Championship Takeaways: Battling Bradford show credentials but heavy favourites too strong

James Gordon
Sean Long Featherstone Rovers Championship Round Four SWpix

Photo: John Clifton/SWpix

It is to Featherstone’s credit that you now simply to expect them to win any Championship match they turn up to.

They were given a 30-point deficit to make up by some bookmakers, such was their expected dominance of this one.

But given Bradford’s recent win over Toulouse, Featherstone were expecting a much tougher match and so it proved.

Their former half-back coaching duo of Sean Long and Leon Pryce will no doubt be enjoying working with Johnathon Ford and Riley Dean, who both put on tries in the first half with lovely long passes on either side of the field.

Dean may feel he deserved more of a shot at a first-team jumper at Warrington, but playing in a top Championship side is bringing the best out of him, and he danced through for another try of his own to open the scoring on eight minutes.

Two tries off kicks put Bradford in front, although Tom Holmes may have been offside when he latched on to Kieran Gill’s kick, with Gill adding a second try of his own.

But Dean’s cut out pass put Luke Briscoe in on the right flank, before Ford fizzed out a lovely long ball for Gareth Gale to do the same on the left as Featherstone led 14-8 at the break.

John Davies’ try gave Featherstone some breathing space that they always maintained, even when Joe Arundel sprinted away for Bradford’s third try.

Patton kicking

A downside for Bradford on the night was the goalkicking of Dec Patton.

In his defence, the three conversions were all wide out, but he also missed a more than kickable penalty at goal.

At least two of his attempts were simply not anywhere near, and had even one of his four kicks been successful, the Bulls would have entered the last 15 minutes within a score of the hosts.

As it was, at 20-12, Featherstone had the Bulls at arms length and they held on for the win with Ford adding a late try.

Goal kicking could prove the difference between a win and a defeat in future, so it will be something Mark Dunning should have an eye on.

The tale of the full-backs

Brandon Pickersgill left Bradford for Featherstone ahead of last season, but has struggled to force his way in to the Rovers team such has been their wealth of options at full-back.

He only got his chance in this game due to an injury to Caleb Aekins, with prolific former France international Mark Kheirallah also on the sidelines through injury.

His opposite number Tom Holmes got on the scoresheet for the Bulls, though while he is very much a threat on the attack, he is still clearly adapting to the defensive requirements of wearing the number one jersey.

Of course, one of Bradford’s headline signings was the capture of highly-rated, injury-trouble ex-Leeds full-back Jack Walker, but his injury means he was simply a spectator alongside Dunning in the coach’s box.

Rash Roby

Bradford’s hopes weren’t helped by a sin-bin to on-loan Huddersfield hooker George Roby in the first half. Roby had barely on the field for a few minutes, replacing George Flanagan, when he was shown the yellow-card for a late tackle in to the ribs of Elijah Taylor, which left the former Salford and New Zealand Warriors man writhing in the ground in agony.

Roby has looked in excellent nick for the Bulls so far this season, and not only was his absence felt, the period of 10 minutes with 12 men might just have sucked enough life out of Bradford to stop them really launching a late comeback at full pelt.

Let there be light

Unfortunately, one down side of watching Featherstone on TV at night is the quality of the floodlights. Corners of the ground aren’t really visible, and even the middle areas of the pitch are patchy.

But given the excellent work done down Post Office Road over the years to improve their facilities, especially when their Super League neighbours haven’t really bothered, for them to be just a few floodlights away from a great-looking TV venue is to their credit.

The Featherstone crowd also responded to calls from chairman Mark Campbell last week.

Campbell made a post on social media where he questioned his own wisdom in continuing to invest at the club, expressing some disdain at crowd figures and fans using the club’s facilities.

A crowd upwards of 4,000 cheered on a fifth successive victory for the Championship favourites, and they’ll take some stopping.

Match details, including line-ups and scorers