Betfred Championship news round up

Whitehaven have announced a major new partnership with a Cumbrian engineering firm who will become the club’s principal sponsor.

Under the three-year deal, worth five figures annually, with Lifttech Engineering Limited, Haven’s Recreation Ground home becomes The LEL Arena.

Lifttech are a mechanical, nuclear and industrial engineering services company based at Lillyhall, five miles from Whitehaven.

Club chairman Tom Todd said: “We’re delighted and excited at the opportunities LEL will bring with them. Working together will reap rewards for all concerned.”

Finance director Michael Wood added: “This is a further step forward as we look to ensure a strong and prosperous return following the coronavirus crisis.”

LEL managing director Nick Robinson said: “We are a local firm who recognise the importance of investing and supporting our local community club.”

Meanwhile, Haven have brought in Huddersfield Ireland prop Ronan Michael on loan while coach Gary Charlton is hoping his latest signing from rugby union, ex-Newcastle Falcons forward Guy Graham, proves to be a chip off the old block.

Charlton, who handed Graham a debut alongside former Richmond and Scotland Under 19 winger Aaron Purewal in the recent game at Featherstone, played alongside his dad George for the old Carlisle team.

Prop George Graham, now 55, switched to league in 1991, and spent five years at Carlisle before returning to union with Newcastle, with whom he won the 1998 Premiership title and made 25 appearances for Scotland.

His 28-year-old son Gary, who plays flanker for Newcastle, has twice played for Scotland, while Guy, 22, has appeared at Under 20 level.

“Guy comes from a proper rugby family,” explained Charlton. “He played for Hawick when George was coaching there before going full-time with Newcastle.

“He’s a big, strong lad who defends well and has really impressed us during training. I think he could have a big future in Rugby League.”

FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster is remaining philosophical over both his side’s enforced weekend off and what he considers their patchy performances to date as he looks forward to a plum fixture at York on Sunday.

Rovers were due to take on Toulouse, the only other side in the division with a 100 per cent win record, on Saturday, but because of ongoing government quarantine guidelines, no part-time clubs are currently visiting France.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get to go, both personally and from a coach’s perspective,” said former Wakefield and Hull KR chief Webster, who coached the France national team together with Richard Agar from 2013-15.

“I always enjoy visiting Toulouse, because I know the place and a lot of the people there well from my time working with France, and it would have been great to go head to head with them, but it wasn’t to be, which we have to accept.

“At this stage of the season, I’d have liked to have been playing, but we tried to replicate a match situation in training, and it has given us chance to take stock and do some extra work on one or two areas.”

Featherstone have chalked up league victories over Batley, Swinton and Whitehaven, as well as defeating Bradford and Batley in the Challenge Cup before a third-round defeat by Hull, and Webster added: “I’ll take the scorelines if not the way they were achieved.

“We have produced some good rugby, but there has been some mediocrity muddled in. I suppose you could put that down to a bit of rustiness after not playing for so long last year and that we’ve chopped and changed the team quite a bit.

“You won’t get many sides who play fluent winning rugby all the way through a season, but we’ve had six competitive games now, and we need to find some consistency. We will keep going through the processes and keep working to cut out the scratchy periods.”

YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford wants his players to make their first-half performance against Swinton the benchmark going forward.

The Knights scored six tries before the break to lay a solid foundation for their first league win of the season.
Ford’s side, beaten by Toulouse and Sheffield in their previous Championship outings, went on to complete a 64-16 victory at Heywood Road.

That provided a tonic ahead of a trip to Dewsbury and this Sunday’s big home clash with Featherstone, and Ford said: “I was very pleased with the first half.

“I liked the intensity at which we carried, the quality of our support efforts, the intelligence of our ball movement and the composure to build pressure.

“We were at 95 per cent completion in the first half, and it wasn’t six tackles for the sake of it, it was with shape and movement.

“We were in control, but we didn’t get untidy or try to push passes and cut corners, which it’s easy to do in those circumstances.

“I was really pleased with our mentality and that we didn’t take those kind of shortcuts or lose focus.

“It’s the closest we’ve got to the players executing what we want them to execute, and we had some real shape in the middle.”

Ford has had to contend with a glut of early-season injuries, with newly-recruited halfbacks Morgan Smith and Brendan O’Hagan among those affected.

He paired Matty Marsh, who scored four of his side’s eleven tries, and Warrington loanee Riley Dean, who crossed twice, against Swinton.

“I thought both halfbacks were excellent,” he added. “We didn’t chase it or push too many passes, but we did ask subtle questions consistently.

“Eventually the weight of having to make defensive decisions and repeat efforts proved too much for Swinton.”

SHEFFIELD EAGLES will use proceeds from the sale of their new third kit to further drive Rugby League development in the city, including the launch of a wheelchair team.

World Cup ambassador and England wheelchair star James Simpson joined Eagles players Matt James and Ryan Millar to unveil the new strip and put the Wheelchair World Cup trophy on show.

The launch took place at at Bramall Lane, which will host the England men’s World Cup group game against Greece on Saturday, November 6.

In addition, a number of Wheelchair World Cup matches, including the semi-finals, will take place at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

The Eagles, through their charitable arm, plan to set up a wheelchair side next year.

Simpson, said: “As well as being an awesome design, the kit has a much greater meaning – harnessing the power of the Rugby League World Cup and celebrating the legacy the tournament will deliver.

“I am really excited about the future of wheelchair Rugby League in Sheffield and pleased this kit will contribute to the development of the sport.”

Eagles general manager Liam Claffey said: “We hope supporters snap up this shirt as proceeds will go directly to help funding a wheelchair side as well as the foundation, who are doing great work to ensure a lasting legacy in the city following the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Sheffield’s next match at home to Batley at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster has been brought forward from Sunday to Friday, with a 7.45pm kick-off.

The change has been made due to Doncaster Rovers Football Club’s home match against Peterborough being selected for screening by Sky and moved to Sunday.

The Eagles drew 20-20 with London Broncos at the Keepmoat on Saturday.

BRADFORD BULLS playmaker Danny Brough says there’s plenty more to come from both him and the team this season.

And the veteran halfback says the main objective is to finish in the top six and so may the play-offs – “when anything can happen”.

The Bulls bounced back from a 50-12 opening defeat by Sheffield to post hard-fought victories over Halifax and his old club Dewsbury ahead of their clash with Whitehaven.

John Kear’s men go to Swinton on Sunday and Brough, who who worked under Kear at Hull and Wakefield, said: “We want to keep taking steps forward.

“The aim is to reach a level of consistency in our performances and make ourselves gritty and hard to beat, the usual hallmarks of a John Kear team.

“We want to score points, of course, but defence is just as important, and in some matches this season, we’ve given away points too easily.

“John doesn’t change, he motivates players, gets them fired up and makes sure they stick to what is a fairly straightforward way of playing.

“We want to keep progressing as a team and make sure that we make that top six, because when you’re in the play-offs, anything can happen.”

Brough, 38, might have been a high-profile signing by Bradford when he agreed a two-year deal ahead of this season.

But he insists it’s just as much about his teammates, adding: “Myself and Jordan Lilley can’t do anything without the big blokes laying a platform.

“And our kicks don’t mean much without a good chase, so it’s all about individuals doing their job within the overall team structure.

“I’m aiming to use my experience to try to organise things and rev the boys up to stay in the arm wrestle.”
Halfback partner Lilley, 24, moved from Leeds before the 2019 campaign after playing for the Bulls on loan.

“He’s a great player,” added Brough. “Hopefully I can help bring him on to another level.”

WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan sent his players into action against Swinton on Sunday with the message: “Don’t be the side everyone wants to play.”

The former Super League and Ireland forward was left smarting after a second-half collapse in the previous match at Batley.

The Vikings were 16-10 ahead at half-time, but then conceded seven tries as they crashed to a 48-16 loss.

Finnigan, whose side were beaten 22-14 at home to Dewsbury before that, accused his team of “waving the white flag” in West Yorkshire and promised a firm response.

“In the first half at Batley, I got the reaction I wanted after the Dewsbury game, but a match is played over 80 minutes,” he said.

“You forget about what happened in the first half because of what transpired after the break. From the first try we conceded under the posts, we gave up.

“I purposely left the players out there during that period. Those who waved the white flag had to stay there and suffer, and that probably blew out some points, but so what?

“The players didn’t work hard enough for each other, and if it carries on, I will put people in who are prepared to do that.”

Finnigan, speaking via the club website, continued: “We are all in it together. I take full responsibility. I need to fix this sharpish and I will.

“I certainly don’t want to watch a team willing to give up like we did in the second half. I didn’t enjoy it and it’s not a reflection of the club.

“We wanted things for nothing. We didn’t want to earn the right to do anything, and when you play rugby like that, you always risk this type of score.

“We were trying to get things for free and it ain’t going to happen. We got what we deserved.

“Every game is tough when you don’t want to put in effort in the right areas and you don’t want to work and get something out of it.

“We’ve been a team everyone wants to play, so we have to change that.”

Widnes take on Toulouse at Swinton’s Heywood Road ground on Sunday.

LONDON BRONCOS winger Tuoyo Egodo is enjoying life back in the capital and looking to add to his try tally.

The Tottenham-born 24-year-old, who returned ahead of last season following a three-year stint at Castleford, was a hat-trick hero in the recent 38-24 home win over Oldham and crossed again in Saturday’s 20-20 home draw with London, when teammate Abbas Miski claimed a treble.

The Tigers swooped for Broncos development product Egodo, then 19, in October 2016 after he impressed on loan to Hemel Stags in League 1.

He scored a debut hat-trick in the 48-16 home defeat by Hull in the Super 8s in 2017 and in total, registered eleven tries in 15 Castleford games – four of which came against the Broncos in a 20-6 win in 2019.

He also spent time on loan to Hemel, Oldham, York, Newcastle and Bradford.

Egodo scored four tries in six Broncos outings before last season was curtailed, and had four in two going into the game against Sheffield on Saturday.

“It’s a great feeling to get a hat-trick,” he said. “But it would discredit the team effort it took to earn the win by getting all the plaudits. I did the easy job by putting the ball down.

“We stuck to the plan and we worked well as a group in the first half. The second half started well, but we were perhaps guilty of a touch of complacency after we got to 30-6.

“But winning helps grow confidence in the team like nothing else and there were plenty of positives to take.”

Egodo added: “It’s an incredible feeling to play for this club and I’m extremely proud to wear the jersey.

“I obviously know the set-up here and I’m enjoying the familiarity. I’d like to think it’s benefitting my game.

“All my family and friends are down here, so I have the best of both worlds in terms of rugby and my home life.”

Meanwhile, loose-forward Sid Adebiyi faces at least three months out with a ruptured Achilles tendon.

The Broncos host Newcastle on Sunday.

TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles is looking forward to successive trips to England following the switch of their match against Widnes to Swinton’s Heywood Road base in Sale.

The game should have taken place at the Stade Ernest Wallon, but because of ongoing government quarantine guidelines due to the pandemic, no part-time teams are currently visiting France.

That put paid to Saturday’s scheduled showdown with Featherstone, who like Toulouse, have a 100 per cent league record.

Toulouse, who won 44-34 at Halifax last time out, faced the prospect of not having another match until the visit to Whitehaven on Sunday, May 16.

But they will now take on Widnes at 4.15pm this Sunday in the second part of a double-header which also features the Swinton versus Bradford game at 11.45am. Both games will be screened live on OurLeague.

Swinton chief executive Steve Wild said: “When we were approached by Cedric Garcia at Toulouse, we were only too happy to try to accommodate them.

“All clubs have gone through some tough times recently and, so long as it’s feasible, I believe it’s our duty to help each other out for the good of the game.

“We enjoy a good relationship with Toulouse and it was nice to reinforce that friendship.”

BATLEY BULLDOGS half-back Ben White is looking forward to the return of Sunday afternoon action.

The Bulldogs have tended to play on Saturdays so far this season, while their next match, away to Sheffield at the Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster, has been brought forward to Friday because of a clash with football.

But having visited Newcastle on Sunday afternoon, Batley have May games against London Broncos at home, Dewsbury away and Swinton at home scheduled for that slot.

“We’re pleased to have been playing games at all, but having them on a Sunday afternoon, then getting fans back in grounds, is another sign that things are getting back to something like normal,” said White.

The former Leeds, Swinton, Halifax and Barrow man, 26, believes having a bigger squad this season is a big plus.

“There is a lot of competition for places, so no one can ever rest and take it easy,” he explained.

“Everyone is having a dig, and that makes training that bit more intense and effective.”

DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood has warned his players they can’t afford to start matches as slowly as the derby showdown with Bradford.

The Rams were rattled after the Bulls chalked up a 28-6 interval lead, and while they produced an improved second-half display, still went down 35-14.

It was a first league defeat of the season for Dewsbury after encouraging wins against Whitehaven and Widnes.

And Greenwood said: “The first half was nothing like we know we can play. Bradford were better all over the pitch and gave us too much to do to come back into it.

“It was a lesson for us and we’ll look at how we start games. We weren’t quite on it and we got punished. It wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t us.

“At half-time we asked the lads to get back to what we do best, and I thought we were much better in the second half.

“Going forward we need to fix up a few problems and rake the positives from the second half.”
Having hosted York, the Rams have another home date on Sunday, when Halifax visit.

SWINTON LIONS have signed St Helens centre Nico Rizzelli on loan.

The 21-year-old Rochdale Mayfield product has made one appearance for Saints, in the 12-10 defeat at Salford in October.

The deal is for an initial two weeks, taking in the match at Widnes as well as Sunday’s home game against Bradford.

That will now start at 11.45am so Heywood Road can also stage the Toulouse versus Widnes clash – which couldn’t have gone ahead in France – at 4.15pm.

Samantha Allen, the RFL head of professional game operations, said: “We are grateful to Swinton for agreeing to stage a double-header as part of the rearrangement of Toulouse matches required by ongoing Covid-19 and quarantine complications.

“Like other Betfred Championship clubs, Swinton have done an excellent job of ensuring they can host fixtures in a Covid-secure manner.”

The Lions recently agreed a deal with rugby union club Sale to remain at Heywood Road until at least 2023.

HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix says Sam Hewitt can be a big driving force for his team.

The forward is on season-long loan from neighbours Huddersfield.

Hewitt, who turned 22 on Thursday, made nine appearances for the Giants last season.

Grix was delighted with his impact from the bench in the recent clash with Toulouse, who won 44-34.

“Sam made a real difference, he played with some real intent and purpose and lifted us at an important stage,” he said.

Halifax, who went down 16-12 at Oldham on Saturday, have another away trip, this time to Dewsbury, on Sunday.

NEWCASTLE THUNDER winger Jack Johnson says togetherness was the key to a first win of the season for the promoted North-Easterners.

The former Warrington player scored one of four tries as Eamon O’Carroll’s side beat Sheffield 24-16 at Kingston Park.

Thunder hit back from 12-6 down and survived a tense final ten minutes following a yellow card for experienced centre Joe Brown.

“I thought we all turned up for each other, and that spirit throughout the side showed in the way we hung on against experienced opposition,” said the 25-year-old.

“This is a fairly new squad, and however much work you do in pre-season, it’s only by playing matches that you find out the things you need to work on.

“We had good patches in previous games, and we knew that we had it in us to get the win. Now we need to push on.”

Having played Batley at home, Newcastle make the long trek to London Broncos on Sunday.

OLDHAM have taken centre Jack Croft on loan from Wakefield.

The deal runs for the season, although Trinity have a recall option on the 20-year-old, who played twice for the Roughyeds on dual registration last year and scored a try on his second ‘debut’ as Halifax were beaten 16-12 on Saturday.

Coach Matt Diskin moved for Croft, who has made ten appearances for Wakefield, after losing Cam Leeming through early retirement and Ben Heaton to an ankle injury.

“We have been communicating with Wakefield for several weeks,” explained Diskin, who also has teenage Wigan prop Jack Bibby on loan.

“Jack is a quality young player, a big, fine lad who has a big future ahead of him.

“Because he’s been with us before he knows our structures and our way of doing things and that’s a big plus.

“I’m sure he’s got a big future ahead of him in Super League, but what he needs right now is games, and we can provide him with that.”

Keighley Albion product Croft said: “I was very happy at Oldham last time, and I already know many of the boys.”

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