Kingstone Press Championship: Round 22 previews

Fuifui Moimoi scores for Leigh against Featherstone last Sunday. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
Fuifui Moimoi scores for Leigh against Featherstone last Sunday. Photo: Paul McCarthy Photography
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A look ahead to this weekend’s action in the Kingstone Press Championship including Leigh’s trip to Bradford.

Sunday July 19

Bradford Bulls v Leigh Centurions (3.00)

Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley called the win over Featherstone Roves last week “absolutely brilliant”. “We’re in good form,” he said. “We’re enjoying ourselves and working really hard and looking forward to this week.

“Bradford are obviously the team that everyone has wanted to beat all season. I think they’ve been looking forward to playing us since the first game, so it will create a lot of interest from outside and in and around the game.

“It’s going to be an almighty challenge against a huge squad full of Super League players, nevertheless we’ll be looking forward to the challenge.”

Doncaster v Halifax (2.00)

Doncaster got their first win of the season last week, a 34-26 victory over Hunslet Hawks. “It’s been a long time coming and I’m pleased for the players more than anything,” said coach Gary Thornton. “They’ve continued to work hard throughout and remained positive, which is tough to do when you’ve lost so many games on the bounce.

“I thought we deserved it on the day and I’m really pleased for the fans as well – it was a good day all round.

“It was good to get some players back last week. Matt Groat came back after his three-match ban, which was a massive boost for us. Bringing Joe McLocklan and Ryan Wright in helped and Tom Carr as well. Those four made a massive difference.

“I’m hoping we can kick on this week, we ‘ve got a slight problem in the half-backs in that part of Paul Mennell’s release from Halifax means he can’t play against them. That aside, we’re looking forward to it. If we can continue the form we showed on Sunday I don’t think we have to fear too much. We’ve got to go in there reasonably confident and just play like we did on Sunday.”

Prop Brett Waller is doubtful with a knee injury.

Richard Marshall’s Halifax side continued their good run against Batley Bulldogs but admits it was a tough contest: “It was a bit of battle last week,” he said. “We pulled away but credit to Batley they came back and made a real good game of it. It could have gone either way right up to the last minute. We did enough to win, which is important at this time of year, but the performance wasn’t of the standard that we expected and have had over the last six weeks.

“It’s good that Doncaster won last week, you don’t want to any team going through a season without a win. They’ll be buoyed by the win and confident. They have nothing to lose and that will be the attitude they’ll be playing with, so we need to counter that. We know what’s at stake for us. It’s important we just deal with righting our performance from last week and not get carried away with league positions.”

Full–back Ben Heaton is a doubt with a dead leg but wing Gareth Potts is available.

Batley Bulldogs v Hunslet Hawks (3.00)

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear said of last week’s narrow defeat to Halifax: “It was a good game. We were a little disappointed that once again we’ve played well against one of the big teams and come away empty.

“But we can take a lot of positives from the performance; we scored the same number of tries as Halifax and defended really well. They’re a team who throw a lot at you in attack and we created chances, so we feel we’re in a good place but we need results as well as performances.

“It’s a big game against Hunslet this week. They’ll feel aggrieved with themselves having lost at Doncaster – there may well have been a three-games-in-three-days reason for that. They dominated the game for 55 minutes then tired drastically in the last 25.

“We’re expecting them to pose a real challenge. We’re at home, which is obviously a big plus point for us and we’re feeling good about ourselves.”

Loan signing Chris Ulugla from Bradford is doubtful with a damaged shoulder while loose forward Joe Chandler has a broken nose

Barry Eaton, the Hunslet Hawks coach, said that playing three games in seven days prior to the defeat at Doncaster may have had an affect but refused to use that as an excuse. “There were some factors out of our control on Sunday that led to more than a few momentum swings,” he said. “For 55 minutes we were outstanding.

“Batley are playing well, they are a big, physical side, a no-nonsense team and you’ve got to be able to match their physicality to have any chance.”

Second row Aaron Lyons is a doubt with a thumb injury.

Whitehaven v Dewsbury Rams (3.00)

Whitehaven coach James Coyle was disappointed with his side’s performance against Workington Town: “We’ve spoken this week about why it happened and why we were so poor in comparison to how well we’ve been playing,” he said.

“Workington have only won against ourselves and Doncaster, so I think you’ve got to say it’s a mental issue on our part, not being able to perform as well as we can do against them.

“It’s something we’re going to have to resolve in the Final 8 because we will play them again.

“We fell away against Workington last week and maybe a little bit against London the week before, if I’m honest. Dewsbury are going really well and it’s going to be a tough weekend for us to bounce back from the defeat against Workington.

Dewsbury Rams did the double over London Broncos last week. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “It was a must-win for both teams and it had a finals-football feel to it. We came away with our best performance of the season, which was very pleasing.

“The goal is to be peaking at the right time of the year. We got it right last year and the last couple of games we’ve had wins over some top competition so hopefully we can keep that momentum and confidence going into this second part of the season and get something out of it.

“It’s always tough travelling up to Whitehaven, it puts the form guide out of the window a little bit. We’ve been speaking about going in with the same mentality that we’ve had for the last two weeks. We can’t afford to drop down, we’ve got to keep raising the bar.

“If we go up there and perform like we can, then I’m sure we’ll get the result we want but if we’re a little bit off, they’re likely to sneak it.”

Centre Karl Pryce is doubtful due to a broken toe while hooker Nathan Conroy got a knock to the head and is being assessed.

Workington Town v London Broncos (3.00)

Phil Veivers, the Workington Town coach, said he was over the moon after the win over Whitehaven. “We defended very strongly and it was good to get the bragging rights in Cumbria,” he said. “They don’t seem to be able to get one over on us at the moment and I’d like that to carry on.

“London are going to be coming in wounded after a poor result last week against 12 men and I don’t think they played particularly well against Whitehaven the week before. I think Mr Henderson will be cracking the whip in training this week and hoping for a better performance.

London Broncos coach Andrew Henderson called the defeat to Dewsbury Rams, who were down to 12 men for almost an hour of the game, embarrassing: “It looked very much like the team we were at the start of the season, very disjointed and disorganised,” he said. “We lacked any real urgency defensively and for me it was tough to watch in what was such a big game for us.

“Credit to Dewsbury, when they were reduced to 12 they got in our faces and rattled us a little bit and we pretty much hit the self-destruct button.

“The tough thing for us is that the dream of finishing in the top four isn’t going to happen. The challenge for us now is to dust ourselves down and get over that disappointment. We’ve still got two league games to go and there’s points on offer. It’s important that we take as many points as we can going into the Championship Shield.

“There is some silverware on offer and it’s a great opportunity for the club to try and win that.”

Sheffield Eagles v Featherstone Rovers (4.15)

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston hailed their win over Bradford Bulls as probably the best performance of the season. “I challenged them last week and got the perfect response,” he said. “I was highly delighted, it’s what we’ve been waiting for.

“For 80 minutes we were outstanding and in the first 60 were probably near perfection. Out of 21 sets in the first half we completed 20 and the one that we didn’t complete, the winger bounced the ball over the line in the act of scoring.

In the second half it was 14 out of 16 so we completed at 92 per cent, which gives you the key to your field position and building pressure. We certainly had a different attitude and commitment.

“Hopefully we can replicate that and carry on for the rest of the season. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

The match against Featherstone Rovers on Sunday will mark the club’s 1,000th game. “It’s all about us this week, it’s not about Featherstone,” he said. “It’s about Sheffield repeating the standard that they set themselves last week. That’s what we’re looking at and focusing on – what can we do a little bit better than last week.

“We’ve spoken about it this week. We’re looking at a percentage improvement on certain things and Featherstone are going to have to be good.”

Half-backs Pat Walker and Cory Aston are available this week.