Batley Bulldogs’ team spirit could be key to keeping their play-off challenge on course believes coach Craig Lingard.
The Bulldogs went into their game at Halifax in third place and chasing an eighth win in nine after an impressive 22-20 success at York.
Lingard’s side have another all-West Yorkshire showdown, this time at Bradford, on Sunday, before a testing two games in five days.
They host Toulouse on Sunday week, July 4, before a Heavy Woollen derby at Dewsbury on Thursday, July 15.
“The team spirit is fantastic, and that’s down to the players, who are a great bunch,” said Lingard.
“It’s not really something you can create, you can give messages and try to build a work ethic, but they have to generate that spirit.
“I think it’s evident in the way they work for each other out on the pitch, and that was really evident at York.”
While 10-0 up at the break, Batley were under the cosh in the second half, when York claimed three converted tries between the 52nd and 59th minutes.
“That was partly my fault, because I left the middles out for two or three minutes too long, and they got on a roll,” added Lingard.
“We were staring down the barrel at that point, but when I used a couple of our interchanges, we tightened up a bit.
“It was nip and tuck, and tense to watch, but the guys dug deep and found a way to win, which was fantastic,
“I was really pleased, and really proud of their efforts, particularly in the last two or three minutes when we defended on our own goal-line.”
“York are a quality team, and before the start, they were one position outside the play-offs, so by beating us, they would have clawed us back.
“By beating them, we kept them at arm’s length and even though we’re not halfway through the season yet, every win is important.”
Batley have loaned centre Jack Logan to his former club Hull for four weeks following a spate of injuries at the Super League club.
TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE hooker Lloyd White is enjoying the challenge of helping a second French side make Super League – despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Sylvain Houles’ team, who are eager to join Catalans in the top flight, went into their game against Sheffield top of the table with a 100 per cent record.
That’s despite having yet to play a game at home, with Covid restrictions meaning part-time clubs are currently not required to travel across the Channel.
London Broncos, other than Toulouse the only other full-time team in the second tier, chose not to play their scheduled away game and therefore forfeited the fixture.
The ambitious club have negotiated a long-term deal to play at the 19,000-capacity Stade Ernest Wallon, also used by rugby union’s reigning European champions Stade Toulousain.
And White, who played in Super League for both the old Crusaders club and Widnes, says it’s a great venue.
“The facilities there are awesome, the surface is fantastic, everything is top class, and it’s so frustrating that we can’t play there,” explained the 32-year-old, who White, who has played 15 times for Wales but hopes to represent Jamaica at this year’s World Cup.
“It’s been a difficult season. We would love to have a bit more momentum and consistency with our games but at the moment it’s just not possible.
“I’m doing what I can and playing to the best of my ability on the field and I hope I’m contributing to our recent successful run.
“It’s a really modern and progressive regime here at Toulouse, with creative training techniques including yoga and meditation.
“If we did get a shot at Super League we might shock a few people. It’s up to us as players to do our best to gain promotion and we are all very aware of our responsibilities.
“We’re just taking each week as it comes and sooner rather than later we’ll get to play some games at this wicked stadium that we’ve got here.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach James Webster reckons the tight confines of the Tetley’s Stadium make Dewsbury’s ground the toughest in the Championship to visit.
So he was particularly pleased at the way his reshuffled side earned a 68-24 win over the Rams – their ninth in as many league matches this season.
It’s Rovers’ best-ever start to a league campaign and meant they went into their home clash with Newcastle having topped 100 points in the two previous matches, with Bradford beaten 44-0 at the Millennium Stadium.
It also kept them hot on the heels of fellow Super League hopefuls Toulouse, who visit on Sunday, August 1.
Before that comes a busy July, with matches against London Broncos (at home on Saturday), Widnes and Bradford as well as a Wembley trip to take on York in the 1895 Cup final.
Webster has a string of injured players, and fielded three loanees, Hull KR fullback Will Dagger, York winger Perry Whiteley and Salford forward Darcy Lussick, at Dewsbury.
“We’re pretty depleted, and we changed the team around quite a lot, so that made things tough,” said the Australian.
“I thought that in the first half, Dewsbury did a good job on us and slowed us down really well. They wrestled strongly and frustrated us to a degree.
“We had spoken about being patient, because we thought that as the game went on, we might be able to break them down a bit.
“I think Dewsbury is by far the hardest ground in the division to go to because of the dimensions, so to score so many points is amazing really.”
Australian hooker Dean Parata claimed four tries and centre Craig Hall scored a hat-trick as well as kicking twelve goals for Featherstone, who notched 48 points in the second half.
“I was a bit disappointed at the four tries we conceded, because we weren’t good enough physically at times, but we’ll work on that,” added Webster, who was without Junior Moors against Newcastle after the former Samoa forward was called into the Combined Nations All Stars squad for the game against England at Warrington.
NEWCASTLE THUNDER players should take confidence from racking up consecutive league wins for the first time since the club’s closed-season elevation to the second tier, according to coach Eamon O’Carroll.
After a 36-30 success at Swinton, Thunder, who moved up from League 1 after Leigh replaced Toronto in Super League, chalked up a 40-6 home victory over Oldham to climb to tenth in the table gong into their game at Featherstone.
“It’s great for us, and I felt it had been coming,” said O’Carroll, whose side head to York on Sunday.
“The performance against Oldham was particularly pleasing because the players had clearly taken on board the things we said to them after the Swinton game.
“We’re a new team in terms of personnel and the level we are playing at and we have been finding our feet in this division.
“We weren’t crash hot, and we certainly aren’t getting carried away, because there is a lot of work to be done and this is a very competitive league.
“But we are taking some steps in the right direction, and the lads should take heart because their hard work and positive attitude is being rewarded.”
The 34-year-old former Wigan, Hull, Widnes and Ireland prop, who works alongside director of rugby Denis Betts, added: “We’ve made a few tweaks to the structure within the club and the way we do things.
“I think that has brought a bit more continuity to training, and the new players are now settling in as well.
“We always knew this would be a tough year, and consolidating our place in the Championship is the aim.
“We’re learning all the time, and I have to commend my more experienced players, because they are doing their bit both on and off the pitch.
“We’ve got a really committed group of players who are buying into what we are trying to do and are taking on the challenges in front of them.”
HALIFAX PANTHERS coach Simon Grix says Conor McGrath can play a key role in his side’s push for the play-offs.
The flying winger was in fine form as Halifax made it three wins running with a 34-4 victory at Swinton.
That meant the Panthers remained sixth ahead of their trip to Batley, and Grix said: “Conor was brilliant, and got a couple of tries no one else in our side would have.”
The 24-year-old came through the club’s Reserve set-up and scored a debut hat-trick in a 54-0 demolition of Sheffield in 2017.
Along with forwards Elliot Morris and Will Calcott, Grix was also pleased with the performance of his brother Scott, who is shining at scrum-half and also scored two tries.
“Scott has been really good since coming back from injury,” he explained. “He brings composure and calmness, and he works hard to make us stick to the gameplan.
“That’s still something we need to work on, because we didn’t totally nail it against Swinton, who threw the ball around a bit and gave us a real challenge.
“We didn’t help ourselves because we didn’t look after the ball properly, particularly in the second half.”
Grix, whose side host Widnes on Sunday, added: “I’m getting bored of talking about completion, but we have to improve.
“In the second half at Swinton, half the time we had the ball, we gave it back, quite a few times, on early plays.
“That meant we didn’t maintain the momentum we wanted to and we need to be building bigger spells of playing well within matches.”
The Swinton success followed victories over Sheffield and York and Grix continued: “I remember having three successive losses earlier in the season, so this is much better.
“We’re moving in the right direction, but there is still progress to be made.”
OLDHAM‘s injury jinx has struck again after long-serving prop Phil Joy broke an elbow during the 40-6 defeat at Newcastle.
It was only a second outing of the campaign for the 29-year-old, who made his Roughyeds debut back in 2012, and damaged a hamstring during pre-season.
Joy, who has also damaged ligaments around the joint, was hurt near the end of the Kingston Park clash, but stayed on because all his side’s substitutions had been used.
“It was a credit to Phil, and typical of him, that he was prepared to carry on because of the circumstances,” said club chairman Chris Hamilton.
The ligament damage means it’s hard to put a timescale on Joy’s return as Matt Diskin’s men battle to climb away from the relegation zone.
The coach has been severely hampered this year, with hooker Matty Wilkinson suffering a broken leg during pre-season training.
Centre Cam Leeming and forward Ed Smith have both retired because of persistent knee problems.
And Jack Spencer, Ben Heaton, James Barran, Kyran Johnson, Danny Bridge and Jode Sheriffe have all been out at various stages.
Oldham went into their home game against Dewsbury having won only two out of ten league games and on the back of six straight defeats.
Prop Martyn Reilly said: “We’ve had enough of hard-luck stories and what might have beens. We’ve got to deliver.
“We know we are in a rut. After the loss at Newcastle, there were many different dressing-room emotions rolled into one – disappointment, frustration, even anger.
“We’ve got to get out of this rut and get out of it quickly. We know we’ve no one to blame but ourselves, the players.
“We are making too many mistakes and our discipline hasn’t been good either. That’s down to us. We know what we are doing wrong and we’ll put it right.
“It’s not all negative. For instance, we dominated Sheffield for most of the game, but we still lost.”
WHITEHAVEN have signed French half or fullback Louis Jouffret for the second time.
The 25-year-old spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons at the Cumbrian club before playing for Toulouse, Batley and most recently Avignon.
Jouffret, who could slot in for injured fullback Gregg McNally, has agreed a deal until the end of this season and could figure at home to Swinton on Sunday.
“Louis is experienced and our fans already know the attacking flair he brings,” said coach Gary Charlton.
Meanwhile, Whitehaven have appointed Andrew Canavan as chief executive and popular former player Craig Calvert as club ambassador in a reshuffle following the departure of a string of board members, including chairman Tom Todd.
While Canavan is standing down as a director after two-and-a-half years, Lauren Allen, who has been working with the club for nine months, and former general manager Amanda Hewer have joined the board.
Grant Taylor has been made a non-executive officer and will oversee and advise on boardroom governance while the club are keen to appoint a number of fans to work alongside the board in a liaison capacity, explaining: “We feel this would assist in showing our supporters that we are trying to be as open and transparent as is possible.”
Allen said: “I am excited to take up my new position after looking after the club’s health and safety requirements and setting up the new junior fanclub.
“While I will continue to carry out these roles, I will also be focusing on working with the many community groups and grassroots clubs in the area.”
Hewer has joined in an advisory role and will assist the club in meeting its obligations in compliance with the RFL and other bodies.
Ex-winger Calvert played for Whitehaven for 14 years before retiring at the end of the 2017 season.
The 37-year-old, who featured in the National League One title success of 2005, is the club’s record try-scorer with 239.
Whitehaven have joined forces with Super League Hull to run a centre of excellence out of West Cumbria.
BRADFORD BULLS have taken old boy Joe Keyes on loan from Hull KR in a bid to cover the loss of playmaker Danny Brough, who has had successful surgery on a damaged bicep.
Veteran halfback Brough, who helped steer the Bulls to a seventh straight win before being injured late on against Newcastle at Odsal, is expected to be out of action until September.
Ireland international Keyes, 25, who joins for an initial two weeks, was at the Bulls between 2016-19 after joining from London Broncos.
“It is great for us as a club, Joe knows what we are about, our DNA and how we play and he will add a great deal to us,” said Kear.
“He will benefit from the gametime, we will benefit from a quality halfback and Hull KR will get a player who is game ready whenever he is required to return.”
Former Scotland player Brough 38, who played under Kear at both Hull and Wakefield, joined ahead of this season.
And in their first match without him, the Bulls lost 44-0 at Featherstone.
Hooker Tom Doyle missed the follow-up meeting with Widnes at Odsal on Sunday after having to isolate.
Meanwhile, loan forward Ellis Robson has been recalled by Warrington after four appearances for Bradford, including a two-try debut in the 33-8 win at London Broncos.
The Bulls have another home clash on Sunday, when they host Batley, where Kear was coach between 2011-16.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS loanee Jamie Ellis has been enjoying his Championship challenge – but believes both he and the Knights are worthy of Super League.
The much-travelled 31-year-old Leigh halfback has spent his career in the top flight, also playing for St Helens, Hull, Castleford, Huddersfield and Hull KR.
Ellis, whose initial two-week stint could be extended to take in Sunday’s home clash with Newcastle, has gained valuable game time after recovering from a knee injury.
He made his York debut in the narrow 22-20 home defeat by Batley and said: “I loved every minute of it, even if the result was disappointing.
“The boys have been really welcoming, I feel I have slotted in well, and its been great to get some minutes in a very tough division.”
York have made no secret of their ambition to reach Super League, and Ellis added: “The facilities here and the coaching set-up are first class.”
Fellow loanee Tyla Hepi, who also made his bow for James Ford’s side against Batley, returned to Castleford for Thursday’s Super League clash with Catalans before rejoining York ahead of Sunday’s trip to Whitehaven.
LONDON BRONCOS skipper Will Lovell says he and his teammates can both take encouragement and learn lessons from their clash with Whitehaven at Ealing.
Danny Ward’s promotion-chasing side ran out 46-12 winners to seal a sixth victory in ten ahead of their follow-up home date with Swinton.
But the capital team, who have a plum clash at Featherstone on Saturday, needed to hit back after trailing 12-4 at half-time.
And centre Lovell explained: “Whitehaven came out strongly in the first half and put us under a bit of pressure. We then put ourselves under a bit of pressure as well with some of the errors we made.
“We had a few questions to ask at half-time and a few words from Wardy to get us fired up.
“We came out in the second half with a bit more purpose and intent and really stuck to the gameplan. Rolling off the back of that we played some decent stuff.”
Lovell added: “While the win was pleasing, there are some areas to fix.”
SWINTON LIONS coach Stuart Littler says togetherness and hard work in training are the two key factors in finding an escape route from the relegation zone.
The Lions went into their tough away game at London Broncos having suffered ten defeats in ten league games.
Defiant Littler accepts the pressure is firmly on his side but insists they can avoid a return to the third tier for the first time since 2015.
While looking to the loan market to bolster his squad, he is also hoping a number of players will soon return from injury.
“The medical staff are working overtime to get lads back,” said Littler, whose side visit Whitehaven on Sunday.
“That would help, because as a side, we’re a work in progress, and I’m trying to put older heads on young shoulders.
“We’re making mistakes, but that happens and it’s about dealing with them and learning from them.
“We can’t always be talking about next week, we need to start getting wins, and this group will keep fighting to do that.”
WIDNES VIKINGS winger Ollie Brookes aims to build on a memorable debut against Sheffield which came the day after his 20th birthday.
The Wigan-born Academy product who started out at Shevington Sharks came off the bench to help Simon Finnigan’s side chalk up their fourth league win of the season ahead of the trip to the coach’s old club Bradford.
The Sheffield match, which Widnes won 30-20, was the first in around 15 months for Brookes, who won last year’s club try of the season award for his score in a warm-up game against Rochdale.
But he said the intensity of training under coach Finnigan helped him cope and added: “It was my first match in front of a proper crowd, and they were great.
“I’ve been at the club since I was 15, so to make debut was brilliant, and while it was a step up in intensity, our training sessions helped.
“There are four wingers at this club, and while that means there is plenty of competition, it’s great for learning.”
Widnes head to Halifax on Sunday.
DEWSBURY RAMS chairman Mark Sawyer has hailed the volunteers who have helped the club stage home matches in front of fans.
The Rams have hosted Batley, Toulouse and Featherstone since the return of spectators in limited numbers, and take on Sheffield at the Tetley’s Stadium on Sunday.
“We express gratitude to the volunteers who have gone the extra mile to help the club stage home matches during recent weeks,” said Sawyer.
“As the sport transitions back to welcoming supporters back into stadia, new challenges have been presented to clubs at every level.
“Here at Dewsbury, the working party donate their time and skill all year round to help keep the ground looking its best, including carrying out the essential maintenance work required ahead of the return of fans.
“In more recent weeks, many more fans have stepped up to fulfil many other roles, including ball retrievers, stewards and match day guides.
“Without this great help of volunteers, Dewsbury Rams could not function.”
Coach Lee Greenwood has taken Featherstone prop Jimmy Beckett on loan for the second time this year.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES have announced the departures of prop Rory Dixon and winger Mike Adlard for personal reasons.
Former York player Dixon, 21, joined in late 2018 and made 16 appearances across the following two years.
Adlard, 29, came through the ranks at Hull, and while he was unable to force his way into the first team, he was a stand-out in their Academy system and won the Reserve Player of the Year award in 2016.
He joined Sheffield ahead of this season after playing rugby union for Hull.
But with Ryan Millar and experienced Rob Worrincy the regulars out wide, he has managed just two appearances.
Having faced Toulouse at Wakefield because of pitch maintenance work at their usual base of Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium, the Eagles visit Dewsbury on Sunday.
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