Kingstone Press Championships previews
Sunday August 3
Kingstone Press Championship
Batley Bulldogs v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear has challenged his players to finish as high as possible in the Kingstone Press Championship.
The Bulldogs are just four points above the relegation zone, but last week’s 28-18 win against Sheffield has boosted Kear’s confidence.
He said: “We needed a response after Featherstone and we certainly got it. We played very smart.
“Leigh are going to be very tough, but we know what we need to do over the course of the next five games.
“It isn’t just about staying in the division; it’s about attempting to secure a good position in the play-offs.”
Michael Platt could make his Leigh Centurions debut, but coach Paul Rowley will not make a final decision until later in the week.
Rowley said: “Putting 72 points past a team last week means those players involved are making it difficult to be ignored this week.
“Michael’s available immediately, but I’m not sure whether he’ll play or not this week.”
On Batley, Rowley added: “If we think they’re going to be the team that played us in Round One, we’d be very, very foolish.
“They’ve gradually moulded a strong team this year and we’re fully aware of the capabilities, but if we can emulate last week’s performance then we’ll be OK.”
Doncaster v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)
Doncaster player-coach Paul Cooke looks set to return to action after illness ruled him out of last week’s defeat against Keighley Cougars.
Cooke, who will also check on the fitness of Mike Kelly ahead of Sunday’s south Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Eagles, is expecting a big reaction from his squad.
Cooke said: “After last week’s disappointment, there shouldn’t be too much needed in the way of motivational speeches.
“It’s about us just being smart and doing the small things that win these kind of games. When there’s raw emotion involved, it’s the calmest and smartest team that wins the game.”
He added: “It’s a big game for us. We’ve got to be better than last week, and if we’re not then we’re not going to win any more games.
“We’ve got to come up with some answers this week.”
Richard Wilkinson (knee) is expected to miss out for Doncaster, while Sheffield coach Mark Aston is contemplating more changes after his side’s 28-18 defeat against Batley Bulldogs.
Aston said: “We have a group of people who aren’t delivering and won’t respect what we (the coaches) want to deliver.”
Featherstone Rovers v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay is still seeking major improvements from his squad – despite last week’s victory over Whitehaven.
Rovers remain in second place in the Kingstone Press Championship, two points ahead of Halifax.
Hay said: “We made it a bit harder than it needed to be (against Whitehaven). We weren’t at the races defensively in the first half, but we put a lot right at half time.
“However, we still didn’t control the game throughout. We know what we need to do.”
Barrow Raiders, whose relegation was confirmed last week, are playing for pride in their last five league fixtures.
Raiders player-coach Bobbie Goulding is considering a return to action this week, while Shane Toal may also be included.
Goulding said: “We can score tries from anywhere and graft all day, but we do not do it consistently for 80 minutes.”
Halifax v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison has no new injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Dewsbury Rams.
But Harrison admits he may still be tempted to freshen his side as they bid to keep the pressure on second-placed Featherstone Rovers.
Harrison said: “There may be a couple of changes. We’re playing a really good team in Dewsbury, and we need to be a little bit smarter and stronger defensively (than we were last week).”
Rams coach Glenn Morrison continues to battle against a mounting injury crisis.
Eight Dewsbury players were unavailable last week, and a further three – all props – could miss the trip to The Shay.
Makali Aizue (hand) is definitely ruled out, while Ewan Dowes (knee) and Stephen Nash (knee) face late fitness tests.
Morrison said: “We’re doing it tough at the moment – we finished last week’s game with only 11 blokes on the field.
“We just need to get people to take the field and work hard for each other; that’s all we can hope for. We know everyone in a Dewsbury shirt will do that.”
Rochdale Hornets v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot looks set to check on Ryan Millard and Mike Ratu ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture with North Wales Crusaders.
Millard (groin) and Ratu (knee) both missed last week’s heavy defeat against Leigh Centurions.
But Crusaders coach Anthony Murray expects Rochdale to be fired up – whoever makes Talbot’s final squad selection.
Murray said: “Ian’s players will certainly have a point to prove after last week.
“But even before we knew that result, we were totally anticipating a tough encounter. Rochdale have had some great wins this year, including a big win at our place.
“They absolutely whitewashed us last time, and there’s a little bit of pride at stake for us as well. I’m sure our players will be thinking about that.”
Stuart Reardon (knee) will miss out for Crusaders, but Murray is hopeful that both Jonny Walker and Mick Govin will be fit for action.
Swinton Lions v Keighley Cougars (3.00pm)
Swinton Lions coach John Duffy must cope without suspended duo Zach Johnson and Josh Barlow for Sunday’s visit of Keighley Cougars.
The Lions are looking to end a five-match losing streak, but Keighley coach Paul March is hoping to build on last week’s shock win over Doncaster.
March said: “It was all about the win, not the performance, and hopefully it can be the start of a little mini-league we’ve set ourselves.
“We’re looking to Swinton now, we’ll prepare for that and then there’s another few games after that.”
He added: “We came 10th last year and if we build on that then we get to where we want to be.
“Our main goal is making the play-offs, and we’re on target for that. We’ve got five games left and it’s in our hands.”
However, March suffered a bicep injury against Doncaster and will face a late fitness test. Andy Shickell (back) is also a doubt.
Workington Town v Whitehaven (3.00pm)
Workington Town coach Phil Veivers is aiming for seven in a row when his side host Cumbrian rivals Whitehaven in Sunday’s mouthwatering Kingstone Press Championship clash.
Veivers has overseen a revival in Town’s fortunes, steering them to six successive wins including last week’s 12-8 triumph over North Wales Crusaders.
But the former Salford coach is still far from happy, brandishing last week’s performance as “atrocious” as he prepares for this week’s “massive” derby.
Veivers said: “Town v Haven is a massive game for the fans of both Town and Haven.
“They are all ferocious (games) and have a lot of standing in the eyes of the supporters.”
Veivers has a number of fitness checks to make after last week’s clash, while Whitehaven coach Dave Woods remains in confident mood – despite his side dropping to 10th in the table.
Woods said: “We’ll work hard and we’ll be positive when we go there.
“They’re going great, they’ve won six straight now and they’re performing very, very well, but we’ve got nothing to fear.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gateshead Thunder v Hemel Stags (3.00pm)
Gateshead Thunder coach Stanley Gene insists his side must improve for Sunday’s visit of Hemel Stags – despite scoring 48 points last week.
Thunder emerged 48-28 winners over Oxford, but Gene said: “It was nice to get a good win, but there’s still room for improvement when we play Hemel.”
Stags coach Troy Perkins has been given a major boost with the news that London Broncos winger Kieran Dixon is available this week.
Perkins said: “I coached Kieran when he was just 12 years old, gave him his first-team debut at Hemel when he was 16, and he’s a massive addition to our squad this week.
“He’s buzzing to get back playing after being out for so long, and hopefully he can get match fit for the back end of the Super League season.”
On Gateshead, Perkins said: “We always knew this game was going to be a big game for both clubs, and the winner will go a long way to securing a play-off position.
“Gateshead are in good form. Jordan Meads is looking pretty good and Benn Hardcastle is a smart half-back.
“But we’re going up the day before and we’ll be in Newcastle from Saturday afternoon, so we’re giving ourselves every opportunity to perform.”
Gloucestershire All Golds v York City Knights (3.00pm)
Gloucestershire All Golds coach Steve McCormack could have up to five players returning to action in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One clash with York City Knights.
James Walter and Izaak Duffy are both set to be passed fit, while Jack Francis, Frankie Foster and Richard Jones could also be available.
Brad Brennan returns for York, but the visitors are still without Iain Morrison and Austin Bell.
Knights coach Gary Thornton said: “We know Gloucestershire are going to be a bit stronger than they have been in previous weeks, and Steve’s certainly put some structure in them.
“But it was good for us to have a week off last week. Training was exceptional on Tuesday and I’m optimistic we can go down there and get the three points.
“We’ve got a good group of players and a bit of competition for players.
“A few guys have already mentioned that they did us earlier this year, but we can’t really focus on that element of payback – we’ve got to focus on getting things right in our performance.”
Hunslet Hawks v Oxford (3.00pm)
Hunslet Hawks trio Liam Hood, Aston Wilson and James Coyle all look set to miss out against Oxford.
Hood (hamstring) and Coyle (calf) are both battling to overcome recent problems, while Wilson suffered a whiplash injury in a recent car crash.
But despite those absentees, Hawks coach Barry Eaton remains in confident mood.
He said: “We deserved the win last week, despite the final result. We were the better side (against Oldham), but we had some tough calls that went against us.
“There are obviously still areas we want to be better in this week, but overall it was a good performance.”
He added: “This will be the fourth time we’ve played Oxford this year, and they can be dangerous side.
“They’ve got a number of good players and they can play well on any given day if given space and time.
“But we’ve only had three poor performances this season – two against York and the loss at home to Gloucestershire.
“Three poor performances across the course of the season means you’re not far off, especially with the disruption of a number of weekends without a game.
“Hopefully we can build some momentum now ahead of the play-offs.”
Oxford coach Tony Benson is missing JJ Baird, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury.
London Skolars v Oldham (3.00pm)
London Skolars coach Joe Mbu is picking from a full-strength squad for Sunday’s visit of Oldham.
Mbu’s men are looking to bounce back from last week’s 19-18 defeat against South Wales Scorpions.
Mbu said: “It’s important that we perform well, because we didn’t perform as well as we should have done last week, and that’s been our season really. It’s been up and down. We’ve done well and then we haven’t.”
He added: “Oldham are always a difficult side, but we generally rise to the occasion against them.
“Hopefully the lads can draw from that experience and produce a good performance on Sunday.”
David Cookson (wrist), Kenny Hughes (ankle) and Dale Bloomfield (dead leg) are all doubts for Oldham.
However, coach Scott Naylor looks set to have Steven Roper available despite a recent elbow problem.
Naylor is looking for a repeat performance after watching his side beat Hunslet Hawks last week.
He said: “We are dangerous when we do the right things and work hard to get good field position.”