed Spencer a debut in Friday’s 28-20 league-opening defeat at Oldham, said: “I’m made up to be able to bring in Tom, who was a teammate of mine at Leigh towards the back end of my playing career.

“We are travelling a little light on troops and Tom adds some real size to our forward pack.

“After speaking to Tom, I feel he comes to us with a point to prove and we will aim to get the best out of each other.

“I would like to thank Leigh for their support on this one, and the deal will hopefully be beneficial for all.”

Spencer said: “I can’t wait to get stuck in with Swinton and hopefully make a positive impact.

“I’m keen to turn things around personally after missing out on selection through concussion protocol at Leigh, so this will provide the vital game time I need to get to where I want to be.”

WIDNES VIKINGS skipper Jack Owens has signed a new long-term contract – and coach Simon Finnigan says his climb into the top ten of the club’s all-time leading points-scorers is an achievement which shouldn’t be underestimated.

The fullback, whose new deal runs until 2024, went into this season with 720 points from 103 appearances and climbed above Martin Offiah to join the elite list by bagging 26 more in the 58-4 Challenge Cup first-round win at West Wales.

The other members are club-record holder Ray Dutton (2,195 points), Mick Burke, Jonathan Davies, Jimmy Hoey, Harry Dawson, Mal Aspey, Andy Currier, Mick Nanyn, Robert Randall.

Owens added 14 further points in the 34-10 home win over Whitehaven which earned the Vikings a Challenge Cup third-round trip to Salford.

The 26-year-old is in his second spell at Widnes, where he came through the development system, earned England Academy honours and made his first-team debut at 16.

He had a two-year spell at St Helens from 2016-17 and played for Leigh in their 2018 Championship campaign.

“Jack is a key man for us, experienced and consistent, and maybe outside the club, doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” said Finnigan.

“I’m delighted for him to have made that top ten, because if you look at the quality of other players, it’s quite a list.”

Widnes, who expect a foot problem to keep hooker Logan Tomkins out for a further three months, will consider whether to try to extend the loan of young Warrington prop Eribe Doro.

The 20-year-old England youth international came through the Wolves development system and made two first-team appearances last season.

He is ineligible for Saturday’s Challenge Cup third-round tie at Salford because Warrington don’t want him to be cup-tied.

FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster believes there is plenty more to come from high-profile signing Fa’amanu Brown.

The Samoa international halfback, fully recovered after contracting coronavirus soon after his arrival in the UK, has already caught the eye, helping Rovers reach the third round of the Challenge Cup with a try-scoring man-of-the-match performance against Batley.

The 26-year-old, who was born in Christchurch, New Zealand and played in the NRL for Cronulla and Canterbury, is set to get a further chance to showcase his skills when Featherstone host Super League Hull FC on Saturday.

Brown’s Covid scare followed an injury-plagued year and the player, who has been sharing a house with Leeds forward Rhyse Martin, a former Canterbury teammate, explained: “It was quite unfortunate. Rhyse contracted Covid and while I tried to stay away from him as much as possible, I got it too.

“It was quite weird having it, because back in New Zealand or Australia, we’ve only had one-to-five cases per month. It is so different here, but I am lucky to come out the other side okay.”

Webster, whose side beat Batley 28-18 in Friday’s first league game, is happy with what Brown has produced so far, but pointed out: “He came over here and didn’t really start training properly until the back end of January so he hasn’t had a lot of time to be with us and he also hasn’t played for a while due to injury.

“He’s playing in new surroundings and in new conditions so there are a few accumulative components that mean it will take him time to get going.”

OLDHAM centre Cameron Leeming has called time on his career at the age of 25.

He is the second Roughyeds player in four months to retire due to persistent knee problems after forward Ed Smith, 28, took the same decision.

Former Hunslet, Keighley and Dewsbury player Leeming joined Oldham midway through the 2019 season and played in ten of the remaining eleven games, scoring five tries, to help clinch promotion from League 1.

Last season, he featured four times pre-lockdown, and was handed squad number four ahead of the current campaign.

Leeming said: “Due to medical advice given to me regarding long-term knee injuries, I’ve had to retire from rugby league earlier than planned.

“I’ve struggled with my knees for years after multiple ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstructions and it’s finally taken its toll.

“It’s for the best for me and my family to stop playing the game I’ve loved playing my whole life.

“The game has given me some unbelievable memories and opportunities, taking me all over the world.

“I’m just glad I got to finish it with the best group of players I’ve played with, albeit not in the circumstances I would have liked.”

Coach Matt Diskin said: “For some time now, we’ve been helping Cam to get his head round this. In short, his body has given up on him.

“We wish him all the best for the future, he knows that, and we are always here to help if ever he needs us.”

Oldham also have hooker Matty Wilkinson sidelined by a broken leg suffered during pre-season.

Meanwhile former Wigan halfback James Barran (groin) and powerhouse prop Luke Nelmes (knee) missed Friday’s league-opening home clash with Swinton, who were beaten 28-20.

Barran was injured during the Challenge Cup second-round defeat at Swinton and Nelmes during the first-round win over Barrow at Bower Fold.

BRADFORD BULLS could appeal hooker George Flanagan’s ten-match ban for ‘attacking an opponent’s testicles’.

The RFL handed out the suspension, which will prevent the former Hunslet man playing until the end of June, following the Bulls’ Challenge Cup first-round defeat at Featherstone, another of his former clubs.

Flanagan, 34, who has also played for Batley and Dewsbury and denied the charge, was also fined £250 following a three-hour disciplinary hearing.

He was given an eight-match ban for a similar offence in August 2019.

Bradford coach John Kear, already without another hooker, Sam Hallas, who has a broken jaw, said: “We’ve reviewed the same footage as the RFL, and we’re still as mystified as we were prior (to the hearing) about the charge.

“We’ve been advised not to comment, and we’d rather not, but we’re certainly considering an appeal against the ban.”

Meanwhile Bradford, next in action against Halifax a week on Sunday, April 18, have confirmed the retirement of former Super League prop Anthony England due to injury.

The 34-year-old made more than 250 appearances in a 16-year career which also included spells at Castleford, Gateshead, Dewsbury, Featherstone, Warrington and Wakefield.

He joined Bradford last year and played in all but one match pre-lockdown.

Kear, who also worked with England at Wakefield, said: “We are obviously very saddened by the news Anthony has been forced to retire. He will be a big loss to us.

“He is someone who I got to know well over the years as a person not just a player, and he was a real warrior. He always put his body on the line.

“Even in the short time he was with us last year I think the Bradford supporters were impressed by what they saw and it is unfortunate that we could not see more of him.”

YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford is delighted at the double boost provided by his side’s Challenge Cup win at London Broncos.

The 14-2 victory not only teed up a plum home third-round clash with Wigan on Friday, following the high-profile league opener against Toulouse at the new LNER Community Stadium (the French side were 21-6 winners on Saturday).

It also qualified the Knights for the last four of the revived 1895 Cup, the final of which takes place at Wembley alongside the Challenge Cup showpiece on Saturday, July 17.

Featherstone, Swinton and Widnes are also through, with the draw to be made after the Challenge Cup fourth round is completed on the weekend of May 8/9.

“I’m pleased to be in the next round of the Challenge Cup and I’m pleased to be in the 1895 Cup semi-finals, one game away from competing to win a trophy at Wembley,” Ford told local newspaper The Press.

“That would be great for players, supporters, sponsors and club in general. If we’re good enough to get there and compete for it, it would be a great day.

“We’re a good side and we’ll fancy our chances against anybody, so whoever we get drawn against and wherever it is, we’ll go into the game confident and give it our best shot.”

Meanwhile, former York skipper Tim Spears has tipped his successor Chris Clarkson to do “an exceptional job”.

Spears, who will remain at the club as a player, had worn the armband since arriving from Featherstone in 2017.

He said of his fellow forward Clarkson, the former Leeds, Hull KR and Castleford player: “Chris is an exceptional player and he’s a fantastic leader.

“He’s probably a little bit quieter in his actions than I was, but he’s got the utmost respect of the dressing room, he leads by example, he works exceptionally hard and I think the boys have a massive amount of respect for him.”

TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles is coming to terms with a third squad setback after Ben Reynolds’ return to Leigh.

It will be a third spell at the Centurions for the 27-year-old halfback, who had left to join the French club on a two-year deal starting this season.

Yorkshireman Reynolds, who has also played for Castleford and Wakefield, asked to be released from that contract for personal reasons.

Houles has also had to deal with the loss of France international winger Paul Marcon, who has had knee surgery and is set to miss the entire campaign, and Wales prop Ben Evans, who has joined Bradford after asking to return to the UK.

“It was a total accident what happened to Paul and it’s a real shame for him because he is such a quality winger and crucial part of the team,” said Houles.

“But it’s up to players like Guy Armitage, who we have just signed, to step up.

“I don’t think we’ll be looking to recruit for our backline. We’ve got a few boys due back from injury, so I think we’re fine in that department.

“It’s different with Ben Evans, we understand his reasons for wanting to go home but it leaves us with a hole in the forwards.

“We’ve got some good young players who could make the step up so we’re in no rush, but if the right player comes along we might take a look.”

Toulouse made a bright start to their league campaign by winning 21-6 at York on Saturday.

NEWCASTLE THUNDER coach Eamon O’Carroll says it’s too soon to be reading too much into results.

The Kingston Park chief is conscious of the fact that like Thunder, five other Championship sides have played only two competitive matches and the remaining eight three apiece.

Just as between their Challenge Cup first-round defeat by Swinton and opening league game at home to Widnes, promoted Newcastle will have a blank weekend before heading to Whitehaven on Sunday week, April 18.

“It’s been stop-start for a number of teams, us included, said O’Carroll.

“Add to the fact that clubs went a year without any competitive rugby because of Covid, and had a maximum of two pre-season matches, and it’s bound to take time to get up to speed.

“I think it will be at least two months before most sides hit their level, and while all coaches want to be winning games, at the moment, it would be unwise to read too much into scorelines, good or bad.”

SHEFFIELD EAGLES coach Mark Aston is looking forward to another high-profile meeting with York.

The Eagles head to the LNER Community Stadium a week on Sunday, April 18.

A 30-6 defeat by ambitious York in the first round of the Challenge Cup at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster – Sheffield’s base for the season while work continues at their proposed long-term Olympic Legacy Park headquarters – means Aston has a fortnight to prepare after his side’s Championship opener at home to Bradford.

York, second-round victors at London Broncos, host Wigan in the third round on Friday.

“The start of the season is tough for us but you wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said.

“York are a good team, there’s no getting away from it.

“In this division, every match is going to be testing and you want that for your players because it challenges them.

“We have got a squad which is a nice blend of youth, experience and people in the middle of their journey. It bodes well going forward.”

BATLEY BULLDOGS skipper James Brown believes the addition of former Super League quartet Jodie Broughton, Kieran Buchanan, Tom Gilmore and Jack Logan has provided an opportunity to emulate the Bulldogs side of 2016.

That was prop Brown’s second season after joining from Swinton, and Batley finished third in the Championship behind Leigh and London Broncos to make the old Middle Eights, during which they played Super League sides Huddersfield, Hull KR, Leeds and Salford.

Ex-Widnes halfback Gilmore, who made two appearances while on loan to Salford last season, and winger Broughton, who played in the top flight for Hull, Salford, Huddersfield and most recently Catalans, have moved from Halifax.

Buchanan has switched from Hull, where fellow outside back Logan, signed from Doncaster, started his career.

“The club have gone about their business really shrewdly. We haven’t got a massive budget like the clubs at the top end of the division, but we have signed some quality players,” said forward Brown, 32, in an interview with the Batley and Birstall News.

“I am quietly confident we will do really well this year. I rate the side as good as the 2016 team.”

DEWSBURY RAMS prop Frazer Morris reckons intensity on the training field holds the key to the Rams’ hopes of following up a 17-8 home win over Whitehaven by toppling Widnes in their next outing.

Lee Greenwood’s side head to the DCBL Stadium on Saturday week, April 17, after back-to-back meetings with Haven, away in the Challenge Cup and at home in the first league match.

“We have to be tough on each other at training to be ready to put big performances in,” said the former Wakefield and Halifax prop.

“The coaching staff let us know what we need to do to be better in each game.

“Training is intense and the coaches put it in our hands. We all have our areas that we know we need to work on.”

HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix has warned his players not to get too carried away by the margin of their 47-14 home victory over London Broncos in Friday’s first league game.

Grix was pleased by the improvement shown in the wake of the 19-6 home defeat by Batley at The Shay in the first round of the Challenge Cup.

But he pointed out: “London came into the game depleted and we were able to exploit that, making the final score a bit flattering.

“We won’t get carried away, but it’s pleasing that we showed such an improvement on the Batley game.

“We were far more disciplined in following the plan and doing the things we had talked about doing.”

Halifax are now preparing for game two of their Championship campaign away to Bradford on Sunday week, April 18.

LONDON BRONCOS duo Oli Leyland and Rian Horsman were handed debuts against York in the second round of the Challenge Cup, and the latter enjoyed a follow-up appearance in Friday’s league opener at Halifax, where Danny Ward’s side went down 47-14.

The halfbacks were among ten homegrown players to feature in the knockout tie in the capital, which York won 14-2.

Backs Gideon Boafo, skipper Will Lovell, Josh Hodson and Jordan Williams and forwards Sam Davis, Olsi Krasniqi, Jacob Jones and Dan Hindmarsh also came through the club’s development system.

“I’m very proud to have made my debut, it obviously wasn’t the result we wanted, but there’s lots to look forward to,” said Leyland.

“I can’t wait to go again and hopefully it will happen quickly.”

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