Match Report – Halifax RL 42-16 Sheffield Eagles

Sheffield failed to follow up an impressive victory over Toulouse last weekend as they fell to a heavy 42-16 defeat against Halifax at The Shay.

Halifax opened an eighteen-point lead thanks to tries from Adam O’Brien, Scott Murrell and Ben Johnston. The Eagles did close the gap before half-time when Scott Wheeldon, who spent ten minutes in the sin-bin, powered over.

However, Halifax maintained control after the break with James Saltonstall crossing for a second-half hat-trick alongside tries from Luke Ambler and Steve Tyrer. Sheffield did score twice in the closing stages through Ben Blackmore and Duane Straugheir.

Wheeldon was sent to the sin-bin in the first half following a trip while dual-registration player Dayne Weston spent ten minutes on the sideline in the second half after giving away back-to-back penalties.

Halifax opened the scoring inside the opening five minutes as Adam O’Brien, who signed on a one-month loan from Huddersfield in midweek, burrowed his way over from close-range. Steve Tyrer converted.

The Eagles came close on a couple of occasions but Scott Wheeldon was soon sent to the bin for tripping following a quick Halifax tap restart.

The hosts immediately took advantage and extended their lead just before the twenty-minute mark when Scott Murrell’s short-ball put Jacob Fairbank through. The loose-forward returned the ball to Murrell who went in under the posts. Tyrer converted.

Minutes later Halifax were in again as O’Brien jumped from hooker before Ben Johnston crossed unchallenged. Tyrer converted.

However, in the closing stages of the first-half Wheeldon made amends for his sin-bin by crashing over to get the Eagles back into the game before the interval. Brown converted.

Unfortunately for the Eagles they started the second-half slowly and James Saltonstall took advantage of some quick hands out wide after just three minutes. Luke Ambler powered his way over just a few moments later. Tyrer converted Ambler’s try but failed to add the extras from Saltonstall’s.

Halifax’s dominance continued as Saltonstall crossed for a second following a move to the blind-side from a scrum. Tyrer converted. With twenty minutes remaining Halifax wrapped the game up when Tyrer bundled his way over out wide.

Sheffield didn’t lie down however as Dane Chisholm created an overlap which allowed Ben Blackmore to finish well in the corner. Chisholm was again the creator as his short-ball put Duane Straugheir over with five minutes left.

But the last laugh went to the hosts as Saltonstall took advantage of a loose pass from the Eagles to score his hat-trick in the final minute of the game sealing a 42-16 victory for the hosts.

The Eagles host Batley Bulldogs at the Beaumont Legal Stadium on Sunday 26th February while Halifax travel to Rochdale Hornets.

Halifax: Sharp; Saltonstall, Tyrer, Woodburn-Hall, Worrincy; Murrell, Johnston; Boyle, O’Brien, Cahalane; Barber, Grix, Fairbank.

Interchanges: Morris, Wilkinson, Ambler, Lannon.

Eagles: Chisholm; Lo, Yere, Whiteley, Blackmore; Brown, Minchella; Wheeldon, Fozard, Weston; James, Hope, Burr.

Interchanges: Straugheir, Trout, Scott, Harper.

Referee: Chris Kendall. Touch Judges: H. Neville & J. Jones. Attendance: 1241.

Four Nations 2016: England 16-17 New Zealand – Match Report

Shaun Johnson’s 65th minute drop-goal was the difference at the John Smiths Stadium as New Zealand edged out England.

Ryan Hall’s try following a spectacular pass from Gareth Widdop had pulled England back level along with Widdop’s conversion.

Jordan Rapana crossed for a try in either half and Johnson scored a 75-yard interception in the first minute of the second half to make it a difficult afternoon for Wayne Bennett’s men.

Hometown boy Jermaine McGillvary powered over following Johnson’s try to keep England in the game but the home side never regained the lead once the Kiwis got ahead.

England had set the pace early on as Widdop sank two penalty goals inside the first ten minutes.

New Zealand’s victory means they now sit 2nd in the Four Nations table behind Australia who they face next weekend in the double-header at the Ricoh Arena. England will face Scotland with both sides looking to get off the mark in this year’s competition.

Dave Kidwell named the same Kiwi side that fell to a 26-6 defeat to Australia a fortnight ago.

However, Bennett welcomed back players from both Warrington and Wigan who were rested in England’s 6-40 victory over France last weekend. Luke Gale made his competitive international debut alongside Widdop in the halves while Jonny Lomax was picked at full-back over Stefan Ratchford. Wigan duo Liam Farrell and George Williams missed out.

It was also Sam Burgess’ first Rugby League international since New Zealand knocked England out of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup with Johnson’s last minute try in the semi-finals.

Predicting a tight game England seized the chance to take the lead in the opening minutes when Widdop slotted over a penalty after Kevin Proctor was penalised for holding down. Widdop doubled the lead eight minutes later with another penalty goal.

England continued to control the game and created some chances as McGillvary came close before James Graham had a close-range effort disallowed for a double movement, the correct decision by video referee Bernard Sutton.

The Kiwis got on the scoreboard with ten minutes of the first half remaining as Jordan Kahu converted a penalty after Elliot Whitehead knocked the ball from Isaac Lukes hands. Widdop would miscue the resulting kick-off and punt the ball dead allowing New Zealand to apply pressure to the England line and they took advantage.

Thomas Leuluai, Johnson and Kahu sent the ball through hands with clinical precision and it finally found Rapana who planted the ball down in the corner, Proctors decoy run creating the space. Kahu missed the conversion, however.

In search of a quick response in the early stages of the second half Widdop attempted to throw the ball wide but Johnson read the pass and raced 75-yards, the perfect start to the second forty for New Zealand. Kahu converted.

If Widdop’s passing was slightly off Whitehead’s certainly wasn’t as he helped England get back into the game. The Canberra back-rower’s long pass wide found McGillvary who cut inside and powered over the line in front of his hometown. Widdop converted.

The game began to open up as defences became tired England failed to wrap up the ball and Rapana burst through from the halfway line before rounding Lomax almost effortlessly to score. Kahu hit the post with the conversion.

Midway through the half England pulled themselves level. Gale found Widdop before the St George half-back flicked an outrageous pass over his head and straight into the arms of Hall who, in similar fashion to McGillvary before him, forced his way over. Widdop then converted from the touchline making it 16-16.

With fifteen minutes still left Johnson surprised everyone by kicking a drop-goal from ten metres out to edge the Kiwis back in front and in the end it would prove crucial. Widdop did attempt a drop-goal from 35-yards late on but skewed his effort wide before Sam Burgess dropped the ball in England’s last attacking set.

England: Lomax, McGillvary, Watkins, Sarginson, Hall; Widdop, Gale; Hill, Hodgson, Graham, Bateman, Whitehead, S. Burgess.

Interchanges: T. Burgess, G. Burgess, Cooper, Clark.

New Zealand: Kahu, Nightingale, Kata, Kenny-Dowall, Rapana; Leuluai, Johnson; Bromwich, Luke, Waerea-Hargreaves, Proctor, Harris, Taumalolo.

Interchanges: Brown, Taupau, Ma’u, Blair.

Referee: R. Hicks Touch Judges: J. Child & A. Elliot Video Referee: B. Sutton

Attendance: 24,070.

Four Nations 2016: Australia 54-12 Scotland – Match Report

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Despite suffering a 54-12 at the hands of a rampant Australia side Scotland showed that they are aptly nicknamed as the Bravehearts put in a valiant performance in the first ever meeting between the sides.

Australia were always favourites and controlled the game throughout but Scotland made it clear they aren’t just here to make up the numbers in the 2016 Four Nations.

Cooper Cronk and Josh Mansour both grabbed first half doubles with Blake Ferguson and James Maloney also crossing in the first forty. Ryan Brierley, on debut, managed to score in the closing stages of the first half to make sure the Scots didn’t go into the break scoreless.

Josh Dugan scored early in the second half however this was soon cancelled out when Ben Kavanagh powered over. Tyson Frizell, Michael Morgan and Jake Trbojevic all scored in the final fifteen minutes to seal a comfortable victory for Mal Meninga’s side.

Meninga chose to rest some of the Kangaroos key players with Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston and Matt Scott all missing the game. James Maloney, Matt Moylan, Jake Trbojevic, Jake Friend and Justin O’Neill all debuted.

Steve McCormack also picked six debutants in his Scotland side with Brierley, Lachlan Coote, Billy McConnachie, Sheldon Powe-Hobbs and Wigan’s Lewis Tierney all making their first international appearances.

It didn’t take long for Australia to slice through the Scotland defence as Blake Ferguson took advantage of some quick hands from the scrum and outpaced Ryan Brierley.

Cameron Smith soon emphasised why he’s the best hooker in the world when he jumped from behind the play-the-ball and put a low kick back across himself which nobody in the stadium saw coming except Melbourne and Queensland teammate Cooper Cronk who finished well.

Two tries in quick succession followed for the Kangaroos as Cronk found full-back Matt Moylan on an inside ball and Moylan in-turn found James Maloney who, had started and, finished the move under the posts. Tyson Frizell broke from the halfway line before finding Cronk in support who scored his second in six minutes.

Scotland’s defence was working hard and hooker Liam Hood put in a great hit on Moylan to raise Scotland spirits but they were soon brought back down when Moylan threw a long ball which allowed Josh Mansour to cross.

Australia capatalised on another Scotland error when Maloney managed to step through the line before finding an onrushing Moylan. Lewis Tierney did well to close Moylan down but the Penrith man found Mansour who managed to pull off an acrobatic finish under pressure from Danny Brough.

Scotland had created some half chances but Dale Ferguson and Danny Addy had failed to collect the ball but Steve McCormack’s side did get on the scoreboard just before the break. Brough’s neat low kick was flicked by Smith but it fell straight in the path of Brough’s Huddersfield teammate Brierley who planted the ball down to score on his Scotland debut. Brough converted but Australia went into the interval with a comfortable 30-6 lead.

However, Australia started the second half in similar fashion to the first as Cronk put Josh Dugan through and the centre managed to step around Lachlan Coote before scoring. The Kangaroos pressure continued and Addy could have been sent to the bin when he jumped on an Australia play-the-ball from an offside position however referee Ben Thaler decided against it.

Brough soon halted the Australia pressure when he shot out of the line and intercepted Moylan’s pass but the half-back didn’t have the pace to reach the line. Scotland did take advantage from the resulting set though as Ben Kavanagh crashed over on the back of a short-ball from Adam Walker.

Tyson Frizell was lucky not to be sent for ten when he narrowly missed Tierney with a swinging arm and the second-rower continued to make his presence felt moments later when he shrugged off Sheldon Powe-Hobbs to score from close-range.

Maloney and Moylan linked up well throughout and they combined again with ten minutes remaining before the ball eventually found Michael Morgan who cantered over the line unchallenged. Australia reached the fifty-point mark when Trent Merrin broke through the line before finding Jake Trbojevic who crossed for his first international try.

England face New Zealand tomorrow at Huddersfield’s John Smiths Stadium in the second game of the first round.

Australia: Moylan, Mansour, O’Neill, Dugan, Ferguson; Maloney, Cronk; Woods, Smith, Klemmer, Thaiday, Frizell, Trbojevic.

Interchanges: Friend, Boyd, Merrin, Morgan.

Scotland: Coote, Tierney, Aitken, Linnett, Russell; Brough, Brierley; Walker, Hood, Douglas, Addy, Ferguson, Kavanagh.

Interchanges: Hellewell, Powe-Hobbs, Brooks, McConnachie.

Referee: B. Thaler Touch Judges: M. Craven & J. Smith Video Referee: B. Sutton

Attendance: 5337.