Whitehaven confident of ending Leigh’s winning run

Leigh's forwards can expect a tough game at Whitehaven. Photo: Brian King
Leigh's forwards can expect a tough game at Whitehaven. Photo: Brian King
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A look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures in the Kingstone Press Championship including Whitehaven v Leigh.

Whitehaven v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods believes his side could be the team to end Leigh Centurions’ 100 per cent record in the Kingstone Press Championship.

The Centurions have won all 15 of their league fixtures this year, including a 60-0 victory over Barrow Raiders last week.

But Woods said: “We’re hoping to be the team that knocks them off. It’s very tough for a team to go through all year, and hopefully we can be the team that beats them.

“You’ve got to take the game to them and make it difficult for them so they haven’t got space.

“Guys like (Martyn) Ridyard and (Sean) Penkywicz, you’ve got to take their space off them and not give them any time.”

Neither team has any new injury concerns, with Leigh coach Paul Rowley admitting the Centurions face a tough trip north on Sunday.

Rowley said: “Whitehaven are a confident team because they’ve got good form.

“They’ve won most of their games of late, and they’ve got some quality players with Super League experience.

“They underperformed at the beginning of the season, but now they’re playing at the level their personnel suggest they should be.”

Batley Bulldogs v North Wales Crusaders (2.00pm)

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear believes his team are heading in the right direction after last week’s 28-24 win against Keighley Cougars.

The Bulldogs are now seventh in the Kingstone Press Championship and have won three of their last four games.

Kear said: “I was delighted with the first 40 minutes against Keighley.

“It’s nip and tuck in this division, and you’ve got to build as the season progresses.”

New North Wales Crusaders coach Anthony Murray, who has a doubt over Jono Smith (dead leg), has praised Kear’s efforts.

Murray said: “Batley are a quality side and they have been for many years, especially under John Kear. They’re a very experienced team.

“He knew how to steady the ship and they’re now moving forward as a team and getting better as the weeks go on.”

Crusaders are four points behind ninth-placed Keighley Cougars and have not given up hope of avoiding relegation.

But Murray said: “We can’t look at the league table – we’ve just got to take each games as it comes.

“We had a good win last week and we want to just continue that momentum.”

Sheffield Eagles v Keighley Cougars (2.00pm)

Sheffield Eagles prop Ben Jones (thumb) is a major doubt ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship showdown with Keighley Cougars.

Eagles could still make the top four this year despite struggling with their home form, and will be in confident mood after last week’s 28-12 win against Dewsbury Rams.

But Cougars coach Paul March is set to have his team fired up after last week’s 28-24 home defeat against Batley Bulldogs.

March said: “Batley totally dominated us in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but we started building pressure after half time and got ourselves back into it.

“We won the game and then threw it away, and what happened in the last minute was so disappointing for the lads.

“We have to learn. That is three games on the trot now where we’ve either thrown away wins or bonus points.

“This looks to be a massive game against Sheffield. It’s going to take something special to get us out of this run, and we need to start picking up points if we want to be climbing the table.”

Barrow Raiders v Swinton Lions (3.00pm)

Barrow Raiders player-coach Bobbie Goulding needs to find a new scrum-half after being handed a five-match ban on Wednesday night.

Goulding was found guilty of “disputing the decision of a match official and using aggressive language, and aggressive body language to a match official” during a recent match against Doncaster.

But Joe Bullock and Craig Briscoe should be available for the Raiders, who are looking to bounce back from last week’s 60-0 defeat against Leigh Centurions.

Goulding said: “We’ve got to match fire with fire. If we do that and play smart, we’ll be OK.”

Gavin Bennion (ankle) is rated as “50/50” by Swinton Lions coach Ian Watson.

Watson has called for continued composure in his team ahead of Sunday’s match.

He said: “Where in the past we might have panicked, that bit of experience over the last couple of weeks has allowed us to do the right things and that’s been key.

“I know Barrow were missing a lot of dual registration players last week, but every time you travel up to Cumbria it’s a tough game. That’s the challenge that sets these fixtures apart, and players just need to be mentally tough with themselves.”

Dewsbury Rams v Doncaster (3.00pm)

Rob Spicer should be fit to play for Dewsbury Rams when they host Doncaster in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.

Rams coach Glenn Morrison said: “We’ve missed Rob for the last month or so, so if we can get him in the mix then that will be a big boost for us.”

He added: “Basic, individual errors are killing us at the moment. We’re not getting beat by other teams; we’re doing it ourselves, and we need a big improvement this week.”

Doncaster coach Paul Cooke expects to have Lee Waterman available, but Richard Whiting has been included in Hull FC’s travelling squad to play Catalan Dragons.

Cooke said: “We did well last week, but we need to be more clinical. We were very patient, but against the top teams it’s taking your chances that really matters.”

On Dewsbury, Cooke added: “I’ve watched their game against Sheffield and an hour of their match against Featherstone. They’re a good side and they don’t lose by many when they do lose.

“It’s always a tough game when you go there. They’re one of the teams we struggle against, so we’ll have to be very good come Sunday.”

Halifax v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)

Halifax coach Karl Harrison is forced into making at least one change to his starting line-up after second-row forward Dane Manning was given a 10-match ban earlier this week.

Manning was found guilty of grade E intentional striking and grade D sustained punching, and received five-match suspensions for each offence.

The news comes as a further blow to Harrison, whose side is already struggling with injuries. Gareth Potts (broken ankle) is the latest to be sidelined.

Harrison said: “We’ve so many people out at the moment, but that’s rugby league and that’s why you’ve got a squad.”

In contrast Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot has reported a “clean bill of health, other than our long-term injuries” ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.

Talbot has called for his team to increase their concentration for the trip to the Shay.

Talbot said: “At the minute we’re making far too many errors with and without the ball, and we’re getting punished for them.

“To gift any team 20-odd extra sets, like we did last week, means you’re going to struggle.

“We just need to control the ball when we’ve got it, and keep our focus and concentration.”

Workington Town v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)

Workington Town coach Phil Veivers is without Liam McAvoy (suspended) for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with second-placed Featherstone Rovers.

Town are five points behind ninth-placed Keighley Cougars but Veivers remains calm.

Veivers said: “There’s no need to panic – this month was always going to be a tough one and I targeted four points. We have three and there’s still a game to play.”

Featherstone coach Andy Hay could welcome back Steve Crossley after he missed last week’s 22-22 draw with Doncaster due to sickness.

Hay is demanding more focus from his team ahead of Sunday’s match.

Hay said: “(Last week) was probably a point lost, but we’ve still gained two.

“We need to switch on a little bit and smarten up. You can’t give good sides chances, and we’ve got to learn to respect the ball a little bit more.”