Kingstone Press Championships previews
Friday August 8
Kingstone Press Championship
Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers (8.00pm)
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley insists his side is under no pressure as they attempt to secure top spot in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Victory for the Centurions would guarantee them a first-placed finish in the regular league season.
Rowley said: “We’re under no pressure. We’ve won the money for finishing first or second, so in that sense our objective has been accomplished – but now our goals as sportsmen are focused on silverware.
“We’re highly motivated and want to fulfill our ambitions.”
Rowley will pick from a fully fit squad ahead of Sunday’s clash with second-placed Featherstone Rovers.
Rowley added: “They’re very, very desperate. They’re under a lot of pressure to finish second, because the money’s so vital to everybody, so we know there’s a lot of desperation and pressure on Featherstone.”
Rovers forward Tim Spears is edging closer to a return to action, but Liam Kent and James Mendeika are expected to miss the trip to Leigh.
George Flanagan is also ruled out, but rested duo Andy Kain and Matty Dale are in contention for Friday’s fixture.
Saturday August 9
Kingstone Press Championship One
London Skolars v Oxford (2.00pm)
London Skolars coach Joe Mbu is urging his team to produce more concentration as they seek to avoid a third successive defeat.
Skolars lost 38-28 against Oldham last week, seven days after falling to a one-point defeat against South Wales Scorpions.
Mbu said: “We’ve been playing catch-up for most games. I complemented the team for their effort (against Oldham), but what let us down again was the defence.”
Oxford coach Tony Benson looks set to name an unchanged team from last week’s 48-6 reverse against Hunslet Hawks.
Benson said: “You don’t know what you’ll come up against when you face London, so all we can do is concentrate on ourselves.
“We’re making progress every week with our performances, and the great thing is that the bulk of our players are local guys.”
South Wales Scorpions v Gloucestershire All Golds (3.00pm)
Connor Farrer is expected to return to action as South Wales Scorpions hunt for their first back-to-back wins of 2014.
Scorpions coach Mike Grady will also check on Phil Carleton (ankle), but Dan Parry is definitely unavailable.
Grady said: “It would be nice if we can get another win and back up our last performance.
“But Gloucestershire will be tough opponents. Steve McCormack is a good bloke and a good coach, and he hasn’t half improved them while he’s been there.
“We’ll have to be at our best to get a result. We’ve had bad patches all season, but in our last match we put together a full 80 minutes. The lads know they can do it now, and hopefully we can put together another good effort on Sunday.”
Gloucestershire All Golds coach Steve McCormack could name an unchanged team as they continue to chase a top-five finish.
McCormack said: “We want to finish as strong as we can, and if we can get in the play-offs that’s a massive achievement for this club.”
On South Wales, McCormack added: “They’re a team with no pressure and they’re certainly better than their results suggest.”
Sunday August 10
Kingstone Press Championship
Barrow Raiders v Keighley Cougars (3.00pm)
Barrow Raiders coach Bobbie Goulding is aiming to avoid a tenth successive Kingstone Press Championship defeat when his side host Keighley Cougars on Sunday.
Raiders are already relegated, but Goulding said: “I’m looking for a performance for the fans.”
Keighley coach Paul March could be boosted by the return of James Craven, who missed last week’s 17-10 victory over Swinton Lions due to a chest infection.
March said: “The performance wasn’t great, but we got the three points and it puts us in right direction.
“We go into this weekend looking for another three points, and we’re not bothered how they come.”
On Barrow, he added: “They’re playing for pride at the minute, and that can provide dangerous opposition when they’re at home and playing for that.
“We’ve to be on our guard, but on the other hand if we get a good start then heads can drop.”
Dewsbury Rams v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison hopes to have Karl Pryce and Stephen Nash available to face Rochdale Hornets.
But the Rams are still battling against a mounting injury list, with 11 players expected to be unavailable again this weekend.
Morrison said: “Rochdale have got a good squad. They’ve probably missed a couple of results they could have had, but they’re still going to be very tough opposition.
“They’re playing some good footy and they’ll come with confidence after winning last week.
“We’ve got to make sure we do our best, because it’s a big game for us to try to take some pressure off in terms of the play-offs.”
Hornets coach Ian Talbot also has a series of injury concerns. Warren Thompson (broken ankle) and Ryan Millard (groin) are both ruled out, while Joe Greenwood and Dave Llewellyn face late fitness tests.
Talbot said: “We’ll be looking to use the full allocation of five dual registration players this week.”
On Dewsbury, he added: “Their early season form has got up them up there doing well.
“If they get a fully fit team and squad, they’ll be as good as anyone in the competition. They’re a bit hampered at the moment, but they’ve still got plenty of quality.”
Doncaster v Workington Town (3.00pm)
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke insists his side will face a huge challenge to avoid a third consecutive defeat when they host Workington Town on Sunday.
Cooke said: “They’re the best team in the competition at the minute, so things don’t get any easier for us.
“I’ve seen them over the last few weeks and they’re a different team. We’re going to have to watch plenty of players if we want to get the three points, but we’re a desperate team.
“We’ve lost twice in consecutive weeks and that’s first time that’s happened to us this year.
“I know the players are critical of themselves, but the time for that stops now.”
Richard Wilkinson is still sidelined for the hosts, while Workington could have Jarrad Stack available after he missed last week’s win over Whitehaven due to work commitments.
Town are aiming for an eighth consecutive Kingstone Press Championship victory under coach Phil Veivers.
North Wales Crusaders v Halifax (2.30pm)
North Wales Crusaders coach Anthony Murray remains optimistic of securing his first win in charge of the club.
Crusaders fell victim to another agonising defeat last week, losing 30-28 against Rochdale Hornets.
But Murray said: “The effort and commitment is there – we showed that with how we stick in and got something out of it.
“It’s just certain areas – mainly individual errors – that are costing us big time.”
Halifax coach Karl Harrison has no new injuries to contend with as he bids to keep the pressure on second-placed Featherstone Rovers.
Harrison said: “We’re still a million miles from where we need to be, but we’re certainly going in the right direction.
“We’re on a nice unbeaten streak and long may that last, but we’ve got another tricky game against North Wales.
“We’ve got to win all our games to finish where we need to finish.”
Simon Brown could come into contention as he bids to return following a broken thumb.
Sheffield Eagles v Swinton Lions (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston will give a late fitness test to Mitch Stringer (knee) before finalising his team to face Swinton Lions in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.
But one player who will definitely miss out is loan signing Will Hope, who has been recalled by Salford.
The Eagles are aiming for back-to-back wins – and a fourth victory in five games – after last week’s triumph over local rivals Doncaster.
Aston said: “We’ve been Jekyll and Hyde and we need to be consistent – that’s been the story of our season, but hopefully we get a bit more confidence out of the win”
Swinton coach John Duffy is still without Zach Johnson (suspended) as the Lions seek to end a six-match losing streak.
Lions lost 17-10 against Keighley Cougars last week, but Duffy believes his side is not far off.
He said: “At times we had panic plays, but with a little more concentration it could have been different.”
Whitehaven v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods could recall Samir Tahraoui for Sunday’s crunch clash with Batley Bulldogs.
Whitehaven are three points behind Batley in the Kingstone Press Championship table.
Victory for the hosts could pull them level with the Bulldogs in the race to avoid relegation, but Batley coach John Kear is boosted by having no new injury worries after last week’s defeat against Leigh Centurions.
Kear said: “There’s a lot riding on the outcome, but in order to achieve the outcome you’ve got to go through the processes. You can’t be anticipating consequences; you’ve got to make sure actions are effective.
“If your actions are effective, the consequences look after themselves. We’re aware of the situation – as I’m sure Whitehaven are – but you’ve still got to play as well as you can.”
He added: “Whitehaven were very unlucky last week. They’re a good team with some very good players and threats, but what we’re trying to do this week is look after ourselves and focus on what we’ve got to do.
“If we do that, everything else falls into place.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Hemel Stags v Hunslet Hawks (2.30pm)
Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins has been rocked by the news that prop James Howitt has suffered a broken hand during a game of touch rugby, ruling him out for at least three weeks – and possibly more.
Perkins said: “He’s one of our best props, so it’s a blow to lose him, but we’ve recently signed Joel Thomas from UTC in France and he’ll probably get a chance now.”
Keiron Dixon remains available for the Stags as Perkins aims for a first win in three attempts against Hunslet Hawks this year.
Perkins said: “We’ve a lot to work on, especially around the ruck, and we know Hunslet have got a big pack so it’s vital that we fix up our issues.
“We haven’t been in the contest that much in both games we’ve played them this year, and we’ll need to be a fair bit better than those other encounters.
“We need to pick up some more points to try to maintain our play-off position, with this game and then Oldham away both being very important.”
Michael Haley (ankle) and Liam Mackay (ribs) are both doubtful for Hunslet.
Hawks coach Barry Eaton said: “We’re in a good position; there’s four games left and we’re hoping to build some momentum ready for the play-offs.”
York City Knights v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)
York City Knights coach Gary Thornton is still without Iain Morrison ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One clash with Gateshead Thunder.
Nathan Freer is also missing for the league leaders, who are seeking an eighth consecutive win when they host Stanley Gene’s side.
Thornton said: “We’ve got three games left and we don’t want to slip up – we want to keep the momentum going (into the play-offs).”
Thunder coach Stanley Gene insists York’s quality should not faze his side.
Gene said: “There are some things to work on, but we have performed well against York in one half of each game we’ve played so far.
“We can travel with confidence that if we play to our potential for a full game, we can set down a marker for the play-offs.”