Betfred Championship news round up

Batley Bulldogs winger Johnny Campbell earned rich praise from coach Craig Lingard after his milestone try helped clinch a fourth win in succession.

The 33-year-old’s touchdown in Friday’s 30-18 away victory over Sheffield was the 100th of his career.

Campbell has scored 90 for the Bulldogs, where he is in his second spell, after seven for Bradford and three during a loan stint at Keighley in 2016.

The former Thornhill Trojans amateur first joined Batley in 2008, and suffered a badly broken leg at the end of the 2015 season.

That limited him to just three appearances in his first year at Bradford (plus a further three for Keighley).

Having returned to Batley ahead of the 2018 season, Campbell was part of the squad Lingard inherited on becoming coach in September 2019.

“It’s great to see Johnny reach the milestone,” said Lingard, who has guided Batley to four wins on the spin for the first time since 2016.

“With the quality of the closed-season recruitment we were able to carry out, he realised he faced competition for a place in the side.

“There are two things you can do in that situation – sulk or roll your sleeves up and work harder than ever.

“Johnny chose the second path. He’s trimmed down and seems to have found an extra bit of pace. He’s getting the rewards, and so are we.”

Luke Hooley (twice), Tom Gilmore, Dane Manning and Elliot Hall also scored tries against Sheffield for Batley, who had previously beaten Oldham, Widnes and Newcastle.

Gilmore landed three goals for Lingard’s side, who have scored an average 34 points per league game this time around.

Batley host London Broncos on Saturday, and he said: “We need to bring our ‘A’ game for this one.
“I’m happy with the way we’ve been playing, but there’s a long way to go, and this divisions is very competitive.”

DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood welcomed the compliments which came from his opposite number James Ford after York’s 30-20 win at the Tetley’s Stadium and said: “We want to be spoken about.”

The Knights needed a late score to cement their victory, and Ford noted: “I thought Dewsbury were really good.

“They put us under pressure and they were right in the game at the end, as we expected.

“It’s a very challenging field and Dewsbury are a very good team who play the field well. They had their moments in the game where they challenged us and we had to be strong.

“They run hard, they tackle hard and they’ve got some big boys. They’ve recruited a side to play on their field and they’re a challenge.”

Greenwood, whose team had another home game, against Halifax, on Sunday, said: “We know we’re considered by many to be one of the smaller clubs in the Championship and not a very exciting name compared to the teams who have bigger budgets and put in applications to get into Super League.

“Our aim is to work as hard as we can to be as competitive as we can and get people mentioning Dewsbury. We want to be spoken about, for positive reasons of course, and James’ comments were good to hear.”

The Rams went into the Halifax clash with two wins, over Whitehaven and Widnes, and two defeats, the other by Bradford, out of four league games.

“We produced some decent rugby in those matches,” added former Halifax, London Broncos and England back Greenwood, who took charge of Dewsbury in October 2018 after coaching Gloucestershire All Golds and Siddal.

“To be fair, there was one poor half, when Bradford did a job on us, out of eight. It’s a platform to build from, but we need to keep doing what we’re doing, because this is a competitive division.”

FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster is hoping fan power will help his side extend their impressive home record when Oldham visit next Monday, May 17.

Spectators will be back in Rovers’ Millennium Stadium in limited numbers and the team chief said: “We’re really looking forward to seeing them.”

Because of the pandemic, it will be the first time Featherstone have played a game in front of a crowd since the 46-6 home Challenge Cup victory over Hunslet on March 13, 2020.

That turned out to be the club’s last match of last year, and all this season’s games to date have been behind closed doors.

“It’s a situation all clubs found themselves in, and we’ve dealt with it, but it’s good to be able to welcome some supporters back,” said Webster.

“It’s been a long time for them and us to wait, and while we’re not yet completely back to normal, this is a big step in the right direction.

“Hopefully everything will go smoothly and we’ll start to be able to host bigger crowds in the stadium before too long.

“We’ll certainly be doing everything we can to give them something to get excited about.”

Rovers have suffered only one defeat in their last eight home games, 34-14 against Hull FC in last month’s Challenge Cup third-round meeting.

They haven’t suffered a league loss on their own turf since Toulouse won 30-22 in August 2019.

With an away game against Toulouse postponed under the current RFL guidelines on trips to France, Featherstone went into action at York on Sunday having had a 14-day gap since they beat Whitehaven 48-14 at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday, April 25.

“We just cracked in with our normal training,” explained Webster. “It’s too early in the season to be giving players time off.”

SWINTON LIONS officials hope the club’s proximity to a string of Super League sides will help them deal with a number of long-term injury problems.

The Lions have lost props Lewis Hatton (bicep) and Jose Kenga (Achilles) for the season and are awaiting the verdict of a specialist on centre Liam Forsyth (leg).

The 25-year-old former Wigan player, a closed-season signing from Leigh on a two-year contract, was injured early in the Challenge Cup first-round win over Newcastle Thunder.

Coach Stuart Littler has already brought in props Sam Luckley (Salford) and Tom Spencer (Leigh) as well as St Helens back Nico Rizzelli on loan.

All three featured in the 46-20 defeat at Widnes – the Lions’ fourth in as many league games going into Sunday’s home showdown with Bradford.

“Loans are a little different to the old dual registration system, because they are for a minimum of two weeks rather than match to match,” said Littler.

“That means you have to factor in the time you must keep them for, but one of the plusses is that you can go to different clubs.

“We have always had a good relationship with Wigan, and we speak regularly, although they have had injury problems themselves, so have been less willing to let anyone go out.

“But because of where we are geographically, we have a number of clubs on the doorstep, and that has helped with regards to Sam, Tom and Nico.”

Littler says all three have bought into the club’s ethos of honesty as he tries to bolster confidence levels at Heywood Road, where Dewsbury visit next Monday, May 17.

“There’s no getting away from the results we have had, and no one at the club is hiding,” he added.

“Myself and my staff look at ourselves first, and the players all assess their own performances.

“There have been too many fours, five and sixes out of ten than a a club like us can afford. One or two you can get away with, but not the full set.”

WIDNES VIKINGS coach Simon Finnigan says his side set a benchmark as they finally claimed a first league win of the season at the fourth attempt.

And after eight tries were racked up in the 46-10 home victory over Swinton, he has demanded the same effort level week in, week out as he looks to climb the table.

Finnigan was highly critical of the previous performance away to Batley, who won 48-16, and said: “We learned two good lessons in two matches.

“We saw what can happen when you don’t put the necessary effort in and what can happen if you do.

“It doesn’t guarantee wins, but it certainly helps, and the level we produced against Swinton, especially off the ball, has to be our minimum going forward.”

Having taken on Toulouse at Sale’s Heywood Road, Widnes face a tough-looking home clash with York this Sunday.

And Finnigan added: “This competition is tight. There’s not too much between teams, and that’s why workrate is so important.

“Swinton put us under real pressure in the early stages, and had our effort not been what it was, we’d have been punished.

“We had to defend strongly, with blokes turning up for each other, and our middles in particular were fantastic.

“On the back of that, we came up with some good decisions on the edges, and we scored some really good tries, which was pleasing.”

Finnigan was pleased with the performance of Joe Edge, who came into the centres for a first appearance of the season.

“He was fantastic, and all credit to him, because he has been patient and trained really hard,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Finnigan brushed off concerns about fullback Jack Owens, who was taken off an hour into his return from a calf injury.

“Jack was fine, it was a case of managing him, and with the scoreline as it was, we were in a position to do that,” he said.

Widnes will have experienced half-back Danny Craven available against York following a two-match suspension.

And Warrington back rower Ellis Robson’s loan has been extended to cover the remainder of the season, although the Super League club have a recall clause.

LONDON BRONCOS‘ flourishing left-edge partnership between Abbas Miski and Chris Hankinson is pleasing coach Danny Ward.

Australian-born Lebanon international Miski claimed a hat-trick in the 20-20 draw with Sheffield at the Keepmoat Stadium.

The 25-year-old winger, who is eyeing a second World Cup this year after facing England in Sydney during the 2017 tournament, was a closed-season recruit from Manly.

He previously played for North Sydney Bears, Wentworthville Magpies and Manly’s feeder club Blacktown Workers.

Centre Hankinson, 27, is on loan from Wigan, who signed him from Swinton in July 2018 and for whom he has made 23 appearances.

“I’m really pleased with the partnership Chris and Abbas are forming, there is a lot to be excited about there,” said Ward.

Halfback Jarrod Sammut kicked a late penalty goal to level against Sheffield, who had gone ahead through Aaron Brown’s 78th-minute try and Izaac Farrell’s conversion.

And Ward, whose side will follow a home meeting with Newcastle by visiting Batley on Saturday, added: “I was pleased we managed to fix the areas we worked on during the week.

“We built up a lot of pressure on Sheffield. Our short-term objective now is to convert that pressure into more points.

“Sheffield are a strong Championship side and they’ve been in decent form. This point could be crucial when we reflect on results at the end of the season.

“There were huge shifts all over the pitch in a game where the ball was in play for a long time, and we had to dig deep as a result.

“It was good to see a better performance and I’m pleased for the team. But there are still things to fix defensively, because we’re conceding more tries than we want to.

“Our goal is to improve with every week that passes. And if the boys can play more competitive minutes together in their combinations it will only fuel our progress.”

Former Leeds, Castleford, Hull KR and London prop Ward’s dad David had three separate spells as coach of Batley.

BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear will be paying close attention to travel arrangements when his side visit London Broncos later this month.

The experienced Bulls boss believes long coach journeys can contribute to injuries, because players spend too long without moving enough.

Kear saw four players pick up problems during the 30-22 win at Whitehaven – props Levy Nzoungou (knee), Ebon Scurr (dead leg) and Dan Fleming (shoulder) and back rower Brad England (groin).

He hailed former Doncaster player England for returning to the field as the home side’s attempted late comeback was staved off, telling the Bradford Telegraph and Argus: “We’d twelve fit men. He put his hand up to go back out there.

“He said he couldn’t run at full speed but could fill a hole for us. That’s exactly what he went out and did.”
Kear, whose side made the shorter journey to Swinton’s Heywood Road on Sunday, continued: “I’m full of admiration with how the players handled the journey, a good team and the adversity that came during the game.

“I’ve a theory that when you play London, Whitehaven or Newcastle, you’re more likely to pick up injuries.

“It’s simply because when you’ve been sat on a bus so long, you’re not mobile and stiffen up.

“The football way of doing it is to stay overnight previously. But obviously, the finance isn’t there in Rugby League.”

Scurr, who turns 21 on Tuesday, scored one of Bradford’s five tries after coming off the bench, and Kear continued: “Ebon was really good.

“I sensed when we put him on it was the right time because a bit of petrol had gone out of their tank and he just ripped in.”

The Bulls head to London on Sunday, May 23, after hosting Newcastle next Monday, May 17.

Former Toulouse, Salford and Hull player Nzoungou was handed a three-match suspension for dangerous contact during the Whitehaven game.

OLDHAM favourite Danny Langtree is planning to add to his record-breaking try haul.

New research has shown the former St Helens Academy player, who is in his second spell with the Roughyeds, having also been at Hull, is the highest-scoring forward in the club’s long history.

Langtree has 92 in 179 appearances, bettering the 80-try tally of Great Britain international Bob Irving, who played 296 times before joining Wigan in 1973.

Oldham’s overall record try scorer is 1950s centre Alan Davies, with 174.

“I hadn’t a clue about records, but when the chairman (Chris Hamilton) told me, it was a very proud moment,” said the second row, who is contracted until the end of next season.

“I was 30 in February, but I still fee as fit as a fiddle, so with a bit of luck and no serious injuries, I should have a few more years in me yet.

“I’ve always liked scoring tries, but there’s more to me than that, and I’ve often thought some of my best games were when I didn’t appear on the scoresheet.”

Hamilton said: “It was typical of Danny that when I broke the news about this, he never said a thing. That’s Langers, he lets his actions on the field do the talking for him.

“It’s a record that will be a long time in the breaking.”

Coach Matt Diskin said: “He thoroughly deserves all the accolades, because he works hard and does a lot more for us than score tries.

“The number of metres he makes is phenomenal, and whenever he carries the ball, he always takes us forward.”

TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE coach Sylvain Houles is looking forward to unleashing international halfback Lucas Albert on the Championship once the French domestic season ends.

The former Catalans player, who has won five France caps as well as featuring in the Nines World Cup in 2019, has impressed for Carcassonne in the Elite 1 competition.

The 22-year-old, who can also play hooker, has agreed to join Toulouse for the remainder of this season after Carcassonne’s fixture list is complete.

It’s part of a triple signings boost for Houles, who has also taken Catalans second-team duo Hugo Salabio, a prop, and Jordan Flovie, a winger, on loan.

Ambitious club president Bernard Sarrazain has suggested that if all goes well, a longer deal for Albert could be in the offing.

Albert, who made 55 appearances for Catalans between 2015-20, said: “I am very happy to come to Toulouse.

“I have already been very well received when I am not even part of the squad yet. I can’t wait to join the team and start playing for the club.”

Sarrazain said: “It is a real satisfaction that Lucas is joining us and I would like to thank the leaders of Carcassonne XIII for facilitating his future transfer.

“I can’t wait to see him evolve in our colours. I am convinced that he has all the qualities required to register for the long term at Toulouse.”

Fresh from facing Widnes at Swinton’s Heywood Road ground, Toulouse visit Whitehaven on Sunday.

YORK CITY KNIGHTS coach James Ford believes his side’s recent success in dealing with different styles of rugby bodes well.

The Knights went into their Sunday-evening home showdown with fledgling leaders Featherstone on the back of consecutive wins at Swinton and Dewsbury.

While the Lions were tamed 64-16 at Heywood Road, it needed a late Matty Marsh try to cement a 30-20 victory over the Rams at the Tetley’s Stadium.

“We knew Dewsbury were going to give us a very different challenge,” said Ford, whose side go to Widnes on Sunday.

“I spoke about Swinton being a very shift-orientated team and looking to challenge you laterally, whereas Dewsbury are very north-south side.

“They’re a ‘bring your shoulder pads and your gumshields because you’re going to need them’ type of team.

“We knew we needed to out-work, out-complete and out-box-kick Dewsbury. And we knew that was going to be a challenge because they’re good at it.”

“I was pleased that we’ve shown that we’ve got some flexibility and versatility and can compete against teams of different styles.”

HALIFAX PANTHERS players must make ball retention their priority, according to coach Simon Grix.

He was frustrated by the number of errors, especially in the second half, in the 16-12 defeat at Oldham and pointed out: “It meant we didn’t put them under pressure at important moments.

“You can handle a few dropped balls, but we made far too many silly basic mistakes, and in terms of the scoreline, we deserved what we got.

“There are areas of our game which are encouraging, but in terms of possession, we know we can do better, and we have to start every match with a clear mentality of looking after the ball properly.”

Having visited Dewsbury, Halifax host Sheffield on Sunday, when winger James Saltonstall will be available after a two-match suspension for tripping.

Prop Dan Murray is back in training following a rib injury, while fullback Scott Grix (hamstring) and loose-forward Connor Davies (knee) have started running.

Prop Jacob Fairbank and French back rower Kevin Larroyer are working their way back from shoulder and sternum injuries respectively.

WHITEHAVEN assistant coach Jonty Gorley has urged his players to keep working hard to adapt to the demands of the Championship.

The Cumbrians were promoted in 2019, but had only five second-tier matches, all of which ended in defeat, before last season was curtailed.

However after Saturday’s impressive 36-4 success at Oldham, Gary Charlton’s side are chasing a third league win in six going into Sunday’s visit of Toulouse to the LEL Arena.

Gorley said: “In the league we’re in now, we’ve gone up a notch. Teams put you to the sword when you make errors.

“We’ve told the players that we can compete with anyone when we have a fair share of the ball, and we have to work hard to make sure we get it.”

NEWCASTLE THUNDER have taken Warrington duo Ellis Longstaff and Connor Wrench on loan for an initial two-week period while Rhys Clarke will spend at least the next month at League 1 Workington.

Second rower Longstaff, 18, played twice for the Wolves last season, while centre Wrench, 19, featured once.
Wrench also played in this season’s opening Super League defeat by Castleford.

Both came into coach Eamon O’Carroll’s thinking for Sunday’s away game at London Broncos.

Newcastle visit Bradford next Monday, May 17.

Long-serving back rower Clarke, 30, hasn’t played for Newcastle this season.

SHEFFIELD EAGLES debutant Jordan Bull is targeting more appearances and more tries after scoring with his first touch in the 30-18 home defeat by Batley on Friday.

The 21-year-old England Students international, who plays centre or second row, was with the Eagles before a spell in the Castleford development system.

Bull rejoined Sheffield in October, and coach Mark Aston explained: “He was part of our scholarship as a youngster before it got unfortunately disbanded.

“We kept tabs on him. He is a good kid who wants to progress. He wants an opportunity and we’re happy to give him that.”

Bull, who came off the bench, tweeted: “Buzzing to make my debut, and even better to get over. Time to kick on for the rest of the season.”

While Bull got his first career try, veteran winger Rob Worrincy reached the 200 milestone with a double.

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