Kingstone Press Championship Round Three Preview

Leigh players celebrating a try for Jonny Pownall at Halifax last Sunday
Leigh players celebrating a try for Jonny Pownall at Halifax last Sunday

A look ahead to this weekend’s action in the Kingstone Press Championship including Leigh’s clash with London Broncos.

Sunday March 1: Kingstone Press Championship

Leigh Centurions v London Broncos (3.00)

Paul Rowley was happy to come away from Halifax with a win in tough conditions. Looking ahead to the match against London Broncos the Leigh Centurions coach said: “It would be the biggest mistake to underestimate a team that has been relegated from Super League. They have a better squad this year with a tally of NRL and Super League appearances within their squad that is pretty hard to match.

“They’ve certainly got the ability but have been a little bit inconsistent, which they said they would be until they gel as a team. We’re expecting a very motivated London side who will be very focused and want to put a lot of things right.”

Rowley has second row Matt Sarsfield unavailable through injury and is without the suspended Tommy Goulden and Adam Higson.

London’s heavy defeat at Sheffield also brought with it a number of injuries and Broncos coach Joey Grima is expecting a very tough contest at Leigh. “We’re putting 17 players out there and they’ve all got a job to do so it’s up to them whether they want to go there with the right attitude and make a game of it,” he said.

Forward Nick Slyney has a pectoral muscle injury while half back Joe Keyes will sit out the next two weeks due to concussion and there are some bumps and bruises to other players which have to be assessed.

Batley Bulldogs v Halifax (3.00)

John Kear’s Batley Bulldogs made it two wins out of two with their win against Hunslet Hawks. “It was a tough game against a good team in very difficult playing conditions,” he said. “I was delighted that our team stayed composed and ended up on the right side of the ledger.”

Looking ahead to the game against Halifax, Kear said: “They put Whitehaven to the sword in round one and were very, very competitive against Leigh on a quagmire of a pitch. We’ve got to be confident in our abilities but also got to acknowledge that they’re a very good team that will get better round by round as the season goes on.”

Prop Keegan Hirst is fit and in contention for selection.

Halifax coach Richard Marshall believes his team got a lot out of their defeat by Leigh Centurions: “It was a good game for our players to be involved in, a good atmosphere and a good crowd,” he said. “The pitch wasn’t the best to play rugby on but we got quite a lot out of it, certainly defensively. Unfortunately we didn’t get the win but we performed well.

“Batley are the best team in the competition at the moment so it will be a good game for us. They are a good team at home, obviously they’ll play the slope and the conditions – something we’ll have to combat but we’re looking forward to it.”

Scott Murrell is a doubt with a groin injury but Jacob Fairbank is available for selection.

Featherstone Rovers v Bradford Bulls (3.00)

Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay was pleased with his side’s win at Doncaster last week, particularly as they struggled against them last season. “They made it very tough,” he said. “It was a great performance by us, especially in defence.”

Rovers face another tough test on Sunday against Bradford Bulls: “If you looked at the fixtures at the beginning of the year, everyone was talking about Leigh and Bradford,” said Hay. “It’s going to be one big game, especially with it being a west Yorkshire derby.

“We know what to expect from Bradford, they’ve had a great off season and will have prepared well. They’ve got a taste of the Championship now and will be looking to spoil our first home game.”

Jack Bussey and Ian Hardman are both back in training and available for selection.

James Lowes, the Bradford coach, admitted his side put in an unconvincing first half performance against Whitehaven last week: “We were very poor and we said so at half-time. I didn’t have to give them a roasting. We carried the ball a lot stronger in the second half,” he said.

He acknowledged that his team will have to carry that second half performance into this week’s game.

Lowes will be without Danny Williams and Harry Siejka, both suspended following incidents in the match against Leigh.

Hunslet Hawks v Dewsbury Rams (3.00)

Newly promoted Hunslet Hawks have yet to register a win in the Championship. “There are no easy games and the start that we’ve got to the season is probably as tough as you can imagine,” said coach Barry Eaton.

But Eaton is pleased with the effort of his players: “Batley was very similar to the Featherstone game. We put an enormous amount of effort in, had a very good work ethic and just came up short but there are certainly positive signs.

Looking ahead to Sunday he said: “Dewsbury have done fantastically well; on paper they’ve got a squad that’s probably capable of challenging for that top four. We certainly feel if we can give them another good game, it will bode well for us as the season starts to unfold.”

Luke Briscoe, who has a back problem, is the only injury concern for Eaton.

Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison admitted it was frustrating travelling up to Workington last week only for the game to be postponed due to a waterlogged pitch: “We’d built up some good momentum through pre-season and the first round result. Having to travel all the way up there and not get it on wasn’t the best but we’ll re-group this week and have got to try and start again now.

“They’re going to be tough, obviously they haven’t got the results but they’ve played some good footy and I think they’ve been a little bit unlucky. They’ve got a strong squad and we’ve got to approach them as if they were one of the top sides otherwise they’ll come up with the win over us.”

Morrison’s only injury worry is three quarter Sam Wood who has a knee problem.

Whitehaven v Sheffield Eagles (3.00)

Newly appointed Whitehaven coach James Coyle has seen improvements in his side over the last two weeks despite the losses: “We always knew it was going to be a tough one at Odsal,” he said. “But I think we took some massive strides forward from the Halifax game. A lot of things we worked on during the week we put into practice.

“I think the fact that we’ve got 12 new players in the squad and had quite a few dual registration lads coming in at the last minute didn’t help with cohesion but they started to gel as we got further and further into the game.”

On Sheffield’s 40-6 victory over London Broncos he added: “A score line like that tells me that they must have played well against London.”

Coyle has wing Craig Calvert back in his squad with stand-off/loose forward John Paul Brocklebank, looking to make his first competitive debut.

Mark Aston, the Sheffield coach, said his team were outstanding in the win over London Broncos but is taking the challenge of Whitehaven very seriously: “We’ve been beaten the last two times up there,” he said. “We’re making sure we prepare correctly this time by travelling up the day before, to make sure we haven’t got any excuses to perform at the highest level.

“They’ve got some quality players like Dave Allen, who I believe should still be in Super League, while Jesse Joe Parker is always a threat and they’ve got a nice link now with Widnes. There’s no point in having a great result against London last week then coming undone this week. It’s consistency we’re looking for.”

Second row John Davies is added to the Eagles squad for the first time this season.

Workington v Doncaster (3.00)

Having to sit out last week due to a waterlogged pitch has been frustrating for Workington Town coach Phil Veivers.“We’d come off a poor result against Batley and the whole idea was to get back on the horse on Sunday. Now we haven’t had that game we’ve had two weeks to dwell on that poor performance,” he said.

Looking ahead to this Sunday Veivers said: “I watched Doncaster’s games against London Broncos and Featherstone. They’re a quality side and Cookie (Paul Cooke) knows what he’s doing.

“He’s assembled a pretty good squad and certainly got the dual registration with Hull FC working alright, they had five there last week so I’m pretty sure a win’s only just around the corner for them. I’m just hoping it’s not this Sunday.”

Dan Rooney seems likely to undergo a shoulder operation while prop Liam McAvoy is doubtful due to a niggling back injury.

After a couple of competitive outings Doncaster coach Paul Cooke is still looking for that first win: “We just need to get over the line and if we continue with the same sort of commitment that we started and finished the game against Featherstone, we won’t be too far away,” he said..

“We are under no illusion how tough it will be at Workington. Phil and his team prepare really well; he’s building a really good side up there.”

Hooker Kyle Kesik could be available for selection this week.