A look ahead to this weekend’s games in the Kingstone Press Championship including Leigh v Halifax.
FRIDAY MAY 8
Sheffield Eagles v Doncaster (7.30)
Sheffield Eagles lost 46-12 to Bradford Bulls last week. “They were very good and we weren’t which is a disappointment,” said coach Mark Aston. “We let in some weak tries which was a frustration but it happens and as long as you learn from it, that’s the most important thing. You’re going to get days at the office like that and we had one, we dusted ourselves down and are looking forward to Friday.
“Doncaster are sat at the bottom of the league. I watched them play against Bradford two weeks ago and they were very good. They had a number of players out last week against Halifax so I would imagine they’d be a different team. They’ll be going into it with nothing to lose. There’s no pressure on them, it’s all about what we’re going to serve up after a pretty poor showing last week.”
The Eagles will be without scrum-half Dominic Brambani who was concussed last week. Prop Steve Thorpe is doubtful along with half-back Pat Walker but half-back Kyle Briggs, wing Misi Taulapapa and second row Duane Straugheir are all due to return.
Paul Cooke’s Doncaster side are still looking for their first league win and he acknowledges that they face another stiff test this week: “It doesn’t get much tougher,” he said. “They’ve only lost three times all season - against Dewsbury in Round 1 and then to the two competition favourites in Leigh and Bradford.
“We had to change five last week which didn’t help the continuity of the group. We’ve got Matt Groat back this week and a couple of others from Hull on dual-reg, so the squad will look more familiar. It’s still a tough ask against a very good Sheffield team and we hope that over the next few weeks the performances warrant some results for us.”
They will be without hooker Kyle Kesik who has a rib injury and prop Matt Garbutt who suffered a dead leg.
SUNDAY MAY 10
Dewsbury Rams v Hunslet Hawks (3.00)
Dewsbury Rams came close to inflicting a first defeat on league leaders Leigh Centurions last week. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “We played some good rugby and it was a good match; it felt like a final. We just came up with some bad plays and wrong options at crucial times which cost us. We thought we’d done enough to win the game so it was a little bit disappointing to come that close.
“Some teams would be happy with that but we walked away disappointed. But that’s why they’re undefeated, they know how to win those tough games.
“There’s been an improvement in the last two weeks. To knock off London down there and come so close against two full-time teams – we’re starting to click.”
Looking ahead to the game against Hunslet Hawks he said: “We need to keep the momentum we’ve been building and we don’t want any complacency dropping back into the side. We’ll come into the game wanting to keep kicking on.”
Full-back Kieran Hyde and hooker Tom Hemingway both have leg injuries and are unlikely to feature this week.
Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton said: “We weren’t far off against the Broncos and there were some real momentum swings in the game that went the Broncos way which led to them getting some points. But ultimately we didn’t quite defend well enough when we needed to make solid one-on-one tackles and that cost us.
“Dewsbury have some real momentum at the moment and by all accounts went very, very close to beating Leigh at the weekend. It’s a tough challenge, especially at their place, they’re pretty formidable at home and play their tight pitch really, really well.
“It’s no surprise that they’re probably the biggest side in the competition and Glenn Morrison has put that side together based on their pitch being the smallest in the competition. It’s going to be a tough physical battle for us this weekend.”
Leigh Centurions v Halifax (3.00)
Richard Marshall’s Halifax side go into the game at Leigh Centurions on the back of a 40-6 win over Doncaster: “We weren’t faultless by any means and credit to Doncaster they made a real fist of it in the second half,” he said.
“We were really happy with our first 40 minutes and slightly disappointed with our second 40 so we’d like to put an 80 minute performance together sometime soon.
“It will be a much more difficult task for us going over to Leigh but I think that gives us some incentive. Dewsbury made a real good fist of it last week and went about their business very well.
“If Leigh go through the season unbeaten they’ve done very, very well. It’s a big task for us. We’d love to go over there and put a real good game together, we have in the past against them and traditionally the fixture is very good and very entertaining so we’re looking forward to this one.”
Centre Steve Tyrer should be available for selection for Halifax.
Leigh will be without prop Jake Emmitt who has been suspended for two matches after being found guilty of using Grade C abusive language towards a match official in the game against Batley Bulldogs on April 26.
London Broncos v Featherstone Rovers (3.00)
London Broncos coach Andrew Henderson was very pleased with last week’s win at Hunslet. “We’d suffered back-to-back defeats so it was a good response to bounce back with a win,” he said. “We put in a decent performance as well so I was pretty pleased with some of the play we produced.
“Our completion rates weren’t great and we were a little bit scrappy at times but certainly there was a marked improvement from recent performances. Defensively we were pretty good as well.
“Featherstone are coming into a good vein of form. They’ve had some good results in recent weeks, obviously topped off with a huge win against Workington at the weekend so they’re obviously playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of belief and they’ve got a bit of strength in depth in their squad too.
“I’m making it very clear to my players that we certainly can’t fall into the trap of any complacency on the back of the win at Hunslet. This is going to be a huge game for both teams in terms of their aspirations of finishing in the top four so I’m expecting a very tough contest and hopefully we’ll be good enough on the day to get the spoils.”
Following their emphatic win over Workington Town, Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay said: “It was a good win and positive steps in the right direction. We worked really hard, played the game at a good speed and got some nice tries. To keep them to no scores was a great effort.
“We’ve had one good win and it’s put us on track but we’ve got to keep our feet on the ground. We’ve got a tough game coming up against London and we need to be focused on that. It’s showing signs of what we thought at the beginning; that we’ve got a decent side and if we stick to the structure and play well and play quick, we’re a threat.”
Whitehaven v Bradford Bulls (3.00)
Whitehaven had a fine win at Batley last weekend but coach James Coyle believes his side can be better: “Batley’s a tough place to go. They are a team in and around us so it was an important two points,” he said. “To be honest I’m pleased with the result but the performance was a bit below where we’ve been at over the last few weeks.
“We made a lot of errors and contact wasn’t great – things we’ve been getting a lot better at we fell away a little bit. Over the 80 minutes we probably weren’t the better team but we stuck in the arm wrestle and took our chances and came away with the win.
Looking ahead to the visit of Bradford Bulls he said: “We did alright when we played Bradford at Odsal. The boys are confident, we’re not going in thinking we’ve got no chance at the weekend. We’re confident in our ability and if we perform to our potential we can get a result.”
Whitehaven will be without half-back John Paul Brocklebank, who has a shoulder injury
Workington Town v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)
Looking back on the 72-0 defeat at Featherstone Rovers, Workington Town coach Phil Veivers said: “Everything we tried never came off, we defended poorly and Featherstone were very good, everything they tried came off.
“Sometimes you need the bounce of the ball to go your way and they got it that day. Fair play to them they got a good result but that game’s gone I’ve put it in the bin and we move on to Batley this weekend.
“I watched Batley’s game against Whitehaven and I don’t know how they lost. John Kear has been quoted as saying they are in a pretty dark place at the moment – it’s going to be a dark game then because we’re in the same place. We’ll see which one comes out into the light!”
Wing Sam Forrester, second row Kurt Horton and prop Latu Fifita are all doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Batley Bulldogs were bitterly disappointed with their home defeat by Whitehaven last week. Coach John Kear said: “As a team we are very fragile because we feel as if we’ve thrown a game away. Obviously we’ve been a little down but I must admit they’ve trained very well, which has lifted the morale of the team.
“One thing Phil Veivers did when he first went up to Workington was to work on their defence and they really did tighten up. I have no doubt that’s what he’ll be working on this week so we’re expecting a bit of a war of attrition.
“It’s always a very difficult place to go and we’re fully aware of that. There’s not only the travel problems but it’s a very tight pitch and obviously when your pitch has got idiosyncrasies, which we’re fully aware of with our own, you can play to its strengths and Workington really do that.”