Kingstone Press Championships previews
Sunday July 27
Kingstone Press Championship
Dewsbury Rams v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison has warned his players not to underestimate bottom of the table Barrow Raiders.
The Cumbrians have won just three of their 20 Kingstone Press Championship fixtures this year.
But Morrison said: “At this time of the year, everyone’s playing for something.
“If you’re at the bottom of the table, players are playing for contracts. We know we’ve got to turn up with the right focus and be ready to go, because Barrow will throw everything at us.”
He added: “We’ve not been at our best over the last few weeks, but we’ll work hard to get there.
“If we can get a win and some confidence on Sunday, hopefully we can start to build some momentum.”
Stephen Nash could return for the Rams, but Morrison still has an extensive injury list – including Callan Beckett.
Defeat for Barrow could confirm their relegation to Kingstone Press Championship One.
Player-coach Bobbie Goulding is available again following the completion of a five-match ban.
And Goulding is refusing to be downbeat as he prepares for his side’s final six games of the season.
He said: “I want to win every game, and I’m not changing that.”
Keighley Cougars v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March believes a collective spirit can help his side escape the threat of relegation to Kingstone Press Championship One.
March said: “Togetherness and belief is the big thing.
“We’ve got the skills and the systems to break teams down, but we’ve just got to have that belief instead of switching off at times.”
March will check on Paul Handforth and Jode Sheriffe before naming his team, while Doncaster coach Paul Cooke has no new injury concerns after last week’s victory over Swinton Lions.
Cooke said: “We rested some players last week to freshen the joint up, and they’re back into contention this week.”
On Keighley, he added: “They were up around fifth and sixth not so long ago.
“They’ve won games people haven’t expected to, but since then they’ve lost games people wouldn’t have expected to.
“They find themselves out of the top nine places and that’s a precarious position with six games remaining. I know Marchy well and there’ll certainly be a bit of a smell of desperation around the place.”
North Wales Crusaders v Workington Town (2.30pm)
North Wales Crusaders coach Anthony Murray insists his side is making progress as they prepare to face in-form Workington Town.
Crusaders took a bonus point from their 22-18 defeat against Dewsbury Rams last week.
Murray said: “I’m happy with the defence – we’re getting a lot better in that aspect – but we need to leave ourselves with less defending to do.”
Five consecutive wins have propelled Town out of the relegation zone and level on points with both Sheffield Eagles and Batley Bulldogs.
Workington have been further boosted by securing a new deal with John Patrick, who returns to the club following a stint working in Iraq.
Patrick is unlikely to play on Sunday, but has confirmed he will travel with the squad.
Jarrad Stack and Karl Olstrum will both be checked after missing last week’s win over Rochdale Hornets.
Coach Phil Veivers said: “Eighth place in the league table means nothing. It isn’t the end of the season yet.
“It’s all about performance, and performances will take care of the table.”
On loan hooker Harry Files could come into contention for Crusaders.
Rochdale Hornets v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Jordan Case (calf), Shaun Robinson (knee) and Ryan Millard (groin) will all be given late fitness tests before Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot finalises his side to face Leigh Centurions.
But Hornets, who have twice been narrow losers against Leigh this year, are aiming to make a major improvement on last week’s display.
Talbot said: “We’re not reading anything into any previous results; it’s all about this week. We let ourselves down last week, but to be disappointed with a bonus point is testament to our performances over the last few weeks.”
He added: “We were below par throughout (against Workington Town). We coughed up way, way too much possession. We gifted them possession, and while we defended well it meant we were down on energy when we did have the ball. We need to be better this week.”
Centurions coach Paul Rowley is selecting from a fully fit squad.
Rowley said: “Rochdale have been within touching distance of us both times we played them, and they’re arguably one of the form teams in the league.
“They’ve got some good dual-registration players, and they’re a good team. League positions count for nothing in the Championship and we need to remember that on Sunday.”
Sheffield Eagles v Batley Bulldogs (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles second-row Matt Garside could come into contention after missing last week’s win over Barrow Raiders.
Garside was ruled out with a groin injury, but could be available to face Batley Bulldogs in Sunday’s crunch Kingstone Press Championship clash.
Eagles are just one place above Batley in the league table, and coach Mark Aston is now looking to secure his side’s top-eight status.
Aston said: “We’re quite capable of getting into the play-offs, and we need to finish the season on a high.”
Batley coach John Kear will check on Adam Gledhill (ankle) before the trip to south Yorkshire.
But whoever plays for the Bulldogs, Kear is set to demand a huge improvement after last week’s 52-6 defeat against Featherstone Rovers.
Kear said: “The most disturbing thing for me is that we looked as though we gave up. Some of the tries were absolutely pathetic.
“It wasn’t acceptable, and it was most un-Batley like from everybody concerned.
“The proof of the pudding will be in the performance (against Sheffield).”
Swinton Lions v Halifax (3.00pm)
Swinton Lions coach John Duffy insists he will not admit to relegation until it is a mathematical certainty.
The Lions are 11 points off safety with only six games remaining.
But Duffy said: “There are still points to be played for.
“Our focus is just week-to-week and improving ourselves, especially in defence.”
Halifax could be boosted by the return of Ryan Fieldhouse, who missed last week’s win over Whitehaven due to food poisoning.
Scott Murrell and Luke Ambler will be assessed after both suffered ankle injuries last week.
Halifax’s win kept them just two points behind second-placed Featherstone Rovers.
Coach Karl Harrison believes the race for a top-two finish is far from over.
Harrison said: “It’s a three-horse race to be truthful, and I think it’ll go down to the very last weekend of the competition. The Championship is a tough competition, and I’ve said that from day one.”
Halifax only conceded two tries against Whitehaven, both in the last six minutes of the match, but Harrison is still searching for perfection.
He said: “We need to be better defensively in the bigger games, certainly in terms of handling kicks.”
Whitehaven v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods has a fully fit squad ahead of Sunday’s visit of second-placed Featherstone Rovers.
Woods is now hoping to secure a first win against one of the Kingstone Press Championship elite teams.
He said: “Featherstone are in the top three, and we haven’t beaten a team in the top three this year.
“That’s something we need to work on, and we’ll talk about it as a group on Thursday night.”
He added: “These home games that we have left are very big for us. We certainly play a lot better at home.
“We need to keep working hard and stay positive and keep pushing towards the semis.”
Featherstone centre Greg Worthington faces a fitness test after failing to finish last week’s 52-6 win against Batley Bulldogs.
Rovers are only two points above Halifax and Doncaster, with six games remaining to secure a top-two finish.
Coach Andy Hay said: “We’ve got a lot to fix up still, but (last week) was a massive improvement in our energy levels and attitude.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gateshead Thunder v Oxford (3.00pm)
Former Super League stand-off Jamie Rooney is a major doubt for Gateshead Thunder as he battles to overcome an ankle problem.
Loan signing Benn Hardcastle is likely to keep his place should Rooney fail to recover, as Thunder continue their play-off push.
They closed in on the top five with a win over Gloucestershire All Golds last week, and victory over Oxford would see them move into the play-off positions.
Oxford coach Tony Benson hopes to have Sean Morris, Jimmy Rowlands and Michael Cratbree all available for Sunday’s clash.
Benson’s squad has been decimated by injuries, with local youngsters Ed Vickers and Sam Egerton being given their debuts in recent weeks.
But Valu Bentley (knee) is still struggling and looks like to miss out on the trip north.
Benson said: “We had nine games on the bounce, and that’s just too much for a club our size.”
Oldham v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)
Oldham coach Scott Naylor has at least seven injury worries ahead of Sunday’s top-three showdown with Hunslet Hawks.
Kenny Hughes, Jon Ford, Nathan Mason and Mo Agoro all missed out against York City Knights, while Dale Bloomfield, Ben Wood and Edwin Okanga-Ajwang are now also struggling to be fit.
Oldham were 54-12 losers against York City Knights last week.
Naylor said: “The damage is done now — all we can do is try to put things right against Hunslet.”
He added: “We’ve put that game behind us now. It’s gone. When we meet again on Thursday night it will be full steam ahead.”
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton will check on James Coyle (calf), but Thomas Coyle should be fit.
Eaton said: “We’ve got a run now of five consecutive games, which is great. We’ve played five games in nine weeks, so we’ll be glad to get some continuity and some momentum leading up to the play-offs.”
On Oldham, he added: “They’re unbeaten at home, and I think they’re the only team in Championship One with that record.
“That’s something they’ll be proud of, and we’ll have to be absolutely on fire to get a result.”
South Wales Scorpions v London Skolars (3.00pm)
Connor Farrer faces a late fitness test as he bids to prove his availability for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture at Cardiff Arms Park.
Shaun Owens could also make a quicker-than-expected return from broken ribs, but new South Wales Scorpions signing Lloyd O’Connor is unavailable to play against his former club.
Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “This will probably be one of the toughest game we play all season.
“London are the only team we’ve beat this year. They’ll be fuming about that, and they’ll come at us all fired up.
“They’re a big side, they come direct at you, and you’ve just got to stop that go forward in the middle if you’re to have any chance at all. They beat Hemel a couple of weeks ago, so they’re clearly a dangerous side.”
London Skolars could still make the play-offs, although it would require a remarkable run of form.
Skolars coach Joe Mbu said: “It was important for us to keep our hopes alive (by beating Hemel).
“The boys showed they can step up when it counts, and hopefully we can now build some momentum.”