Benson still believes

Date published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TONY Benson is sure that Roughyeds’ new boy Colton Roche will soon become a favourite of the Whitebank faithful.

As things stand at present, the 18-year-old back-row forward from Leeds Rhinos is signed on dual registration until the end of July and that makes him available for four more crucial games in the Championship One promotion race.

He was rushed into his debut in Sunday’s two-point defeat by North Wales Crusaders and Benson was more than happy with the teenager’s contribution off the bench against a big Welsh pack.

“He did exceptionally well for an 18-year-old kid who hadn’t even trained with us,” said Benson.

“You expect him to have lots of energy at that age, but he also had power.

“He had watched us train last Thursday when he came over from Leeds for the first time, but he couldn’t get to Saturday’s session and he only got into the side because Chris Clarke broke down in training.

“He didn’t know our plays or our structures, but he did enough on Sunday to show that once he is familiar with things here he is going to be very valuable to us.

“He has a great attitude and he is very enthusiastic about playing at our level as part of his ongoing development.

“He’s quick, strong and an exciting prospect and once he knows what lines to run and how to channel his energy within our structures he is going to be a very dangerous forward.”

Despite recent defeats while the side has been disrupted and disjointed by injuries, Benson was also upbeat about the progress of young forwards Michael Ward and Liam Gilchrist, both of whom had good games at Wrexham.

Ward’s two first-half tries from the second-row took the 21-year-old local lad’s tally to three in two games and proved to Benson that he is coming along nicely.

He said Gilchrist was also starting to make an impact.

“Both are improving and advancing,” he said, “and that’s what it’s all about. It’s all we can do as a group — strive to improve both individually and collectively.

“Michael Ward was on the fringes of the first team not very long ago, but now he’s a forerunner and he deserves a lot of credit.”

Benson and the club face decisions regarding the futures of on-loan forwards David Tootill, from Hunslet, and Lewis Reed, from Keighley, whose initial agreements run out by the end of the week.

“There are a few factors involved,” said the Roughyeds boss, “but both lads are keen to stay. We will be speaking to their clubs, reviewing our own situation and seeing what we can come up with.

“We’ve got our other loan man, Chris Holroyde, until after the Rochdale game on July 24 so we won’t be looking at that situation until later.”

Benson still has concerns about Shaun Robinson’s hand injury, but he believes Paul Noone, Paul Smith, Lucas Onyango, Chris Clarke and Alex Thompson could all be in contention to return to the side against Rochdale.

Utility back Chris Murphy, who hasn’t played since he damaged a knee at Whitehaven in pre-season, is also approaching full fitness.

Benson believes Roughyeds will quickly return to winning ways when he has a full squad from which to select.

He said: “Fans won’t be over the moon at our present situation, and understandably so, but even in our bad run, and with so many injuries, we have never been flogged and we have always remained competitive.

“That’s why we’ve got five bonus points which have kept us in touch with the top four.

“We are still only half way through the league season. There’a a lot of rugby to be played and in this division anything can happen.

“We’ve already shown that when most of our players are available we can beat the best in the division.