Northern Rail Cup Previews
Friday June 15
Northern Rail Cup
Sheffield Eagles v Hunslet Hawks (8.00pm)
Duane Straugheir is available for Sheffield Eagles as coach Mark Aston contemplates a number of changes following last week’s 40-12 defeat at Leigh Centurions.
Aston said: “Some people let themselves down. We had talked about staying in the systems, but the lads didn’t do that.”
Hunslet Hawks’ Richard Blakeway faces a head test on Thursday night after suffering slight concussion against Batley, but Hawks coach Barry Eaton has an otherwise unchanged squad from last week.
Eaton said: “Sheffield are right up there with the best teams outside Super League.
“They’re one of the best points-scorers in the division, and that’s going to test us because we’ve been lacking in confidence defensively. Our communication needs to be at its best to cope with what they’ll throw at us.”
Despite a poor run of form, Eaton has not given up hope of causing a major upset.
He said: “We’re hoping we can get a good start and maybe get in front ourselves – that would give us a boost.
“We’ve been playing well in patches, but if you’re loose against the quality of opposition we face for just 10 or 15 minutes it can really hurt you.”
Sunday June 17
Northern Rail Cup
Halifax v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison is in confident mood after his men secured a 30-16 win against Keighley Cougars last week.
Harrison said: “It’s been well-documented that we’re a pretty new bunch of players, but we’ve got better week on week and we’ve got some good football in the team. It bears well for the future.
“Halifax fans expect big things, I set really high standards, and we’ve got a core of players who’ve been there before and got the t-shirt. We want to win every game we can.”
Halifax forward Ross Divorty faces the demanding prospect of playing twice in 24 hours after being included in Wales’ squad to face France on Saturday.
Barrow Raiders’ coach Darren Holt has up to 12 players missing with injury, with dual-registration signings Ryan Duffy and Bradley Brennan being considered for their Barrow debuts at The Shay.
Holt said: “It’s probably the hardest game of our season. Halifax are a very good team and it’s a tough challenge, but that’s something for the squad to look forward to.
“We’ve a young squad and some of them don’t have the experience of playing at that level, but I’m sure they’ll put everything into it. The players won’t back down from any challenge, I know that, and that’s the way it should be.
“It’s the quarter-final, and whatever team that’s picked will still be a quality team.”
Leigh Centurions v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)
In-form Leigh Centurions have a fully fit squad to pick from as coach Paul Rowley attempts to continue his side’s defence of the Northern Rail Cup.
Rowley said: “Week by week we keep surprising people. Now we’ve reached the halfway point, people will be taking us seriously if they weren’t already. We’re a close unit.
“Maybe we’re surprised how much fun we’re having and how much we’re enjoying ourselves, but as a sports-person you’ve always got to be confident, so I wouldn’t say we’re surprised at how well we’re doing.”
He added: “The Northern Rail Cup final is our day in the sun. Everyone wants to have a crack at this competition, just like Super League clubs go after the Challenge Cup.
“We’re proud to be the team that’s won it more times than any other, and we’ve a fantastic relationship with Northern Rail. We enjoy the competition and players and fans alike all look forward to it.”
Batley Bulldogs’ Johnny Campbell faces a fitness test on a dead leg, with Batley coach John Kear rating Campbell’s chances as “highly doubtful”.
James Green is also missing with a knee injury, while Alex Walmsley remains sidelined following a hand operation.
Kear said: “Leigh’s playing roster is very good. They’ve got Ridyard, Duffy and young Brierley from Castleford in the halves, as well as Beswick and McNally at nine and one, so the spine of their team is very, very creative.
“They’ve also got tough forwards up front, and big guys with plenty of pace out wide. They’re a good all round team.”