Betfred Championship news round up

Toulouse Olympique coach Sylvain Houles could replenish his diminishing squad – but insists he won’t be making any rash moves.

News that experienced Kiwi forward Harrison Hansen looks likely to be out until June with a knee injury is the latest blow for the promotion-chasing coach.

Talented France international winger Paul Marcon will be absent for the entire season because of a damaged cruciate ligament.

And halfback Ben Reynolds, who is now at Leigh, Wales prop Ben Evans, now at Bradford, and Samoan frontrow Paterika Vaivai, who has joined French Top 14 rugby union club Agen, have all departed.

“It’s bad news with Harrison,” said Houles, whose side have two wins from two in the table after they defeated York 21-6 before London Broncos forfeited Saturday’s game in France.

“He’s such an important player for us and he will be missed, but he will get good treatment and he will be back.”

On adding to his squad, Houles said: “We are looking but there aren’t many players on the market at the beginning of the season.

“And it’s important that we get the right players, so we won’t rush into making the wrong decisions. We are making enquiries but there is nothing concrete yet.”

Houles, whose side visit Halifax on Sunday, said he was impressed with his players’ performance at York, even though the game had taken its toll.

“It was very physical and we had some knocks and head injuries, but nothing serious apart from Harrison,” he added.

“Other than that we are in pretty good shape. Junior Vaivai, Mark Kheirallah and Dom Peyroux have all had issues but are now making progress.”

While his side were awarded a 24-0 win over London, Houles insisted he would rather the match had gone ahead.

“As always we will try to take the positives and move forward. We’ll take the two points and get a couple of players back in time for the Halifax game,” he said.

LONDON BRONCOS hope to have first-choice halves Jarrod Sammut and Cory Aston back on duty when they host Oldham on Saturday.

The pair were missing through injury when Danny Ward’s side slumped to a 47-14 loss at Halifax in their opening league clash on Good Friday.

The Broncos’ decision not to travel to France and therefore forfeit their game against Toulouse, which should have taken place on Saturday, means it’s two defeats from two in terms of the table.

The capital side will also have had two successive blank weekends by the time Oldham head to Rosslyn Park rugby union club’s The Rock ground, the Broncos’ base until a return to Ealing Trailfinders once fans are allowed back inside grounds.

Skipper Will Lovell hopes that can prove an advantage, explaining: “It’s given us time to get some bodies back on the field and some training in the legs, as well as to address some issues from the Halifax match.

“After not playing for so much of last year, it’s going to take time for players to gel and get back to old ways.

“We have a number of new players in the squad too and we were without Cory and Jarrod.

“But we can’t make excuses. As a unit, we must develop and learn from the defeat.

“We made too many errors and gifted cheap penalties away, and the game got on top of us.”

Lovell is expecting a tough test from Oldham.

“It’s vital we attack games head on this season,” he added.

“The Championship is a competitive division, and no points can be taken for granted as demonstrated by the defeat to Halifax.”

Meanwhile, Lovell has enjoyed a visit to AFC Wimbledon Football Club’s new Plough Lane stadium, to where the Broncos hope to move later this year.

“It’s a fantastic facility,” he said of the 9,300-capacity venue, which unlike Trailfinders, would meet Super League criteria.

“Playing at AFC Wimbledon is where we want to be as a club. It is a lovely stadium that fits our criteria.”

BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear believes Aaron Murphy could play a massive role for the club this season.

The Bulls boss says the enthusiasm and commitment he first noted when he handed the 32-year-old forward his Wakefield debut as a back at 19 remains as strong as ever.

Leeds-born Murphy served Trinity between 2008-11 before playing for Huddersfield between 2012-2020.

He totalled 251 appearances, scoring 94 tries, before signing for Bradford ahead of this season.

“I’m getting exactly what I knew I would with Aaron,” explained Kear. “He’s a very good player who puts the team before himself.

“He’s a dream for a coach because he is so low maintenance, a proper no-nonsense operator who just gets on with his job.

“I well remember him coming through at Wakefield. He would play fullback, winger or centre without any fuss.

“He was a good listener who was keen to learn and would tackle any position you asked him to with real vigour.

“If I’d had five Aarons, I’d have named him at one to five, he was so effective and so enthusiastic.

“He’s great in the dressing room and not only is he a warrior on the pitch, but having played every position bar halfback and hooker, he’s also versatile.”Having faced Halifax in a derby clash at their Dewsbury home base, the Bulls host their groundshare partners on Sunday.

It will be the first meeting of the clubs since Bradford moved to the Tetley’s Stadium after vacating Odsal at the end of the 2019 season due to rising maintenance costs.

New Bulls chairman Nigel Wood has made getting the club back to their historic old ground a priority.

“Our first objective is to get the Bulls back to Bradford in a sustainable way,” he said.

“We are making solid progress. Bulls supporters deserve their team to be playing in the city.

“Frankly, the city needs the Bulls to be playing here. We will leave no stone unturned to try to make that a reality.”

HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Scott Grix reckons Cook Islands prop Adam Tangata is back at his natural English home.

The 30-year-old signed for the club for a third time when he completed a move from Wakefield on a two-year deal ahead of Sunday’s derby clash with Bradford at the Tetley’s Stadium, Dewsbury.

The return of the Shay fans’ favourite, who joined Trinity, initially in loan, back in August 2019, and featured in this season’s opening Super League clash with Leeds, is a big boost for Grix.

Tangata, who played for Canberra Under 20s and Mount Pritchard Mounties in Australia, first joined Halifax in 2015.

He moved to Championship rivals Widnes ahead of the 2019 season, but after only three appearances, rejoined Halifax after the Vikings hit financial trouble, with players from the Yorkshire club sacrificing a win bonus to cover the cost of a visa.

Tangata helped Halifax reach the Challenge Cup semi-finals before his switch to Wakefield to reinforce their fight against relegation from the top flight.

He played five times for Trinity in 2019 and made eleven appearances last season.

Grix said: “This has had the potential to happen since he left.

“Halifax is home to Adam and, in his time in the UK, this is the place where he has played his best rugby and been truly happy.

“He left on both occasions for something we couldn’t offer and I feel he is definitely coming back an improved player from those experiences.

“It is important to note that out of the half dozen clubs that were in for Adam, we sat firmly at the bottom in terms of financial benefit.

“His heart has certainly ruled his head in one sense, with a strong desire to wear our colours again.

“I am excited about seeing him renew some old combinations but also create some new ones with the current crop.”

FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster says travelling to Swinton for Sunday’s second league match of the season was something of a novel experience.

Amazingly, it was Rovers’ first game on the road since their 43-10 win over London Broncos at Ealing Trailfinders at the start of March 2020.

Featherstone then faced Swinton and, in the Challenge Cup, Hunslet on home turf before the season was put on hold because of the pandemic.

And this year, including pre-season, there were six straight matches at the Millennium Stadium before the visit to Heywood Road.

Three of them were against Batley, in a warm-up game, the second round of the Challenge Cup and the league opener on Good Friday.

The others were against Oldham in pre-season and Bradford and Hull in the first and third rounds of the Challenge Cup.

The 34-14 loss to the Super League side was Featherstone’s first defeat in ten competitive games, the last coming against Toronto in the 2019 Championship Grand Final in Canada.

“The pandemic has put a strange slant on things, but our focus now is in the future, and being as competitive as possible,” added Webster.

“The Challenge Cup run was great, but the league is our chief concern, and we’re looking forward to playing 20 more rounds and hopefully making the play-offs.

“We know we have our work cut out, because this is a tough division with every other club fighting tooth and nail like ourselves.”

Rovers are back on their own patch on Sunday, when Whitehaven visit, then have a blank weekend before heading to York on Sunday, May 9.

Webster, meanwhile, has hailed Brett Ferres after the seasoned former England forward scored his 100th career try against Hull.

“Brett is a tough, no-nonsense player who has been great for us and will continue to be a big cog in my side,” he said.

It was the 34-year-old’s first Featherstone try after 15 for Leeds, 28 for Huddersfield, 27 for Castleford, seven for Wakefield, 13 for Bradford and nine for England.

YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford has taken full advantage of the RFL’s revised loan regulations to bring in cover for sidelined duo Morgan Smith and Jack Teanby.

The Knights have a number of injury concerns, with halfback Smith, who has a knee problem, and prop Teanby, who has had surgery on a damaged thumb, the most serious.

As part of the RFL’s removal of dual registration, the minimum length of a loan is now 14 rather than 28 days.

And Ford has agreed short-term stays for three players from Super League clubs, all of which can be extended.

The trio are Hull KR’s Ireland international halfback Joe Keyes and 20-year-old props Yusuf Aydin (Wakefield) and Lewis Peachey (Castleford).

Keyes, 25, started out at London Broncos and had four years at Bradford before switching to Hull KR ahead of the 2020 season.

Ford explained: “I’m absolutely delighted to bring in Joe. I’ve known him for a number of years from games we’ve played against him and that I’ve previewed.

“He brings a great attacking threat and he’ll bring a lot to our performances and preparation.”

Keyes said: “The club have been doing great things on and off the field so the chance to come and play some games here is really exciting for me.

“I’m looking forward to working with Fordy and the lads and hoping to do my bit for the team and contributing as best I can.”

Aydin, a Turkey international, was taught by Ford at Wakefield College before he became full-time at York.

“He’s always shown a pretty solid attitude towards learning and he is a tough, uncompromising middle who brings some aggression to the team,” added Ford.

While Aydin has made three appearances for Wakefield, Peachey has played six times for Castleford.

“Lewis is an uncompromising player who carries intensity in his contact. I remember him from my time with England Academy as a good kid who had some promise,” said Ford.

WIDNES VIKINGS have taken teenage Wigan hooker Brad O’Neill for a month and extended powerful prop Eribe Doro’s loan from Warrington for the remainder of the season – although the Wolves have an instant recall option.

Both featured in Saturday’s 22-14 home defeat by Dewsbury, and the deals are a boost for coach Simon Finnigan, whose squad has been depleted over the opening weeks of the season due to injuries to a string of players and others being forced to self-isolate.

Doro, a 20-year-old England youth international who played twice for the Wolves last year and featured in Chris Hill’s testimonial against Leigh this pre-season, made an impressive Vikings debut in the league-opening 30-30 draw at Newcastle.

O’Neill, 18, has represented both England and Lancashire at Academy level.

He is a former teammate of Widnes fullback Daniel Hill at Halton Farnworth Hornets.

Hill, also 18, scored a debut try in the recent Challenge Cup third-round defeat at Salford.

Finnigan is hoping Owen Buckley and Jake Spedding are back in contention by the time his side head to Batley on Saturday.

Winger Buckley and former St Helens centre Spedding missed Saturday’s home game against Dewsbury after being injured during the Salford clash.

Buckley has a neck problem while Spedding picked up a leg injury.

Matt Cook (back) is continuing his recovery, while fellow prop Owen Farnworth should be free to play after a self-isolation period.

Hooker Logan Tomkins, who has a foot problem, is the only long-term absentee.

“We’re seeing a bit of light after a dark spell with absences,” said the coach.

“We have been low on troops, but fair play to the boys, because some have been playing when they probably shouldn’t have been, and some, such as Lee Jewitt and Will Tilleke, have been putting in longer minutes than would ideally be the case.

“We’ve also given some younger players time on the pitch, and in the long term, that’s only going to be good for them and the club.”

WHITEHAVEN chairman Tom Todd has thanked all those who turned out at the Recreation Ground to pay a “wonderful tribute” at the funeral of long-serving club kitman Jimmy Clements following his death at 82.

Todd said: “We had the honour of being a significant part of the funeral of ‘Jimmy Clem’. I have never witnessed such an event at the club and I doubt very much I ever will again.

“People flocked down to the ground to pay their respects to an outstanding Rugby League man.

“Hundreds lined the ground as the cortege arrived and applauded heartily. The cortege proceeded to do a ‘lap of honour’ around the pitch, and ex-players formed a guard of honour.

“The hearse made a poignant stop at the dug-out and another in front of the sticks at The Kells End.

“While it was a sad event, all can take pride in the send off given to a very special man who devoted a great part of his life to his beloved club.

“There were several well-known individuals who made the trip from far away and I would like to thank them all. Thank you all who attended. It was a wonderful tribute.”

NEWCASTLE THUNDER old boy Derrell Olpherts reckons Thunder can challenge in the Championship this season following their elevation from League 1 to replace Leigh – and eventually make it to Super League.

The Castleford winger spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons at Kingston Park, scoring 31 tries in 41 games, before joining Salford.

The 29-year-old, who had previously played for Hemel, says his stint in the North-East was key to his development.

“I loved my time at Newcastle,” he said. “They were in League 1 then, and it’s great to see them up in the Championship.

“They have great facilities, better than some Super League clubs, and there are good people behind the scenes.

“Everything is in place to progress, but they are doing it the right way, building solid foundations rather than chucking money at it.”

Thunder continue their first second-tier campaign since 2009 when they host Sheffield on Sunday.

DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood believes both his team and Jimmy Beckett will benefit from the Featherstone front rower’s loan to the Rams.

The 21-year-old, who has been limited to three Rovers outings in the last two seasons, could spend the remainder of this year under Greenwood’s guidance, and helped his new side win 22-14 at Widnes on Saturday.

Beckett played six times on loan to Oldham in 2019 and made four further appearances for them before last season was curtailed, including one against Dewsbury, and caught Greenwood’s eye.

“I’ve followed Jimmy’s progress for a couple of seasons now,” said Greenwood.

“He did well in a couple of loan spells at Oldham and is well thought of at Featherstone.

“We have been looking to bring another front rower in recently and Jimmy ticks a lot of boxes for us. He has settled in nicely.”

On Sunday, Dewsbury face Bradford, who groundshare at their Tetley’s Stadium home, with the Rams the away team.

SWINTON LIONS expect to be without prop Lewis Hatton for the remainder of the season.

The former Rochdale player has undergone surgery to reattach a bicep after being injured during the Challenge Cup second-round win over Oldham.

It’s a big blow for coach Stuart Littler, who was without second row Deane Meadows for Sunday’s home clash with Featherstone because of a one-match ban for a shoulder charge during the Challenge Cup third-round defeat by Warrington.

Hatton, 24, noted for his ability to play for long spells during matches, came through Salford’s development system before joining Warrington.

He moved to Rochdale after spending time on loan there during their 2017 League 1 promotion campaign, and won the Hornets player of the year award in 2018.

Swinton signed him ahead of the 2019 season, and he has made 34 appearances for the club.

Littler’s side are at home to York on Sunday.

OLDHAM coach Matt Diskin will continue to monitor the fitness of experienced prop Phil Joy, who has been out with a hamstring problem, former Wigan stand-off James Barran (groin) and winger Kyran Johnson (back) as he builds towards Saturday’s trip to play London Broncos at Rosslyn Park.

Former Featherstone player Johnson, 27, has yet to feature this season.

Diskin has lost hooker Matty Wilkinson long-term due to a broken leg, while both centre Cameron Leeming and forward Ed Smith have retired due to persistent knee problems.

Diskin did have prop Luke Nelmes, stand-off Lewis Charnock and winger Tommy Brierley back for Saturday’s game at his former club Batley, who won 48-10.

The coach believes his side have made progress since returning to action following last season’s lockdown, explaining: “Since our first pre-season match at Featherstone, we have been improving week on week.”As long as we keep working hard, we’ll do okay and we’ll be there or thereabouts in terms of our targets this time.

Oldham last faced the Broncos during the 2017 Championship campaign, when the capital side won 20-18 at Bower Fold and 74-12 at Ealing Trailfinders.

BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says his team should take heart from early-season performances as they start a key run of matches at home to Widnes on Saturday aiming to build on a 48-10 home win over Oldham.

Having gone into the Oldham clash on the back of a fortnight without a game, the Bulldogs have six fixtures before the same length of break at the start of June.

After Widnes, it’s Newcastle and Sheffield away, then London Broncos at home before the derby at Dewsbury on Sunday, May 23.

That’s followed by a home meeting with Swinton, and Lingard, whose side won at Halifax in the first round of the Challenge Cup before successive defeats by Featherstone, in the second round then the league, warned: “We need to maintain the standards we set against the top teams.”

SHEFFIELD EAGLES prop Tyler Dickinson says he’s looking forward to moving up through the gears as his first season at the club progresses.

The 24-year-old former Huddersfield player, who figured in 17 Super League matches for the Giants, switched to South Yorkshire after two years at Batley, and is enjoying his new surroundings.

“I am loving it,” he told the club website. “All the work Mark (Aston) and the coaching staff have done with us in pre-season is starting to bear fruit.

“The boys are happy and it’s a good group to be around.”

Dickinson added: ”I felt like I was a bit scratchy in the first game (against York in the Challenge Cup), but that was going to happen after so long without a competitive match.

“Now we’re starting to hit our straps and I’m always a guy who’s looking to improve.”

Meanwhile, centre Connor Bower is closing in on a return to action following a knee injury picked up during pre-season.

The former Hull and Doncaster centre, who played five times for the Eagles before last season was curtailed, is running again, and coach Aston is hopeful he will be available by mid-May.

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