Kingstone Press Championship Round 5 previews: Leigh go to Featherstone in Grand Final rematch

Martyn Ridyard scores for Leigh at Doncaster
Martyn Ridyard scores for Leigh at Doncaster

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

Sunday March 15

Featherstone Rovers v Leigh Centurions (3.00)

Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay said: “We had a good win at Halifax, it was tough and a good performance by the players. It was good to get back on track after the week before against Bradford.”

His side face another tough contest on Sunday. “It doesn’t come much bigger,” he said. “It’s going to be a big challenge. We played Leigh four times last year and they’ve improved the team. We know what we’re up against but we’re back in front of our home fans which is a bonus for us.”

Forward Mason Tonks and full-back Ian Hardman are back from injury and should be and in contention for selection.

Following Leigh’s win at Doncaster last week Paul Rowley, the Leigh coach, says his side are still working hard and looking to improve. He believes that Rovers will be his team’s toughest test to date: “Featherstone and Leigh have traditionally been the two teams who have had the most consistently fierce battles over the years and I expect Sunday to be no different,” he said.

“They’ve got a really enthusiastic crowd, as have we, so the atmosphere will be good and we’re expecting a tough game.”

Batley Bulldogs v Bradford Bulls (3.00)

Reflecting on Batley’s 28-16 defeat at Sheffield Eagles last week, coach John Kear said: “There were too many errors, and when you make errors it just makes for a scratchy, scruffy game. I think that’s the worst we have played all season. I can’t fault the effort and commitment but we’ve a lot to fix up.”

Looking ahead to the Bradford game he said: “You’d say it was one of the four toughest fixtures, but it’s a great test for us. The thing I’m most excited about is seeing the stadium full. It will be a great atmosphere and I’m hoping the players respond to the challenge, respond to the atmosphere and put on a great performance.”

Batley will be without scrum-half Scott Leatherbarrow who suffered a spiral fracture in his hand against Sheffield.

Bradford coach James Lowes admits he’s got something of a selection dilemma ahead of the game at Batley with Australian scrum-half Harry Siejka available again after a two-match ban.

Halifax v Dewsbury Rams (3.00)

Halifax lost 24-12 at home to Featherstone but coach Richard Marshall says his players will want to make amends this Sunday in front of their own fans: “It was disappointing last week not to win at home. We had a fair few chances in that game but we didn’t quite execute our plays well enough. There wasn’t a lot in it, we probably bombed two or three chances. Featherstone scrambled really well defensively and put us under pressure but at the same time I thought it was in our hands.”

On the challenge of Dewsbury he said: “I watched the play-off game against Dewsbury last year and I thought they were a good team then. They’ve improved even more this season. It will be a difficult game for us but we need to start putting our performances together at home and give our fans something to cheer about and hopefully we can do that on Sunday.”

Halifax full-back Miles Greenwood suffered a double fracture of his leg while there is a doubt over forward Luke Ambler who picked up a rib injury

Glenn Morrison, the Dewsbury coach is preparing for a tough game at Halifax: “They’re a top side and didn’t get the win that they wanted on the weekend. I think they’ll come out looking for us. We’ve had two good results and had it over them over the last couple of years so when we’re on our game we can give them a good go. Obviously we’ve got to turn up to play.”

With the re-scheduled Championship game at Workington on Wednesday and the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup tie against Newcastle Thunder the following Sunday, Morrison said he might look at rotating a few players.

Hunslet Hawks v Doncaster (3.00)

Despite losing at Bradford last week, Barry Eaton the Hunslet coach said: “We had a 75 per cent possession against us in the first half and Bradford probably had the perfect half of rugby.

“The fact that we were able to come out in the second half and compete was really pleasing, it was a positive response and showed a real good mentality from the players.

“I’ve seen a few of Doncaster’s games and in spells they’ve been very good and looked a real dangerous team. They’ve probably not put in an 80 minute performance so they’ll be seeing Sunday as a real opportunity to get their first win. We’re going alright, last Sunday’s result hasn’t blighted us at all. We know they’ll come firing but we’ll be ready for them.”

Prop James Houston prop broke his hand in the warm last week and will be out for about four weeks while his possible replacement Lewis Reed sustained a knee ligament injury and may well be out for the same amount of time.

Doncaster player/coach Paul Cooke said: “Last week we were completely up against it. I was out, Richard Wilkinson and Danny Nicklas were still out and we had two new half backs who hadn’t played together. What I asked of the players was a bit of commitment and I thought they gave us that.

“With myself and Richard Wilkinson back this week and one or two others who are close to being fully fit, we’re not too far away from having a team on the field that we feel can really challenge. Hunslet are a good team, Barry has recruited really well in the off season with the people they needed in key positions like Jack Lee, Andy Kain and Simon Brown. They’ve gone about their business in the right manner and can be a very dangerous team.

“I wouldn’t read too much into the Bradford result. They’ve been very difficult to beat in the games they have played at home. We know what we’re in for.”

Whitehaven v London Broncos (3.00)

James Coyle’s Whitehaven team are still seeking their first win but there were good signs in their defeat at Dewsbury: “I think we were a bit better than what we have been and are showing some signs that things are going to start sticking but I think we dropped off a bit in our intensity,” he said.

“As long as we keep getting a little bit better and improve what we did wrong last week, that’s our target for this weekend. Obviously they’re full time but it’s a long trip for them to come up to Whitehaven so we’ll be going into the game positively.”

Andrew Henderson, London’s caretaker coach, was pleased to get off to a winning start: “It was obviously a pretty tough week for the club and I thought the boys responded well,” he said. “It wasn’t a complete performance from us but I was very pleased with the way we finished the game. We did cough up a lot of possession in the first half and weren’t as clinical as we needed to be but we improved in the last 20 minutes, got back to the plan and completed a lot better and were able to get the win.

“Whitehaven’s league position doesn’t suggest they’re in good form but I’m under no false illusions they they’re going to be a tough proposition. They played very well against Dewsbury last week and pushed them all the way. We know they are a capable side that can hurt us so we have to show them respect. Going to their place is a totally different environment which can be quite hostile and we’ve just got to be ready for that.”

Richard Mathers, who suffered an ankle injury in the win over Workington, is a doubt for the trip to Cumbria.

Workington Town v Sheffield Eagles (3.00)

Workington coach Phil Veivers is looking for his side to bounce back after their defeat to London Broncos: “I was disappointed with the way we handled ourselves defensively last week against the Broncos. I thought we created enough opportunities to win the game but our defence let us down, as did us dropping the ball over the line on a couple of occasions,” he said.

“Sheffield are a very strong outfit, they’ve got a pretty decent squad and have had some fair results. They have a strong pack and are always a threat with Misi Taulapapa, QLT(Quentin Laula Tongagae) and Menzie Yere in their back line and. It will be a challenge for us.”

Mark Aston feels there’s more to come from his side despite their win over Batley: “We were happy with the win, it wasn’t vintage and not our best performance but we ground it out and that’s the important thing at the end of the day,” he said.

“We had a tough physical session at training this week and we’ve been honest; we know where we want to be. If we don’t sort ourselves out we’re going to be talking about a defeat. We’ll get it right hopefully this weekend.

“Having watched them a couple of times, they’re a decent team so they’ll certainly cause us some problems and we need to make sure we answer the questions they ask of us.”

Aston is hoping second rows Michael Knowles and Ben Musolino will be fit for the trip to Workington.