Martyn Ridyard might have missed the conversion which would have made it two wins from two for new Swinton coach Allan Coleman.
But the Heywood Road chief says the contribution of the experienced halfback as the Lions chase an unlikely escape from relegation can’t be overstated.
Ex-Leigh and Featherstone man Ridyard, 35, was a key performer as second-tier basement side Swinton drew 22-22 at home to Oldham.
They had won 22-18 at Dewsbury in Coleman’s first match after succeeding Stuart Littler, to whom he was assistant.
And when Deane Meadows crossed late on to level against second-bottom Oldham, the stage seemed set for Ridyard to clinch victory.
“There are few players you’d rather have kicking, and if Riddy was able to have another go, he’d probably nail it,” said Coleman.
“On that occasion, it didn’t come off for him, but even good players miss from time to time, and it’s one of those things.
“He was really disappointed, but what he gives us overall is invaluable, and I can’t speak highly enough of him.”
Ridyard, who won the Championship Player of the Year award with Leigh in 2014, joined Swinton ahead of this season.
“He and I go back to our days at Leigh Miners Rangers, and he’s been top-class from the moment he walked through the door at Swinton,” explained Coleman.
“That’s no surprise, because I know him as a person as well as a player, and his loyalty and commitment is huge.
“He’s not just a very good player in his own right, but great as an organiser on the pitch and a mentor to the younger lads at the club.
“We have quite a few making their way in the game, and to have someone like Riddy to get advice and help from is great for them.”
Having hosted Batley, Swinton face Bradford at Odsal on Sunday before another trans-Pennine trip, this time to Halifax seven days later.
Assistant coach Jonty Gorley challenged WHITEHAVEN to produce a “proper 80-minute performance” after another sweet-and-sour showing against Dewsbury.
The Cumbrians went into their clash with London Broncos seventh in the table and seeking a fifth straight home success after a 20-18 win over Dewsbury.
Gorley, right-hand man to Gary Charlton, was cheered by a seventh win in 16 league games this year as Whitehaven, who visit York on Sunday, aim to ensure second-tier survival.
But he was frustrated by the second-half lapse which allowed Dewsbury to hit back after being 18-0 down at half-time.
“The first half was really good, they did everything asked of them, with high completion and good discipline, and we scored four tries,” said Gorley.
“But we dipped in the second half, and we know that in this division, teams don’t go away, so if you give them a chance to get back in, they take it.
“We only got to the end of a set three times in the second half, and we were hanging on. We produced some good defence, but we didn’t need to be in that position.
“There are real positives, because we always put a high value on winning home games and beating the sides around us in the table, and we’ve been doing that.
‘I think we are developing, because we have been winning matches which earlier in the season, we might well have lost.
“But going forward, we want to improve, and to do that, we need to iron out the inconsistencies and do all the little things which make a difference.
“We need to be more ruthless and put teams to bed, keep getting to the end of sets and finishing them on our terms.
“We know that if we turn up with the right attitude, get our skill levels on and play for 80 minutes, not 40, we’re a match for most.”
Australian prop Dean Zammit has joined League 1 Hunslet while former Wigan and Oldham back James Worthington is to take a break from the game.
BATLEY BULLDOGS coach Craig Lingard says he has no regrets about stretching his squad to the limit to fulfil the home fixture with Featherstone – even though his play-off chasers lost 28-13 and dropped to fifth in the table ahead of their visit to Swinton.
The Bulldogs were beset by Covid issues during the build-up, interrupting both preparations and player availability.
“We realised Featherstone were the favourites and a void game would have been better for our win percentage, but we feel for the integrity of the competition, we need to seek to play games rather than call them off,” explained chairman Kevin Nicholas.
Lingard added: “It was vitally important to get the game on. We could have taken the easy option and asked for a postponement, but that would have been kicking the can further down the road, and we could have ended up with two call-offs.
“We’d have played with 16 or even 15 if needs be, because we have a responsibility as a sport to get games on.”
Lingard, whose side host Sheffield on Sunday, saw Featherstone chalk up two converted tries before Batley hit back to claim a 13-12 half-time lead, and said: “After we had worked hard to get back into the match, we started the second half poorly.
“A knock-on from the kick-off gave Featherstone a boost and led to a period of relentless pressure. The lads defended manfully, but we couldn’t hold them out, and we have to take it on the chin and learnt the lessons.
“We might have crumbled and ended up conceding 40 or even 50 points, but these players will turn up and put their bodies on the line for 80 minutes every week, and we have shown previously that we don’t give up on a game.”
Batley have begun building for next season by agreeing contracts with fullback Luke Hooley, halfbacks Ben White and Tom Gilmore and hooker Alistair Leak.
DEWSBURY RAMS coach Lee Greenwood says the addition of former Oldham forward Matt Fletcher and a quartet of loanees, including experienced Featherstone second row Dale Ferguson, to his depleted squad is a big boost as the Rams strive to kick their relegation worries into touch.
Fletcher, 21, who had spells in the Bradford Academy and in Australia, playing for Brisbane sides Valleys Diehards and Norths Devils, before joining hometown Oldham in 2020, has signed until the end of the season.
“Matt has a point to prove after leaving Oldham and wants to show that he can perform regularly at this level,” said Greenwood.
“Signing him for the rest of the season allows him to try and earn a contract here for 2022 and I believe he can do that.”
Former Wakefield, Huddersfield, Bradford and Scotland forward Ferguson, 33, joined Featherstone in 2019, but has been unable to establish himself.
“Dale is really looking forward to helping us out of the situation we find ourselves in,” explained Greenwood.
Meanwhile Warrington halfback Riley Dean and props Robson Stevens (Huddersfield) and Jimmy Beckett (Featherstone), who are both back for a second Rams stint this season, all featured in the 20-18 defeat at Whitehaven.
Dean is a product of leading community club Siddal, where Greenwood had a spell at the helm. He had previously been loaned out to York.
“Riley has all the attributes needed to play half back at the top level,” said Greenwood, whose side head to Featherstone on Sunday after hosting Widnes.
“He has done well for York on loan in the games I have seen and will give us a much-needed boost for our remaining games.”
Stevens played three times in his first Dewsbury loan spell while ex-Castleford Academy player Beckett featured in six games.
“Robson was improving with each game with us and was rewarded with a couple of Super League appearances,” added Greenwood.
“I’m really pleased to get Jimmy back with us. He has a lot of potential as a front rower at this level and possibly above.”
WIDNES VIKINGS will bring loose-forward Sam Wilde back to the club on a two-year deal next season.
The Vikings are also being linked with Sheffield forward Aaron Brown, Workington threequarter Brad Holroyd and Oldham pair, prop Tyler Dupree and winger Ryan Ince, a former Widnes player, but could lose prolific winger Deon Cross, who is the target of a number of Super League sides, with Salford being strongly linked.
Former Rochdale and Barrow man Cross, 25, bagged his 14th try of the season as Widnes were beaten 34-20 at York.
That took the one-time St Helens junior and former Blackbrook and England Community Lions Under 18 player’s overall career tally going into the game at Dewsbury to 45.
Cross joined Widnes ahead of the 2020 season, when he played alongside versatile Wilde, who made 66 appearances, scoring 14 tries, in his first spell at the Vikings.
The 25-year-old former Warrington player, who featured in the 2016 Grand Final defeat Wigan, first signed for Widnes in 2017 after a loan spell the previous year.
He joined Newcastle for the current campaign after Ottawa, with whom he had agreed a contract, pulled out of playing in League 1.
Shevington Sharks product Wilde, who will combine rugby with police training, scored a try in the 30-30 draw against the Vikings at Kingston Park in the first round of the Championship campaign.
The defeat by York was the fourth in a row for Widnes, and coach Simon Finnigan, whose side led 20-12 at half-time, couldn’t hide his frustration.
“There’s been a pattern of getting ourselves into a good position only to dip in the second half of games,” he said.
“There are factors behind it, and certainly lack of selection options is key because we are limited in our ability to rotate the middles, so those we have are playing more minutes, while other people are having to play out of position.
“That all combines to cause a dip in energy, but there are other reasons as well, and we are working hard to address them.”
Don’t write off HALIFAX PANTHERS‘ chances of challenging Championship promotion favourites Toulouse and Featherstone.
That’s the message from coach Simon Grix, whose Panthers side have chalked up nine successive wins, the most recent over Newcastle, ahead of Sunday’s visit to Widnes.
It underlined Halifax’s play-off credentials, and Grix, who has had a blank weekend to work with his squad following the cancellation of the scheduled game against Toulouse in France, said: “As we stand with the play-off format, finishing third or fourth means a home tie in the first play-off games.
“We’re not even assured of top six, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but obviously we want to make the play-offs, and we’d like a home game.”
Former Ireland international Grix, who had two spells as a player with his hometown club either side of ten years at Warrington and has been coach since May 2019, added: “With our fans behind us, we’d have nothing to fear.
“The play-offs are knockout rugby, and when that’s the case, you never know.
“You go back to 2018 and London Broncos winning at Toronto in the Million Pound Game and you see that.”
Halifax, then known as Blue Sox, were founder members of Super League in 1996 and played in the division until 2003.
Relegation was followed by financial troubles, but fans dream of a return top the top flight, and the rebrand as Panthers, which came into effect this season, was accompanied by a squad restructure which included the signings of Hull KR prop Dan Murray, Toronto centre Greg Worthington and halfbacks Liam Harris (from Hull) and the currently-sidelined Connor Robinson (back from York for a second spell at the club).
Halifax have also signed prop Adam Tangata for a third time, and Grix, who is reported to be interested in Leigh forward Matty Gee for next season, added: “We’ve got some talent, but we have to find a way of making things a bit easier for ourselves in matches.”
Promotion chasers FEATHERSTONE ROVERS have further boosted their squad for both this season and next by bringing in centre or second row Alex Sutcliffe on loan from Leeds and agreeing contract extensions with back Josh Hardcastle and forward Callum Field.
And Rovers, who continue to be linked with Bradford fullback Brandon Pickersgill as they plan for a potential Super League campaign in 2022, have loaned experienced back rower Dale Ferguson to Dewsbury, their visitors on Sunday, in a bid to get the Scotland international some game time.
Sutcliffe, who is nearing full fitness after injury, is no stranger to Featherstone, having had played on dual registration in both 2019 and 2020.
The 22-year-old, who is out of contract at Leeds and being linked with Castleford, will spend the remainder of the season at Rovers, although the Rhinos have a recall option.
Featherstone recently recruited France international prop Gadwin Springer after his release by Halifax and brought in Wakefield fullback Alex Walker on loan, both for the remainder of this year.
“I’m really excited to be coming back to Fev to hopefully get some game time under my belt and try my best to help them get a Super League spot next year,” said Sutcliffe.
Football manager Ian Hardman said: “Alex is an exceptional young player who will bring a great deal of quality to our squad.
“The fact that he has played at Featherstone previously and worked under our coaching staff will make for a smooth transition and his ability to operate as both a centre and back row is certainly something that will benefit us as we approach the business end of the season.”
Ex-Wakefield junior centre Hardcastle, 28, and former Wigan and Leigh back row Field, 23, have agreed new deals through to the end of 2023.
Winger Gareth Gale and fullback Craig Hall recently agreed similar extensions while prop Craig Kopczak, back rows Brett Ferres and John Davies and Australian hooker Connor Jones committed to the club until the end of next season.
Halfback Dane Chisholm was already under terms until 2022 under the deal he signed when moving from Bradford following a loan spell in 2019.
The wait to play at the Stade Ernest Wallon continues for promotion favourites TOULOUSE OLYMPIQUE, following the cancellation of two further home fixtures because of the problems posed to part-time clubs by Covid travel regulations.
Rather than hosting Halifax on Saturday, Sylvain Houles’ side had another blank weekend, while the scheduled match against Batley on Saturday, August 28 is also off (they face Oldham at Bower Fold on Sunday).
It takes the total number of home league games not to take place to eight out of ten (the matches against Widnes and Swinton were both switched to the latter’s Heywood Road ground while full-time London Broncos elected not to travel, and therefore forfeited the fixture).
Table-topping Toulouse, who have won all ten games they have played this year (in addition, they were awarded 24-0 victory over London) and have agreed a long-term deal to share the home of rugby union’s European champions Stade Toulousain, have just one more regular-season home match remaining, against York on Saturday, September 11.
The fate of that game will be decided after the UK government’s next travel review, expected on Thursday, August 26.
This year’s Championship is being contested on win percentage due to the ongoing threat of postponements and cancellations presented by the pandemic.
While clubs are required to play 70 per cent of their fixtures to be eligible for the play-offs, Toulouse matches postponed as a result of Covid travel regulations will not be taken into account for either the French side or their opponents.
OLDHAM hope a scan on the hip/back problem which has plagued Jack Spencer over the last two months will help the forward return to action before the end of the season.
The 30-year-old former Salford, Halifax and Barrow player last featured in the 68-0 home defeat by Featherstone on May 17, since when they have played ten times.
Meanwhile, experienced prop Jode Sheriffe has finally had his long-awaited knee operation and is reported to be making good progress.
The 35-year-old ex-Halifax, Featherstone, Bradford, Keighley and Dewsbury man, who was added to the club’s coaching staff in November, has yet to play this season.
Sheriffe’s fellow prop Liam Kirk, who was concussed in the first few minutes of the 22-22 draw at relegation rivals Swinton, has seen a specialist.
The former Bradford player, 24, has had a few similar head knocks this season, and chairman Chris Hamilton explained: “Our priority is Liam’s health.”
Oldham, who having visited Sheffield, host Toulouse on Sunday, have loaned utility back John Hutchings, 21, to League 1 Workington.
SHEFFIELD EAGLES could rearrange their home clash with York on a midweek date as they aim to get their season back on track following a second Covid outbreak at the club.
Back in May, their match at Halifax was postponed (it was played in June), while this month’s meetings with York and away to Bradford were also called off.
The Eagles, who returned to action at home to Oldham and visit Batley on Sunday, have held discussions about trying to play the Knights match, but have no weekend slots available.
“It’s the earliest of the two games we could rearrange, so we’re looking at that one first, and have had initial talks with York,” said general manager Liam Claffey.
Aston, meanwhile, could face a fight to keep hold of experienced forward Aaron Brown next season, with the ex-Dewsbury player being linked with Widnes.
Brown, 29, came through the Leeds Academy before joining Dewsbury ahead of the 2013 campaign.
He joined Sheffield for the 2019 season and that year, scored a hat-trick against Widnes in the 1895 Cup final win at Wembley.
LONDON BRONCOS coach Tom Tsang and captain Will Lovell were united in their disappointment at the 66-6 home defeat by Toulouse – and are seeking a big improvement between now and what they hope will be a play-off bid.
Having travelled to Whitehaven, the Broncos have another long trip on Sunday, this time to Newcastle.
“We know Toulouse are an extremely strong side at this level,” said Tsang. “But we are very disappointed with the score and performance.
“We could not deliver on the day and we are channelling our energy into the future and working hard to correct what we didn’t do right. We have five huge fixtures coming up.”
Centre Lovell added: “Toulouse wasn’t the result we wanted. We all had a long, hard, look at ourselves after the game to evaluate where we are at. We know the areas we need to fix up.”
BRADFORD BULLS coach John Kear is delighted to have Billy Jowitt back in the reckoning following a broken arm.
The halfback or fullback graduated from the club’s Reserve team ranks ahead of the current campaign.
And with both Danny Brough and Jordan Lilley, who is now back after a rib problem, sidelined for long spells, Jowitt would likely have had far more time on the field had it not been for his own injury, suffered in June.
He was back in the squad, alongside Lilley, for Saturday’s game at Newcastle Thunder, Bradford’s first outing since their 24-21 derby defeat at Halifax following the postponement of the home game against Sheffield due to Covid issues in the Eagles camp.
“We have high hopes for Billy,” said Kear, whose side host Swinton on Sunday.
“It’s good to see him back from injury, and the isolation he’s had to go through too. He’s back in training and looking sharp.”
NEWCASTLE THUNDER prop Ted Chapelhow says pushing Halifax close shows the progress being made by the Championship newcomers.
Having been beaten 32-0 at home by the Panthers in their sixth league game of the season, Thunder went down 14-12 at The Shay, with Chapelhow scoring a try during their attempted second-half fightback.
“There was a big contrast with the first time we played them,” said Chapelhow, 25, who joined Newcastle alongside his twin and fellow prop Jay from Widnes in December after the pair initially agreed to join Ottawa only for the Canadian club to pull out of playing in League 1.
“We picked ourselves up after poor start and got back into it, and gave ourselves a chance against a top-three side.
“There are plenty of areas for us to work on, but I think we have definitely evolved as a team since the start of the season, and pushing Halifax on their own patch shows that.”
Having hosted Bradford, Newcastle face London Broncos at home on Sunday.
YORK CITY KNIGHTS halfback Brendan O’Hagan is eyeing an injury-free run to the end of the season.
The Australian’s appearances have been limited by fitness issues, but he returned from a thigh problem to claim a hat-trick in the 34-20 home win over Widnes.
“For myself, it was just really nice to be back playing,” said the former New South Wales Under 16, 18 and 20 player who was in the development systems of Canberra and Wests Tigers before heading to York for this season.
“The boys put on a really good performance and it was good to get a win with everyone.
“It was good to get a few tries, but at the end of the day, it’s a team sport so it was even better to get the win and to walk off the field with a smile on my face.”
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