Kingstone Press Championship previews
Saturday April 13
Kingstone Press Championship One
Oxford v South Wales Scorpions (2.30pm)
Brett Robinson (hamstring), Lucas Onyango (knee) and JJ Baird (back) are all missing for Oxford ahead of their historic first home league match.
Coach Tony Benson said: “There’s been a lot of interest in and around the town, and we’re excited about playing at our own ground.
“It’s all exciting and new at this stage – we don’t feel any pressure just yet.
“But having said that, the Scorpions are pretty strong and Dave Clark does a good job them, so they’re always going to be formidable opponents.”
Jack Pring, Rhodri Lloyd and James Tutuila are all available for South Wales Scorpions.
Clark said: “Oxford have had a good start to the season; they beat Gloucestershire All Golds and did OK against Halifax last week as well.
“They’ve got some attacking ability and they’ll ask a lot of questions of us defensively.
“However, we’re moving forward all the time and, despite defeats in the last couple of weeks, the confidence is growing in the squad and we’re getting better week by week.”
Sunday April 14
Kingstone Press Championship
Batley Bulldogs v Whitehaven (2.00pm)
Mark Applegarth (arm) and George Flanagan (ankle) are Batley Bulldogs’ only absentees after Danny Maun and Gareth Moore both made successful comebacks in last week’s win over Gateshead Thunder.
Dual-registered Anthony Mullaly and Jacob Fairbank will further boost the Bulldogs’ squad for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture with Whitehaven.
Coach John Kear said: “I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of Whitehaven. I saw them lose 32-0 against Hunslet, and then saw them comprehensively beat Sheffield.
“They’re a very dangerous team and we’ve got to make sure we work very, very hard to counter any threat they’ve got.”
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods was disappointed with his side’s mentality during their win over London Skolars.
Woods said: “We’ve really got to be switched on this week.
“Batley know how to play their pitch and they’ve a bit of an advantage because they’re used to it, but you’ve still got to do all the little things right.”
Martyn Wilson is Whitehaven’s only concern, having suffered a badly cut lip last week.
Halifax v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison is without prop Adam Robinson (shoulder) and Mick Nanyn (knee) for Sunday’s visit of Leigh Centurions
Harrison’s men could open a big gap at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship table with victories in their next two fixtures.
Leigh are currently third in the table, before Halifax face fourth-placed Featherstone Rovers in a fortnight’s time.
Harrison said: “Other teams have got a game in hand on us, so it’s only a two-point lead really.
“We know the next two games will be extremely tough, but we can absolutely go into those games confident.”
Centurions coach Paul Rowley, whose only injury absentee is Martin Aspinwall, insists he is not looking at the league table just yet.
Rowley said: “We don’t look too closely at it, especially with the bonus point rule that means gaps be closed or opened quite easily.
“We’re going to play what we consider to be the form team of the Championship, and we understand where we need to be on Sunday.
“They’ve spent a lot of money, and their squad is big and strong. When you can afford to bring in Luke Adamson during the season, that says a lot.”
Sheffield Eagles v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Eagles coach Mark Aston is without Ben Gledhill for a match Sheffield must win in order to maintain the pressure on the top four in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Danny Jones, Nathan Mossop and Andy Dawson are all set to return to Barrow Raiders’ squad for the trip to South Yorkshire.
Liam Finch also looks likely to play, despite suffering a finger injury last week.
Raiders coach Darren Holt said: “Sheffield’s obviously a very tough place to go, but what I usually find with these players is that when they’ve nothing to lose and there are no expectations, they have a good go.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game for a couple of weeks now.”
He added: “We seem to be having a yo-yo season, where we have a good performance one week but then when we try to build on it we produce something disappointing. We need to rectify that.”
Swinton Lions v Hunslet Hawks
Jack Cooper could make his Swinton debut after signing from Wynnum Manly Seagulls.
Cooper, the younger brother of Warrington forward Mike, will provide cover for James Laithwaite (broken ankle).
The Lions are also set to be without Danny Bridge for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture with Hunslet Hawks.
Swinton coach Gary Chambers said: “We need to build a bit of consistency now, and that could make all the difference when the league is close like this. A quick fix won’t get us where we need to be.”
Hawks coach Barry Eaton insists his side will not be targeting specific fixtures as they search for a fourth win of the league campaign.
Eaton said: “Every game is just as important as another. We’ve had a look at the table, but we just concentrate on performance. We’re only nine games in, so there’s still a long way to go.”
Workington Town v Keighley Cougars (3.00pm)
Brett Phillips is expected to shake off a knee injury to take his place in Workington Town’s line-up for the visit of in-form Keighley Cougars in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.
The Cougars have won their last four fixtures, having started the season with six successive defeats.
Workington coach Gary Charlton said: “Every game is tough in this league and everybody understands that, but we’ve home advantage so we’ll be looking for all three points.
“You want those points in home games against teams around you because I think the league table will be tight all season.”
Player-coach Paul March (ribs), Ryan Smith (ribs) and Andy Shickell (hamstring) will all be missing for the Cougars.
March said: “Workington have got a lot of Super League experience in their ranks, but we’re coming off the back of three wins in the Championship and a Tetley’s Challenge Cup win as well. We want to continue that form on Sunday.”
York City Knights v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Simon Brown returns for York City Knights after a recent bout of illness, but coach Gary Thornton remains without Sam Scott.
With only four points separating nine teams in the Kingstone Press Championship, Thornton admits Sunday’s game is of particular importance.
Thornton said: “I thought five teams would split away from everyone else – which they have – and my aim was to get into that set of teams fighting for sixth, seventh and eighth place.
“Games against other teams in that category are crucial, especially when you’re at home. If we want a realistic chance of getting in the play-offs, we need to pick up points in games like this.”
Ryan Wright (ankle) is Dewsbury’s only injury absentee as Rams coach Glenn Morrison prepares for battle.
Morrison said: “York are a good side and they’ve got a good record at home.
“If you want to make the top eight then these are the games you’ve got to try to win, but they’ll be in the same boat and targeting this game as well. It’ll be very tough.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gloucestershire All Golds v Oldham (3.00pm)
Player-coach Brad Hepi is Gloucestershire All Golds only absentee after suffering a dislocated shoulder at Skirlaugh last week.
Hepi said: “It was the first time I’ve ever tackled low in my life, and that’s what happened.”
Hepi will now focus his attention on getting the best out of his squad in only their second Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.
He said: “Our best form to date has been away from home - we’ve won twice on the road – and we need to really start performing at home.
“If clubs win the majority of their home games, they’ll be there or thereabouts when it matters.”
Sam Gee (shin) and Liam Gilchrist (calf) are both doubts for Oldham.
And while the Roughyeds will not have to deal with Brad Hepi’s playing skills on Sunday, Oldham coach Scott Naylor paid tribute to Hepi’s recent return to playing.
Naylor said: “Good luck to him. I couldn’t play against my daughters these days, never mind against a Championship One team.”
Hemel Stags v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)
Hemel coach Troy Perkins has warned his players of the need for concentration ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture with Gateshead.
The Stags beat London Skolars in their first semi-professional league game a fortnight ago.
But Perkins said: “We’ve got to keep our feet firmly on the ground and make sure we’re focused on the job ahead.
“One game doesn’t make a season, and I’ve kept reminding the boys about that. Our focus is to do well in the league and keep our intensity week after week.”
Perkins will have a fully fit squad for Sunday’s match, while Gateshead coach Kevin Neighbour is likely to make changes after last week’s 72-0 reverse against Batley in the Tetley’s Challenge Cup.
Neighbour said: “I’ve sat down and had a talk with some of the players, because our attitude was off against Batley.”
He added: “I’ve had chance to watch Hemel a couple of times, so we know where their strengths and weaknesses lie.”
North Wales Crusaders v London Skolars (2.30pm)
North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths has a fully fit squad as he attempts to maintain the club’s 100 per cent record in 2013.
But Griffiths insists his players will not underestimate any opposition they face – including London.
Griffiths said: “Any sport has got the habit of biting you on the backside when you think you’re going well. The more you win, the closer you are to your next defeat – but it’s nice to be in the position we’re in.
“To be unbeaten at this stage is a massive boost for us and has really lifted our confidence.”
Skolars coach Joe Mbu has no new injury concerns for Sunday’s trip to Wrexham.
Mbu said: “The last time we went there they showed how tough they are, and they’ve recruited well again this year.
“The main thing for us is getting that consistency in our performance. We don’t want to peak one week and then be down the next week.”