Leigh boss Rowley won’t fall for any “nonsense” from Crusaders

Leigh's Stuart Littler is in line to make his 100th appearance for the club on Sunday. Photo by Brian King.
Leigh's Stuart Littler is in line to make his 100th appearance for the club on Sunday. Photo by Brian King.
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A look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures in the Kingstone Press Championship including Leigh’s clash with North Wales Crusaders

Kingstone Press Championship, Sunday, March 23, 2014

Leigh Centurions v North Wales Crusaders (3.00)

Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley insists North Wales Crusaders will pose a major threat in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash, despite Leigh’s strong start to the season.

Rowley said: “It’s a new division for the club, but it’s nothing new to their players. Plenty of their players have played at this level or higher, and they are a forward-thinking club that has invested heavily in recruitment.

“This will be our sternest test to date – they are a nailed on a play-off side, for sure.”

“I am fully aware Clive Griffiths will talk down their chances because he’s a wily old campaigner, but I’m a bit too wise to fall for that nonsense and so are my players.”

Crusaders coach Griffiths says seven players – Michael Platt, Andy Moulsdale, Dan Birkett, David Mills, Toby Adamson, Gary Middlehurst and Jono Smith – are all doubtful.

Griffiths said: “It’s going to be a hard day at the office for us, but we’ll go there, absorb it and learn from it.

“But having said that, if they take their eye off the ball then we’ll punish them, and they know that. We are very capable of scoring tries. They are overwhelming favourites, but you never know.”

Sheffield Eagles v Dewsbury Rams (2.00pm)

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston has been dealt a blow with the news that son Cory Aston, 19, will miss the next two months after breaking his collarbone against East Leeds last week.

Sheffield won 54-0 against the community club, but Mark Aston insists his team still need to make major improvements ahead of their return to league action this Sunday.

“There were too may people not taking responsibility,” said Aston. “It wasn’t a vintage performance and I’m still not happy with how we are playing.”

Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison will assess “a couple of bumps and bruises” in his squad, but said: “I can’t see us making too many changes.”

He added: “This is a pretty big game for us. We have started the season OK, but Sheffield have been the measure over the last couple of years. It will be good to see how we measure up.

“I’m happy with where we are sitting, but I still think we have got a lot of improvement in us and we haven’t seen the best of us yet.

“Sheffield have had a few changes themselves and a couple of results have not gone their way, but they are still very dangerous and have quality players who can score from anywhere.”

Doncaster v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)

Liam Cunningham (groin), Brett Waller and Kyle Kesik are all missing for Doncaster, while Mark Castle faces a late fitness test to determine his availability for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Featherstone Rovers.

Doncaster coach Paul Cook said: “We’re doing it tough, but it’s an opportunity for other players to show their abilities. It doesn’t matter who’s not available; what matters is the guys that are out there pulling on the shirt.

“It’s a big challenge against Featherstone, and then Halifax next week, but we should be confident.

“There’s no great pressure on us other than the pressure we put on ourselves, and on the flip side there is immense pressure on Featherstone given that they have topped the table for the last four years.”

But Rovers coach John Bastian insists the pressure is on Doncaster.

“They have started the season particularly well. They are a very good side and, on their home ground, they will probably be slight favourites this weekend,” said Bastian. “I’ve been watching some of their games and they look a formidable outfit.”

On Featherstone’s performances, he added: “We are building slowly, but you can certainly see that we’re improving from week to week.”

Liam Walmsley and Matt Nicholson are the only absentees for the visitors.

Rochdale Hornets v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)

Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot could stick with a similar team from the one that recorded a 76-4 victory over Gloucestershire All Golds last week.

Mike Ratu, Chris Baines and Dave Llewllyn all impressed on their first appearances of the year.

Talbot said: “A few players put their hands up. They earned their chance and they took it with both hands.”

“It was a good performance. We have improved considerably from last season, but not enough to get that first in the Kingstone Press Championship – yet.

“You know you’re going to be up against it when you play a team coached by John Kear, but we’ll give it our best shot.”

Batley Bulldogs could be without Mark Applegarth, who is struggling with a knee injury, but Ben Blackmore is available.

Batley coach Kear said: “I have watched three of Rochdale’s games and they are taking teams very close. They are just falling away in the last 20 minutes, but at some stage they are going to upset someone. We have just got to make sure it’s not us.”

He added: “They’re not that far away from a Championship win and last week will have done their confidence the world of good.

“Our own season has been consistently inconsistent. We’re having some tremendous periods and some indifferent periods, and we’ve got to try to put 80 minutes together.”

Swinton Lions v Barrow Raiders (3.00)

Swinton Lions coach Ian Watson will be forced to make at least one change to the side that beat Gateshead Thunder 66-6 last week.

Watson said: “We have lost Darren Hawkyard through suspension for one match, Jack Cooper is out with a knee injury and Liam Fishwick has done something to his ankle ligmaments.

“We are quite a small squad, so it’s a shame we have lost those three, but the good news is Ben Warrilow came through the game OK last week, as did Richie Hawkyard, and they’re both in contention.”

Caretaker Barrow Raiders coach Phil Atkinson has urged his players to get ready to face Swinton “head on”.

Atkinson watched as Barrow recorded a nervous 18-10 win over Milford Marlins last week.

But his focus immediately switched to league action and the hunt for a second win of the season.

Atkinson said: “We have got to get back and work hard at training through the week to get ready to meet Swinton head-on.”

Whitehaven v Halifax (3.00)

Whitehaven’s Chris Taylor is a major doubt for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture against Halifax.

Taylor is battling to overcome an ankle problem, while Ben Milburn is likely to miss out after suffering a knee injury at training.

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods is hoping for a quick turnaround in fortune after recording three defeats from the club’s first four fixtures of 2014.

Woods said: “We are pretty disappointed with our start. We should be doing a lot better than we have been.

“It will need to be a big performance this week. It’s our first home game since early February, so it’s been a long time coming and we want to give our fans something to cheer about.

“The fans have got a big role to play, too. We need as many there as possible, and then hopefully we can get the three points and go into next week’s game against Barrow with a bit of a boost.”

Halifax winger Rob Worrincy has given coach Karl Harrison a major selection headache after scoring five tries against Hull Dockers.

Gareth Potts, Wayne Reittie and Tommy Saxton are also vying for wing spots as Halifax search for a third win of the league season.

Workington Town v Keighley Cougars (3.00)

Workington Town coach Phil Veivers is aiming to make it three wins out of three since taking charge of the Cumbrians.

Town backed up an 8-6 victory over Barrow Raiders with a 38-12 win over Normanton Knights in last week’s Tetley’s Challenge Cup clash.

But with the focus back on the Kingstone Press Championship, Veivers will be hoping for a victory that would push seventh-placed Town even higher in the league table.

But Veivers will be without Karl Olstrum for the visit of Keighley Cougars, after the loose-forward was handed a two-match ban earlier this week.

Cougars coach Paul March is also missing as he continues to serve a four-match suspension.

But March was left pleased with his side’s 42-0 win over Wath Brown Hornets last week.

March said: “It was a very professional display. We scored some good tries and kept them scoreless, which I’m delighted with. We defended very strongly at times.”