A look ahead to this weekend’s games in the Kingstone Press Championship where League Leaders Shield winners Leigh take on their ground-sharing neighbours Swinton.
Elsewhere, the race to finish second is hotting up and the game between Halifax and Featherstone could decide who takes the runners-up prize money.
Sunday August 17
Kingstone Press Championship
Swinton Lions v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Josh Barlow returns from suspension as Swinton Lions look to cause one of the shocks of the season in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.
The Lions have managed just five league wins this year, but coach John Duffy is in hopeful mood after last week’s 31-30 defeat against Sheffield Eagles.
Duffy said: “There was a lot of effort from our lads.”
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley is picking from a full-strength squad and insists his side will not ease off despite already clinching the League Leaders’ Shield.
Rowley said: “Whether it be a friendly, league or cup fixture, we’re sportsmen and we prepare to win every game.
“We won’t be fielding any weakened teams between now and the play-offs. We’ll be going strong every week.”
On Swinton, he added: “They’re playing for contracts, and the influence from the Warrington lads last week was quite significant.
“I’ve seen them using a lot of our shapes and structures; they’re certainly a good attacking side and they give you plenty to think about.”
Sheffield Eagles v Whitehaven (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston wants his side to finish the year with a flourish as they attempt to book a spot in the Kingstone Press Championship play-offs.
Aston said: “We know we have let ourselves down a bit this year.”
But Whitehaven coach Dave Woods is hopeful of causing more pain for Sheffield after his side’s 28-13 victory over Batley Bulldogs last week.
Tenth-placed Whitehaven remain in the relegation zone, but are only three points behind seventh-placed Keighley Cougars.
Woods said: “We’ve got to be confident going to Sheffield.
“We’ve been doing alright, and now it’s just about our mental strength.
“We can’t do anymore with plays and things like that; it’s all about how we turn up, what we do, and hopefully we can get amongst them and really make them have to earn points.
“Sheffield’s home record hasn’t been as good as they’d expect, but if we allow them to play then it doesn’t matter, they’ll still do a job.
“We’ve got to not allow them to play.”
Woods has been dealt a major blow with the news Craig Calvert is likely to miss out due to a foot injury.
Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear must cope without Lee Paterson for the rest of the regular Kingstone Press Championship campaign.
Paterson, who started in last week’s 28-13 defeat against Whitehaven, has been banned for five games after being found guilty of using homophobic abuse in a recent game against Leigh.
Ben Black is also sidelined for the Bulldogs, while Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison expects to have 11 players unavailable for Sunday’s clash.
Morrison said: “We’ll still have the same 19 to choose from that we did last week; there’s nobody due back in time for Sunday.”
He added: “Batley need to try to get as many points on the table as they can and they’ll want to beat us. Every local derby is like that, and we’re expecting them to come firing at us.
“All sorts of things go out of the window in derbies. It’s a big emotional day, and I expect it to be no different this time around.
“We played some good footy last week, but there are still a lot of errors in us.
“I was happy with the win and the effort though, and hopefully we can produce something even better this week.”
Halifax v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison insists his side are ready for a match some are dubbing the “£250,000 showdown”.
Sunday’s clash with Featherstone Rovers could have a huge impact on deciding who finishes second in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Halifax are currently one point ahead of Featherstone with three games remaining.
And with prize money of £450,000 for the team who finishes second, compared to £200,000 for the team finishing third, Sunday’s fixture has enormous implications.
Harrison said: “We just need to make sure we get as many healthy troops as we can, prepare really well, do what we need to do and then the result will take care of itself.
“We’ve been preparing for this game for a few weeks now, because we know the importance of this fixture.
“We need to be at our best to even get anywhere near Featherstone, but I can assure you that we will be ready.”
Featherstone look set to travel without Tim Spears, Jamie Cording, George Flanagan, James Mendeika and Liam Kent.
Rovers lost their last game, a 48-18 defeat against Leigh Centurions, but coach Andy Hay is fully focused on Sunday’s challenge.
Hay said: “Halifax is the big one. It’s a must-win game, and we need to get the three points.”
Keighley Cougars v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March says relegated North Wales Crusaders will be “dangerous” opponents in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.
March said: “They’ve been confirmed as relegated, so they’ll be playing for pride and have no pressure on them, and when you’re playing like that you can be a dangerous team.
“We’ve got to be on our guard against them, but hopefully we can get the points. It’s all about us this week and how we approach the game.”
March has been dealt a major blow with the news that Brendan Rawlins will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand.
Olly Pursglove, Ben Sagar and Lewis Graham are all in contention to face Crusaders, with March setting his sights on a strong finish to the regular season.
He said: “We want to get into the play-offs and hopefully achieve something.
“The situation that we’re in now means that if we play to our ability and get three points on Sunday, we’re not then looking over our shoulders but looking forward instead.
“By my reckoning I think if win every game from now, we can get as high as fifth. We’ve a lot to play for.”
Crusaders coach Anthony Murray is still searching for his first win in charge of the club.
Rochdale Hornets v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot must overcome a mounting injury list if his side are to secure a shock victory in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.
Hornets, whose relegation has already been confirmed, are without Ryan King, Chris Baines, John Cookson, Lewis Sheridan, Ryan Millard and Warren Thompson.
Talbot said: “The injuries have hit us hard at the back end of the season, and we’re backing up on Wednesday away at Sheffield, so we’ve got a big challenge in front of us.
“When we went to Doncaster early in the season Paul Cooke was very influential, so we’ll be looking for an improved performance. We like playing at home and we’ve caused one or two upsets, and hopefully we can cause another.”
Jordan Case could come into contention for the hosts, while Doncaster have been dealt their own blows with the news that Kyle Kesik (broken hand) and Mike Kelly (foot) look like missing the rest of the season.
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke said: “The news about Kyle and Mike is not ideal, but we’ve had to deal with injuries all year.”
He added: “We desperately need to win this game. With the two teams directly above us (Featherstone Rovers and Halifax) playing each other, it gives us the chance to narrow the gap on one of them.
“But Rochdale are carefree, and they’re not a bad side at all. They troubled us at our place, and we’ll have to be on our guard.”
Workington Town v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Workington Town coach Phil Veivers insists he has every faith in his players’ ability to secure three points against Barrow Raiders.
Town lost 36-10 against Doncaster last week, ending a seven-match winning streak in disappointing fashion.
But Veivers said: “I’m confident we will put in a performance this weekend.” Town are without Alex Szostak (knee) and Lewis Tierney (knee), but will still start as favourites against a Barrow team that has lost 17 out of 19 fixtures under current coach Bobbie Goulding.
Raiders, who have lost their last 10 fixtures, have a doubt over Joe Bullock (leg).
Barrow are certain to finish bottom of the Kingstone Press Championship, but Goulding will be keen to secure a victory in what could be one of his final games in charge of the club. Last week he rejected a contract offer for 2015.