Form teams clash in Championship

Liam Kay scored as Leigh beat Workington on Easter Monday
Liam Kay scored as Leigh beat Workington on Easter Monday

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

Sunday, April 12

Sheffield Eagles v Leigh Centurions (4.15)

Sheffield Eagles go into the game against league leaders Leigh Centurions in fine form according to coach Mark Aston. “We were outstanding on Monday against Featherstone,” he said. “It’s been tough with three games in eight days but we’re relieved to get the three victories and got better the more we played.

“I’ve been hard on the players in the last six to eight weeks because I’ve known that this next month has some real tough fixtures for us. Against Featherstone the switch was turned on, away we went and we hit a bit of form so going into the game at the weekend we’ve got a bit of form on us.

“We’re confident about playing the top team in the competition who have won all their games. They are the benchmark so it’s going to be a really enthralling game and a tough game because it’s going to be physical. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Paul Rowley, the Leigh Centurions coach, said: “It’s two form teams coming together. Everyone is looking forward to it, I know Sheffield are and so are we. Something’s got to give. We’ll take big numbers and hopefully Sheffield will bring their merry band as well and it should be a good game.”

Doncaster v Dewsbury Rams (2.00)

Doncaster are still chasing that elusive first win and Sunday will be another big test for Paul Cooke’s team. “There’s no getting away from it, we’re in a real rut and the only way to get out of that is to work hard, stick together and hopefully things will turn for us,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough against Dewsbury. They’ve run Bradford really close and gone to Batley and got a result. I like the way Dewsbury play, I like Morro (coach Glenn Morrison) and his group of players and it will be a tough ask for us. We’re going to need to be very, very good to get something out of the game. The plan for us is to improve and get better and hopefully get over the line.”

Dewsbury Rams had a fine win over Batley Bulldogs on Good Friday and then turned in a creditable performance against Bradford Bulls. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “It was good to go to Batley and get a win in the derby for the fans and for us. In the Bradford game I was proud of the boys for backing up but we will be disappointed we didn’t come away with more than we did. I’m reasonably happy; but we set high standards. I think we’re not quite where we need to be.”

On the challenge facing his team on Sunday, Morrison said: “Doncaster are a quality side who finished above us last year and their coach was coach of the year so they’re no easy beats. I think their record doesn’t do them justice because they’ve had some tough games.”

Batley Bulldogs v Featherstone Rovers (3.00)

Both Batley Bulldogs and Featherstone Rovers will be looking to get back to winning ways as neither club managed a win over the Easter period.

Batley coach John Kear said: “I was disappointed with the Easter results, we came away with nothing. More disappointing for me was how we played on Good Friday against Dewsbury. I felt we did ourselves a bit of justice on Easter Monday at London Broncos, especially in the second half when we came back from 18-0 down and at one stage looked as though we could sneak a point.

“Good Friday was doubly disappointing in that it was a local derby but it happened and we’ve got to move on and look forward to Featherstone on Sunday.”

“Andy Hay will be trying to get their mind set right and boost their self-belief and confidence just as I’ll be doing that with my players. We didn’t really suffer a knockback in confidence because Dewsbury are a team in and around us and are a very good team while London are a full-time outfit. We need to start getting into these tight games and come out the other side.”

Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay said: “It was a very tough Easter, we had two home games, prepared well for them and came up short in both games. In the Monday game we played a lot better but credit to Sheffield, they were very good. We struggled a little bit and we’ve got a big improvement to make going into Sunday at Batley.

“We played them in a pre-season and it’s always tough – Batley are a strong side who have threats all over the field. It’s going to be a tough game and there’s the added pressure of needing to get wins.”

Featherstone are likely to be without prop Paul Wood for several weeks due to a foot injury.

Bradford Bulls v London Broncos (3.00)

Andrew Henderson’s London Broncos side made it three victories in a row after winning both games over the Easter weekend. “I’m very pleased that we came through the Easter period with two good results and no major injury concerns,” he said.

“It’s been a pretty good last couple of weeks for us, we’ve been galvanised as a squad and come together really well. They’re starting to buy into what I’m trying to put in place. I think the boys have responded really, really well and I’ve been very pleased with their attitude and application in training and what they’ve been delivering out on the field. To come away with three wins on the bounce I think is fantastic not only for the London club but for this team as a whole.

“We go to Bradford this Sunday under no false illusions that t’s going to be a very, very tough ask. They’re in pretty good form and are a very good side so we’re going to have to make sure that both physically and mentally we’re good to go and hopefully we’ll give a good account of ourselves.”

Halifax v Workington Town (3.00)

Richard Marshall, the Halifax coach, felt his side were good in patches over Easter: “We played great in the first half against Bradford and played real well towards the end of the second half against Hunslet so we’ve not put an 80 minute performance together over the Easter programme,” he said.

“We went toe to toe against Bradford on Friday and were in a position to win the game but being full-time they had a little bit more than us in the second half when we ran out of juice. It was probably the opposite in the game against Hunslet. It would have been nice to have beaten Bradford but we’re pleased we got the two points against Hunslet.”

Looking ahead to Sunday he said: “Workington are a good team. I know they’re not in the upper echelons of the league but Phil Veivers is a good coach. He’ll have them fired up for this week and looking to get back on the winning ladder but we want to string back to back wins together. We put a lot into Monday, we’re a few bodies down but we’ve got a good enough squad to come through.”

Jacob Fairbank (ankle), Steve Tyrer (medial ligament strain) and Ben Johnson (head injury), join Miles Greenwood and Tommy Saxton on the injury list.

Phil Veivers, the Workington Town coach, was pleased with his side’s efforts over the weekend: “We set out to win the Whitehaven game – which was massive for us. We went to Leigh to compete and were a little bit off the pace and under done in the sense that we lacked energy.

“Halifax are a very tough side, I’ve watched three of their games and their pack is pretty strong. Everything revolves around Scotty Murrell so we’re going to have to look after him.

“We’ve had seven games in about three weeks and it’s been pretty tough for us. I’m just glad to come out the other side with not many injury worries.”

Hunslet Hawks v Whitehaven (3.00)

Despite losses to Leigh Centurions and Halifax over the Easter period, Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton remains positive: “It was disappointing results-wise but very, very pleasing performance-wise,” he said. “We gave Leigh a run for their money on Friday, they knew they had been in a game. On Monday we were struggling, having lost a few players through injury. We were 24-20 up with seven minutes to go and just couldn’t hang on. But I’m very, very proud of the boys’ efforts over Easter.

“Whitehaven are similar to us, they’ve been playing some real good stuff from what I’ve seen and just maybe not been stringing the results together they would like. They had a great result on Monday, which will give them some confidence. It’s going to be a tight game and a close one.”

James Coyle, the Whitehaven coach was desperately unhappy with his side’s 40-0 defeat to Workington Town on Good Friday: “It was disappointing the lads just didn’t turn up,” he said. “It’s unacceptable really considering what the game means to the fans and all the staff at the club.

“We had a bit of a stern word on Sunday morning. It’s something we should put behind us but we can’t forget it. If you don’t turn up and give 100 per cent then anybody in this league will make you look stupid.

“Hunslet are really tough prospect, they’re going well. I know a bit about Baz (coach Barry Eaton) and the way he thinks about the game. He’s involved at Leeds so he’s got a lot of good ideas and plays the game the right way, he’s a good coach. They’ve got some quality players in there, so they’re going to be a tough nut to crack.”