Kingstone Press Championships Grand Final previews
Sunday September 29
Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final
Sheffield Eagles v Batley Bulldogs (4.30pm, Premier Sports)
Liam Higgins (knee) is a major doubt for Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston as the club prepares for its third successive Kingstone Press Championship Grand Final.
The Eagles will start as favourites on Sunday, but Aston is refusing to write off a Batley Bulldogs team coached by his former mentor John Kear.
Kear was in charge of Sheffield when they won the Challenge Cup in 1998 and Aston claimed the Lance Todd Trophy.
Aston said: “Their result (last week against Featherstone) shows the character of that group of people, and the desire and will they have.
“They were losing 18-0, so to pull that back against Featherstone at their place is a pretty remarkable effort.
“I’m really pleased for John and for Batley – they’ve worked hard for the last so many years without a lot of credit.”
Bulldogs coach Kear must select a squad without Jacob Fairbank, who suffered a shoulder injury last week.
But Anthony Mullally and Josh Johnson will both be available for Batley.
Kear said: “We have a thing about ‘Bulldog spirit’ and we showed that last week.”
He added: “Facing Sheffield, you couldn’t have written it better for me. I’m really looking forward to it.
“We’ll turn up and have a go. All the lads will put their hand up and work hard; they’re a good group of people.”
Kingstone Press Championship One Play-Off Final
Rochdale Hornets v Oldham (2.00pm, Premier Sports)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot insist it would be a ‘fairytale’ if his side win on Sunday and secure promotion to the Kingstone Press Championship.
Talbot said: “We've been through a lot of adversity this season. There were times when I was questioning what I was doing, and quite a lot of this squad were playing amateur rugby last season.
“They've got better and better as the season's gone on, and wouldn't it be a fairytale if Rochdale were to get promoted?”
Hornets will end a 22-year wait for a major final appearance when they face their local rivals Oldham in Sunday’s showdown.
Talbot, who has a fully fit squad to select from, added: “Our last two games have been bruising encounters where we’ve come up with last-minute plays to win.
“That bodes well for us, because we know if we have another tight game we can come out on top.
“The lads have already shown they’ve got the determination. Play-off games are renowned for being tight affairs and our boys have been through that a couple of times already.”
Oldham coach Scott Naylor could name an unchanged team from the side that hammered London Skolars last week.
Naylor said: “We won’t be killing ourselves in training this week. The emphasis will be on staying calm and relaxed. There will be no break in routine.
“We don’t need to do anything differently. We’re getting ready for a game of rugby, just like we have done all season.
“Come Sunday we’ll be relaxed, but we’ll also be ready. That’s the key.”