Bradford Bulls v Keighley Cougars Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
Date: Sunday 11th February
Venue: Provident Stadium, Odsal, Bradford
The Cougars final pre-season outing ahead of the opening of the new Betfred League One season sees them head to the Provident Stadium, Odsal to face the Bradford Bulls in the 2018 Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy clash. There is both silverware and first team spots for the Workington game at stake for Craig Lingard’s side.
LAST TIME OUT:
The Bulls fell to a 0-28 defeat to the Toronto Wolfpack at Odsal in the inaugral Trans-Atlantic Cup. On a cold evening at the Provident Stadium, the Wolfpack did the most damage in the first quarter of an hour with Richard Whiting, Joe Westerman and Liam Kay all crossing for Paul Rowley’s side. Two early second-half tries from Kay and Quentin Laulu-Togaga’e were finished with a 78th minute Blake Wallace effort.
The Cougars marked Brendon Rawlins big day with a 50-12 victory over a youthful Leeds Rhinos at Cougar Park. Davey Dixon starred with a hat-trick of tries on the right wing with his centre Hamish Barnes grabbing a brace for himself. Lewis Fairhurst, Josh Lynam, Brad Nicholson and Matthew Bailey also added their names to the scoresheet on a comfortable afternoon for Craig Lingard’s side.
Bradford Head Coach John Kear will have new signings George Milton and Callum Bustin available for the first time in 2018 following injury. Joe Keyes (Knee) also returns from the injury he sustained playing for Ireland in last Autumn’s Rugby League World Cup but is still without Dane Chisholm who is expected to return at York next weekend.
Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard will be without Trae O’Sullivan (Concussion) who is still ruled out from the big hit he took in the defeat to Batley three weeks ago. Davey Dixon is unavailable for selection as he prepares to travel to Australia this week for the Commonwealth Games with Scotland with Joe Lumb also unavailable for Lingard.
With both Head Coaches naming as strong a side as possible ahead of this Sunday’s Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy game, it will prove a tough test for both packs. The Bulls have George Milton and Callum Bustin available to join Ross Peltier and Steve Crossley in the side, the likes of Matthew Bailey, Samir Tahraoui, Brad Nicholson and Scott Law will be pushed throughout from the first to the final whistle.
BULLS: Andrade; Brown; Burnett; Bustin; Butterworth; Crossley; Garside; Gibson; Grant; Halafihi; Hallas; Hodgson; Johnson; Keyes; King; Kirk; McNally; Milton; Minchella; Peltier; Pickersgill; Rickett; Ryan; Smith; Wood.
COUGARS: Aaronson; Bailey; Barnes; Beharrell; Conroy; Emmett; Fairhurst; Gabriel; Gaylor; Hallas; Hardcastle; Hawkyard; Kenga; Law; Lynam; Nicholson; Parker; Rawlins; Ryder; Senior; Tahraoui; Tonks; Wright.
Bradford Bulls Head Coach John Kear: “Obviously there’s an element of injustice within the club with regards to 1995. Again, that’s no concern to myself but I’m sure it will be a factor with their fans.
“It won’t be a gentle warm-down and that’s good. That would be the last thing we’d want.
“We know it certainly will be a challenge and it will be tough. Keighley won last year’s game by a point and they will enjoy coming to Odsal.
“It is a good game to finish off and hopefully put the last couple of pieces of the jigsaw into place.”
Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “It does mean a bit more than our other games so far. Even though it is a pre-season friendly we’ve got to realise the importance for spectators.
“But we want to win the game. We want to be going into the season on the front foot and beat our local rivals, albeit in a friendly.
“You get bragging rights, we are holders of that trophy and we want to keep our hands on it for another 12 months.”
The man in the middle at the Provident Stadium this Sunday for the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy is Liam Staveley from Bradford. Staveley refereed the Bulls Boxing Day victory over Halifax at Odsal and was last the man in the middle for the Cougars last January when Keighley registered a 42-0 pre-season victory over Whitehaven at Cougar Park.
With both sides looking to put the final tweaks in place ahead of the opening of Betfred League One next weekend and both Craig Lingard and John Kear looking to cement their final 17’s ahead of the respective openers against Workington and York, this should be a tough battle at Odsal this Sunday afternoon. Whichever side shows the most tenacity in defence could be the one that walks away with the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy.