Keighley happy to be underdogs for Leigh clash

Leigh Centurions have won their first three games of the season. Photo by Brian King
Leigh Centurions have won their first three games of the season. Photo by Brian King
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A look ahead to this weekend’s action in the Kingstone Press Championship

Sunday, March 9

Keighley Cougars v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)

Keighley Cougars player-coach Paul March is suspended for Sunday’s match against Leigh Centurions, but will otherwise pick from the same squad as last week.

March said: “Everybody came through OK against Rochdale, which is good news.”

He added: “On paper, Leigh have probably got the strongest squad in the Kingstone Press Championship.

“It’s a massive challenge for us, but we’ll go in as underdogs and you’re always dangerous when you’ve got that tag.”

The Centurions are aiming to maintain their perfect start to the season with a fourth win in four matches.

Coach Paul Rowley said: “We’re happy with what we’ve done so far, but we’ve also been pretty critical of ourselves at training this week. We really do need to improve in some areas.

“Keighley are a well-rounded team, they’ve started pretty well and they’ve not got many chinks in their armour.

“They scored some fantastic tries last week and I was really impressed with their go-forward, particularly from Jodie Sheriffe.”

Leigh have no new injury concerns to contend with ahead of the trip to Cougar Park.

Barrow Raiders v Workington Town (3.00pm)

Coach Anthony Murray wants more of the same after Barrow Raiders produced a major shock to win 24-18 at Sheffield Eagles last week.

Murray has no new injury problems and could select an unchanged squad for the visit of Workington Town on Sunday, who play their first match under new coach Phil Veivers.

Murray said: “We were really pleased with the result at the weekend and it should improve our confidence, but we’re not getting carried away because we’ve another tough tie this week against Workington.

“They’ll be out to impress Phil and it’s a derby as well. It’s like Wigan and Saints, anything can happen and form goes out the window.”

Former Salford coach Veivers replaces Gary Charlton, insisting he will give each of Town’s players the chance to impress over the next few weeks.

Veivers said: “I don’t know them and I want to see what they can do, so I’ll be going in with an open book. It’s onwards and upwards.”

Batley Bulldogs v Doncaster (2.00pm)

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear remains without Ben Black (knee) and Nathan Mason (ankle) as he looks to build on last week’s 10-8 win at Halifax.

Kear said: “We’re having to rebuild a team and we’ve accepted that as one of the challenges of this season, but we’ve found a bit out about our character and how we should play the game. I’m really pleased with our guys.

“Coaches talk about performance, but ultimately it’s about the scoreboard. We’ve put a few demons away from Round One, but we’ve got to keep building because it’s a long season.

“I’m not expecting us to be playing our best rugby until two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through the season, but we’ll keep working and keep getting better.”

Dean Hadley (concussion) is a doubt for Doncaster, who are seeking a third win in four Kingstone Press Championship fixtures this year.

Doncaster coach Paul Cooke said: “This is a massive test for us. We were behind Batley last season by a number of points, and we need to bridge that gap if possible.

“We won two out of our first three last year and then didn’t win again for about eight weeks. We’re determined not to let that happen again.

“There are some difficult games coming for us in March, but we want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible.”

Dewsbury Rams v Whitehaven (3.00pm)

Dewsbury Rams could field an unchanged side as they search for their fourth successive Kingstone Press Championship victory in 2014.

The Rams are one of two teams to have made a perfect start to the season, and coach Glenn Morrison confirmed he has no new injury concerns ahead of Sunday’s match with Whitehaven.

Morrison said: “Everyone has come through OK and there are plenty of other boys training well and pushing to get a run out, too.”

He added: “We’re still not playing at our best, but we know where we’ve got to work.

“We’ll keep our feet on the ground; we’ve got hard work to do and we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves.

“People talk and say Whitehaven haven’t won so we should get a win, but that’s not the case. They’re a tough side with quality players and they’ll be stinging after that loss last week.”

Whitehaven’s Craig Calvert is likely to miss out with a back injury suffered during the 52-0 defeat to Leigh Centurions.

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods said: “Dewsbury have bought really well and they’ve got a good, big squad, but we’ve got nothing to lose.

“We’ve just got to go there, pick ourselves up and keep working hard to get back to where we want to be.”

Featherstone Rovers v Rochdale Hornets (3.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers coach John Bastian will check on Greg Worthington (jaw) and Jack Bussey (ankle) before finalising the team to face Rochdale Hornets.

Rovers produced an impressive second-half display to win 36-6 against North Wales Crusaders last week.

Bastian said: “We played some cracking rugby, but there were certain areas we need to improve on – we want a bit more intensity to our starts in games.

“We addressed a few things at half time and the second half was a different game altogether. Our response and reactions were superb and we scored some great tries.”

He added: “We’ll go into Sunday’s game full of confidence, and we should do as well.

“That second half against Crusaders has given us a bit more confidence, but we certainly won’t be complacent. We’ll do our homework on the opposition, we’ll respect them and then we’ll try to perform against them.”

Hornets coach Ian Talbot is demanding an improved performance from last week’s 40-14 defeat by Keighley Cougars.

Talbot said: “Nobody wanted to put a shoulder in and stand up and be counted, and we didn’t stick to the game plan.”

Halifax v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)

Coach Karl Harrison insists his only focus is Halifax as he prepares for Sunday’s mouthwatering Kingstone Press Championship showdown with Sheffield Eagles.

Halifax have lost two of their first three fixtures in 2014, including last week’s 10-8 home reverse against Batley Bulldogs.

Harrison said: “It’s going to take time for the team to gel, but that’s not an excuse.”

He added: “I don’t worry about Sheffield or any other team’s results. I worry about our own results. We’ve got a few issues ourselves that we need to talk about before this game.”

Danny Cowling should be available for Halifax, while Sheffield’s Will Hope is expected to miss out with a knee injury.

Hope joins Eddie Battye, James Davey and Joe Hirst on the sidelines, but Ben Jones is hoping to be fit for Sunday as battles to recover from an ankle problem.

Eagles coach Mark Aston is demanding a major improvement after last week’s 24-18 defeat against Barrow Raiders.

He said: “Too many people were not at the races. There’s no excuses, the team wasn’t good enough.”

Swinton Lions v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)

Swinton Lions are aiming to claim their first win of the Kingstone Press Championship season when they host North Wales Crusaders on Sunday.

Lions pair Ben Warrilow and Jacque Peet are both closing in on returns to action, while Stuart Reardon, Rob Massam and Mark Offerdahl are all expected to be available for North Wales.

Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths believes North Wales can learn from last week’s 36-6 defeat against Featherstone Rovers.

Griffiths said: “That’s where you’ve got to get to – to be competitive for the whole game. We need to stay in this league and that’s what we’ve got to be doing.

“We’ve got to be in the mix and we can learn a lot from our performance in both the first and second half.”

Crusaders were level at 6-6 at half time, but conceded 30 unanswered points in the second half.

Griffiths added: “We can be enthused by our performance but we’re disappointed with some bits, particularly the game management and our decision making at times.”