Kingstone Press Championship: Round 23 previews

Leigh's Fuifui Moimoi. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Leigh's Fuifui Moimoi. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography

A look ahead to this weekend’s games in the Championship including Leigh v Doncaster.

Saturday July 25

Featherstone Rovers v Whitehaven (6.00)

Featherstone Rovers coach Jon Sharp saw a massive improvement from his side in their 38-28 defeat at Sheffield Eagles. “I was really pleased with some of the things we did against Leigh, particularly in the first half hour, we looked a bit more organised and thought we executed well,” he said. “There was a little bit of a tougher mentality from us as well.

“We went down 22-10 and the previous week we crumbled but last week we fought back and brought it right down to the wire. I was encouraged with the attitude of the team and the resilience I’d asked for the week before.

Looking ahead to the game against Whitehaven he said: “I think we need to start to build momentum and build on last week’s performance. We’ve improved from one week to the next and need to keep that improvement going. Players are playing for places as well. There’s a battle on within the club for places anyway and I’m encouraging competition and trying to create it by the signing of Steve Snitch and making a statement that we want to try and improve this team.”

Whitehaven have been struggling to find some form according to coach James Coyle: “The last two weeks we’ve really fallen away from where we’ve been at. Whether it’s confidence after the Workington game or a bit of tiredness and a few bodies breaking down a little bit at this part of the season.

“Dewsbury are one of the form teams and they played pretty well, they played quick and we couldn’t control the ruck.

“I’ll be looking at performance more than the result this week. I think we’ve got to get some momentum back going into the Championship Shield.”

Sunday July 26

Dewsbury Rams v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)

Dewsbury Rams will be playing their third game in seven days on Sunday. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “It hasn’t been ideal. We went up to Cumbria and then down to Leigh and then we’re back for a local derby on Sunday which isn’t the best. It’s the third time we’ve had to do it this year, so it’s a tough period.

“At the start of the year we said we wanted to finish in the top six and it’s in our hands. If we get a win on Sunday we’ll finish there. We just want to try and do our best and if we play like we know we can we’re likely to come away with a result.”

Following Batley Bulldogs’ victory over Hunslet Hawks last week coach John Kear said: “I honestly didn’t think we played as well as we did against Halifax but I wasn’t bothered how we played, we just needed the two points in that game.”

Kear doesn’t think the short turnaround will affect Dewsbury Rams this week. “Glenn Morrison is a smart enough guy to look after that and manage his group,” he said. “We all get a week off after this and I’m sure that’s been factored in as well. I don’t think that will play any part in it, it will be a matter of who plays best on the day.”

Winger Wayne Reittie is likely to be out with a hamstring tear but another wing, Chris Ulugla could return from a shoulder injury.

Halifax v Bradford Bulls (3.00)

Halifax go into the game against Bradford Bulls full of confidence after another good win. Coach Richard Marshall said: “We won in good style last week against Doncaster and the most pleasing thing was that we didn’t concede a point that tells you your defence is in order at this time of the year, which is important.

“If results go our way and we do our business, we could finish third but we’re more than happy that we’ve finished in the top four this season. That’s a fine achievement from the players.

“We’re playing Bradford this week and it’s a local derby so they’ll be fired up for this one. They will throw different things at us, so we’ll be making it difficult for them.”

Second row Ross Divorty is doubtful with an ankle injury but centre Ben Heaton returns

James Lowes, the Bradford Bulls coach, said: “The best thing is to get through this game unscathed with no major injuries. We are really now focusing on preparing well for our first game in the Super 8s - The Qualifiers.

“Let’s get through this game and crack on with the next phase. I would imagine Halifax’s approach will be very similar, they have got to prepare for the Qualifiers as well. It will be an interesting game.”

Hunslet Hawks v Workington Town (3.0)

Barry Eaton, the Hunslet Hawks coach, saw some positives in his side’s defeat at Batley Bulldogs. “We did some very good stuff in the game against Batley and scored 28 points, which is probably enough to win a game,” he said. “But we’re not getting much luck at the moment, which seems to be what it’s like when you’re down there scrapping.

“We knew at the start of the season it would be a fight and a slog all the way through but it would be nice to get a bit of good fortune or the bounce of the ball. Having said that, we still need to be better at saving tries, we’re still probably conceding some tries that are affecting the results. We’d like to think we could do a little bit better, certainly offensively we’re doing enough to win games.

“Workington’s fortunes have certainly changed over the last month or so. Maybe it’s no surprise given that they’ve had Iain Thornley a huge centre from Wigan who is a top end Super League player. They also signed Jarrod Sammut, who has been a top earner in Super League.

“They’re on a bit of roll. They’re a big, physical side, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Captain Andy Kain is doubtful with knee injury.

Workington Town are coming off the back of an impressive win over London Broncos. Coach Phil Veivers said: “It was a good win last week, we played pretty well. Since the weekend there’s been a happy feeling in the camp and we’ve trained well. But we also know the importance of this game.

“Winning is always a nice feeling, it becomes habit-forming. We want to put a performance in and let that take care of the result.”

Leigh Centurions v Doncaster (3.00)

Doncaster were heavily beaten 52-0 by Halifax. Coach Gary Thornton said: “I thought we took a few steps back last week after some encouraging signs against Hunslet the week before. I was pretty disappointed, I didn’t think we started the game particularly well and put ourselves in a really difficult position. Don’t get me wrong, Halifax are a good team but I think we contributed to the score line just as much as they did.

“Obviously Leigh have been an absolutely stand-out team all season; winning the league by beating Dewsbury shows what they’re about. We know whatever 17 they put out, it’s going to be a real tough test. It’s going to be a long, long day for us on Sunday.”

Prop Matt Groat is doubtful with an ankle problem, while wing Sam Doherty has a leg injury. Second row Russ Spiers and centre Lee Waterman are both suffering with back problems.

London Broncos v Sheffield Eagles (3.00)

Sheffield Eagles continued their good form with a 38-28 victory over Featherstone Rovers. Coach Mark Aston said: “We’d worked hard to get a great result against Bradford and we needed to back it up and we did. We didn’t start great but then hit a purple patch and played really well. We started the second half strongly then it was a bit of a roller coaster if I’m honest but I was relieved.

“There’s a lot of hard work gone in by a lot of people this year to make sure that we were successful and we’ve certainly ticked the first box. We’ve achieved in getting into the top four and if we want to stay third we’ve got to keep the momentum going, that’s the big thing for us.

“We want to make it difficult for teams to beat us. We’ve done that the last couple of weeks and want to do it again this weekend. It’s going to be a tough challenge because they’ve had a couple of negative results and I know that Hendo (Andrew Henderson) will want to sort that out and put it right against his old club.

“We tonked them at the Keepmoat and they tonked us at the Summer Bash, so it’s 1-1 and all to play for.”