Championship heavyweights slug it out again

Leigh's Martin Aspinwall
Leigh's Martin Aspinwall

A look ahead to this weekend’s action in the Kingstone Press Championship including Leigh’s trip to Featherstone.

Kingstone Press Championship

Featherstone Rovers v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers coach John Bastian admits his side will be motivated by last week’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup defeat against Leigh Centurions as the two sides prepare for their second meeting in eight days.

Bastian said: “Without a doubt there’ll be some guys wanting to avenge last week. The boys are very competitive and they want to beat the top teams.

“Leigh are right up there – they’re unbeaten this year – and we realise we’ve got to be at our best on Sunday, but it’s a challenge we’re looking forward to.

“Some decision-making certainly cost us last week. You get fewer opportunities against the better teams, so when you don’t take them you pay a price.

“There’s always work to do, but I’m really pleased with how we’re progressing as a team this year.”

Matty Dale faces up to 10 weeks on the sidelines with a broken hand, while Andy Bostock (ankle) faces a late fitness test to determine his availability. Steve Crossley could return for Rovers.

Jamie Acton, Martin Aspinwall and Jake Emmitt are all available for Leigh, leaving coach Paul Rowley in an upbeat mood ahead of Sunday’s showdown.

Rowley said: “In most games we show some real moments of magic, and then we show some moments of grit and determination. We’ve got quite a few strings to our bow. We’re not one-dimensional. We’ve got a plan for every occasion.

“We’ll just keep working hard and enjoying it. We’re achieving quietly at the minute.

“We’re not falling in love with ourselves. We recognise how difficult our opposition is every week, and we’re just fighting hard to get everything out of every game we can.”

Batley Bulldogs v Whitehaven (2.00pm)

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear has promised his side will do everything possible to bounce back from their 43-10 defeat against Dewsbury Rams.

Kear said: “It won’t be pretty, but it will be back to basics; it will be elbows and knees and real muck and nettles stuff.”

But Whitehaven coach Dave Woods is equally determined to recover some form after watching his side lose 34-0 against North Wales Crusaders last week.

Woods said: “We’re either very, very good or very, very bad. We need to find some consistency.”

He added: “Batley’s a very tough place to get a result. They’re a good side, so we need to make sure we go there and work hard.”

Tom Carr (ankle) faces a late fitness test along with Larsen Marabe (knee), while Woods expects new signing Brett Seymour to get better with time.

He said: “Brett obviously needed the run last week, but there were a couple of things there that showed what he can do.”

North Wales Crusaders v Sheffield Eagles (2.30pm)

North Wales Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths hopes that last week’s victory over Whitehaven could spark an upturn in his side’s form.

Griffiths said: “If we play in that manner, and with that application, maybe we can go on a run.

“It’s very difficult to nil a team in rugby league, so that in itself is a great achievement because Whitehaven are a very good team.

“The real Crusaders put their hands up last week, and they’ll have to do the same again this week.”

Jamie Dallimore and Andy Moulsdale face late fitness tests, but Griffiths is hopeful of having the same 17 available for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Sheffield Eagles.

Griffiths added: “We go into this with some momentum and hopefully we can catch Sheffield on the hop, but we know how good they are.

“Mark Aston is a very astute coach and he’ll have them fired up, there’s no doubt about that.”

Mitchell Stringer could return for Sheffield, but Tom Aston (broken nose) is ruled out.

Doncaster v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)

Doncaster coach Paul Cooke insists Barrow Raiders are dangerous opponents ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.

The Raiders are currently bottom of the table, having won only one of their eight league fixtures, but Cooke remains wary.

He said: “The longer they go on losing, the closer they are to that win.

“Since Bobbie (Goulding) has taken over they’ve got close, particularly in the last two games against Halifax and Featherstone, and while they’re not winning games they’re making progress. They were very unfortunate not to have taken anything from the Halifax game.

“They’re a dangerous team; they’re one of only two teams to go to Sheffield and get a victory.”

Cooke insists Doncaster are “not in too bad a shape” after last week’s defeat against Warrington Wolves, but confirmed that no injured players will return on Sunday.

Cooke said: “We’ll get a few back in the next fortnight or so. We’re not too badly off when you consider we’re going into round nine, we’ve points on the board and we’re due some to get some good players back.”

Ian Mort (hamstring) remains sidelined for the Raiders, but coach Bobbie Goulding could be boosted the availability of Dan Toal and Nathan Mossop for Sunday’s trip to south Yorkshire.

Keighley Cougars v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)

Keighley Cougars coach Paul March has warned his players to prepare for a “make or break” month that will define the Cougars’ season.

Keighley’s match against Dewsbury Rams is the start of a run of five games – four of which are at Cougar Park – that March believes will have a huge impact on his side’s chances of making the play-offs.

March said: “These next few games will make or break our year. We’re up against teams around us in the league table and they’ll be high-pressure games.”

James Haley returns for the Cougars in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Dewsbury.

Ash Lindsay and James Feather are both closing in on a return to action, but Elliott Cosgrove faces eight weeks on the sidelines with an eye injury.

March said: “Dewsbury have signed some quality, experienced players. They’ve started the season well, and they’re a bit like us with being a little bit inconsistent, but I’m sure Glenn Morrison will have them ready for this week’s match.”

Fifth-placed Dewsbury are aiming to follow up their 43-10 victory over Batley Bulldogs with a sixth win in nine league fixtures this year.

Morrison said: “We need to be able to get up for every game we play, no matter where they (the opposition) are in the table.”

Rochdale Hornets v Swinton Lions (3.00pm)

In-form Rochdale Hornets prepare for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Swinton Lions buoyed by winning three of their last four league fixtures.

Ian Talbot’s side has beaten Batley Bulldogs, Whitehaven and North Wales Crusaders in that period.

Talbot said: “The last game against North Wales was very satisfying for us given the rivalry that’s built up.

“We are finding our feet at this level, but it’s going to get tougher from here. Maybe a few teams have underestimated us up to now, but I can’t see that happening now.

We’ve a few results that have turned heads.”

He added: “Swinton will be looking at this as a must-win game. If we get the win it puts us four points above them, so it’s a big game for both teams.”

Gareth Langley will be assessed before Sunday’s match after what was initially thought to be a rib injury was discovered to be a bruised lung.

Alex Trumper (knee) and Dave Llewellyn (ankle) will not be ready for Sunday, but John Cookson could feature.

Swinton coach Ian Watson looks set to be boosted by the return of Josh Barlow, but Mick Nanyn and Danny Halliwell are both ruled out.

The Lions are also without Zach Johsnon, who was given a one-match suspension by the RFL’s disciplinary panel after being found guilty of punching in the Lions’ recent match against Leigh Centurions, but former Hunslet centre Steve Lewis could come into contention.

Workington Town v Halifax (3.00pm)

Workington Town coach Phil Veivers will check on Peter Lupton (hamstring), Karl Olstrum (hip), Jarrad Stack (hamstring) and Kayle Connor (thigh) before deciding his team to face Halifax in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.

Veivers said: “The weekend off came at a good time with all those injuries.”

Town are currently in tenth place in the Kingstone Press Championship, having lost their last four league fixtures.

But they are only one point behind eighth-placed Keighley Cougars and would be likely to climb the table if they secure a win on Sunday.

Fourth-placed Halifax are six points adrift of leaders Leigh Centurions, but have won four of their last five league matches.

Adam Robinson remains sidelined, but coach Karl Harrison is hopeful the former Dewsbury player will be able to return to action later this month.

Harrison must make further changes to his team after Tony Tonks received a one-match ban for punching.