A look ahead to this weekend’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup fourth round, including the all Championship clash between Leigh Centurions and London Broncos and Leigh Miners Rangers v Oxford.
Friday March 20
Leigh Centurions v London Broncos (8.00)
Kingstone Press Championship leaders Leigh Centurions maintained their 100 per cent record with a 40-6 win over Featherstone Rovers last week. Their coach Paul Rowley believes it was their best performance to date.“Whilst the score line was tight in the first half, I thought we did a lot of good work that took a lot of energy from Featherstone and that paid dividends. We reaped the rewards later in the game,” he said.
Looking ahead to the Cup tie with London Broncos, whom they have already beaten this season, he said: “I’ve watched them quite a lot and they look like they’re getting the bit between their teeth, they’re enthusiastic and look like they’ve got a bit of venom in them and that makes them dangerous. They’ll have two new pivots, so it’s a bit of the unknown for us and them so we expect a tough game. You can’t have a team with so many Super League and NRL appearances between them that aren’t capable of doing it on the day.”
Andrew Henderson’s Broncos go into the game on the back of a defeat at Whitehaven: “We were very disappointed with our level of performance at Whitehaven,” he said. “We had a plan to beat Whitehaven but we disrespected the ball too often and poor completion rates allowed Whitehaven some good field position, they kept things pretty simple but pretty effective.
“Things don’t get any easier for us this Friday. We travel away to Leigh and don’t have any of our loan or dual reg players available and with the injuries we have, we are down to our last 19 players. We’re facing some adversity as a group at the moment but I’m confident with some hard work and honesty we can turn it around. But it’s going to be a tough proposition for us on Friday.”
Featherstone Lions v York City Knights (8.00)
Featherstone Lions coach Jamie Rooney, who had a highly successful playing career, is looking forward to locking horns with a professional side for the first time in his coaching career. “It’s a big game and something I’m really looking forward to,” he said. “It’s a fantastic draw for us and a big challenge but it’s something all the players are buzzing about.
“There’s a bit of extra spice there with Ryan Mallinder who is a Fev lad and also their coach James Ford being a former Rovers player so it should be a good tussle. It’s a big game for our boys and probably will be the biggest game they will ever be involved in for the Lions.
“Every single player from 1 to 17 is a local lad. We have players who could definitely play at a higher level and they are looking forward to testing themselves on Friday.”
The match is being played at The Big Fellas Stadium, Post Office Road, Featherstone.
Saturday March 21
Normanton Knights v Batley Bulldogs (2.00)
Normanton Knights are gearing up for one of the biggest games in their history. Coach Paul Seal said: “Everyone around the club is excited and the supporters are excited about it, it’s a great occasion. It’s a great day for a community club when you draw a professional side.
“It’s a chance for some of the lads to test themselves against a professional outfit which they’re all looking forward to and playing at a Super League ground is another thing for them to get excited about and look forward to. They’re been in great spirits this week, they’ve loved training and are playing really well.”
“I don’t see why we can’t cause a Cup upset, but we have to be realistic a lot of it is about the day and the lads enjoying it and the supporters enjoying the day out,” he said.
John Kear, the Batley coach, is looking forward to the challenge: “Last week, against Bradford, it was the underdog part timers against the full timers and this week it’s the underdog amateurs against the semi-professional team so it’s a complete flipside,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it simply because it’s a great competition and from a personal point of view I’m going back to a club that I’ve got great memories of and have a great affection for.
“As a club we see it as a great opportunity to progress in the Cup. It’s knock out football so there are no second chances and the players should feel very privileged to play a part in the oldest Rugby League competition in the world.”
The match is being played at The Rapid Solicitors Stadium, home of the Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Leigh Miners Rangers v Oxford (2.30)
The community side take on Kingstone Press League 1 Oxford in one of the most intriguing ties of the round and Leigh Miners coach Alan Coleman has left no stone unturned in preparing his players for a very special match at Leigh Sports Village.
“We have had a video session with Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley and went through the last three games Oxford have played,” he said. “We’ve certainly done our homework and feel very capable on what we’ve seen and what we can produce to make it a very, very close contest.
“We would have loved to have played at Twist Lane just because of the atmosphere and revenue we would have generated. It wasn’t to be but we’re really looking forward to it, it’s a special day for our club.”
Oxford coach Tim Rumford said: “It’s a big game for us, a fledgling club coming up against what I would call a National Conference powerhouse. They’re a team with bags of experience with players who have had experience in scholarships, academies and experience of playing Rugby League from a young age.
“We’ve got a good amount of rookies, which brings its own challenges, but it’s a challenge we certainly relish. It’s going to be tough for our guys to contend with some of the things they’re going to throw at us. We’re looking to take another step forward in terms of our performance. The potentially big prize at is you end up in the draw with some of the big boys so it’s about keeping people focused.”
The tie will be played at Leigh Sports Village, home of Leigh Centurions.
Whitehaven v Featherstone Rovers (5.30)
Whitehaven will be going into their tie in a positive frame of mind having secured their first Kingstone Press Championship win of the season last week against London Broncos. Coach James Coyle said: “We knew it was going to be tough against a team who are full time and have a lot of experience players so it was a good win for us. We’ll be going into this game knowing we can perform and challenge the best teams in this competition. We’re just concentrating on getting better every time we go on the field.”
Despite losing to Leigh Centurions in their last match, coach Andy Hay wasn’t too despondent. “I thought we competed in the first half, put them under a lot of pressure and probably were the better side,” he said. “In the second half we dropped away. We know what we’ve got to do and we need a performance this week to get back on track.”
“It’s not the ideal draw for us, we’d have preferred to be at home. Whitehaven lost their coach and there was a little bit of turmoil but they have improved every week since the start of the season. They look a lot more settled and had a great win against London on Sunday so it’s going to be a tough trip for us.”
Sunday, March 22
Barrow Raiders v Halifax (2.00)
Barrow Raiders coach Paul Crarey is relishing the challenge of pitting their wits against Kingstone Press Championship opposition and believes the Cup can bring out the best in his patched-up squad.
“We’re a bit bashed up after last weekend’s game against Oldham but can’t wait to get stuck in,” said Crarey.“We have a lot of players here who haven’t played at this level before.
“Halifax are a big side, with great personnel working for them. Richard Marshall has turned them into a force to be reckoned with. We look at them and our aim is to be like them. For us it’s all about the performance. It will be a big spectacle, both teams are well-supported and I know that they won’t be taking us lightly.
“The beauty of the Cup is that it’s open to anyone. It’s got such a proud history, to me it’s the biggest competition in the sport. It would be massive for the club if we could get through to the next round.”
Halifax coach Marshall, says that confidence is high amongst his team ahead of the clash. “We are going into the game off the back of our first home win of the season against Dewsbury so we are feeling really confident,”he said.
“However, Barrow are a good outfit, they have some really strong players and I know that they’ll be fired up for this game. They have home advantage which is important, it will be tough going up to Cumbria.
“Despite them being in the league below us, I don’t think there will be a massive divide between class and talent after seeing them play, it’s not going to be easy.”
North Wales Crusaders v Doncaster (2.30)
North Wales coach Anthony Murray said: “We’re looking forward to it, it will be a tough encounter against Doncaster. Their league form isn’t there yet but no doubt they’ll come in trying to get their performances up and running again. We’ll be going into the game full of confidence, we’re coming off wins but we know we’re going to have to apply ourselves to get something out of the game.”
Paul Cooke’s Doncaster have made a slow start to the season but are hoping things will change on Sunday: “It will be a little bit of a welcome distraction,” he said of the Cup tie. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We want to win the game and build a bit of confidence. There will certainly be one or two changes and one or two players that are put on a little bit of notice with regard to performance on the weekend.”
Bradford Bulls v Workington Town (3.00)
Bradford welcome Workington Town to the Provident Stadium on Sunday and Bulls coach James Lowes is expecting a tough game: “The Challenge Cup is a good competition, we’re really looking forward to it.” said Lowes. “Hopefully we can have a good go against Workington and keep in the competition as long as possible.
“We are taking it seriously like we do every game, the randomness of having a draw makes it hard to determine how far you go but we’ve got Workington to get past before we worry about anything else. They are a plucky team with a good bloke in charge in Phil Veivers, he’ll pump them up. Workington play the game tough, so it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Workington Town go into their third game in seven days, home defeats to Sheffield Eagles and Dewsbury Rams precede their visit to the Yorkshire club. Coach Phil Veivers has had little time to prepare his side for another tough encounter and is hoping his side won’t be too battered and bruised: “Hopefully we’ll have a decent squad to put out against Bradford,” he said.
Dewsbury Rams v Newcastle Thunder (3.00)
For Dewsbury Rams the Cup tie against Newcastle Thunder will be their third game in a week. They bounced back from a defeat at Halifax to record a 31-18 win at Workington on Wednesday. Coach Glenn Morrison said:“It’s going to be a hard week and a real test for us,” he said.
“They are an extremely good and strong side. We played them in a pre-season friendly and I sent our second team and they dealt with them pretty easily. Stan (Stanley Gene) has them playing a good game, we can’t afford to take them lightly.”
“Being an Aussie, when you think of English rugby, you think of the Challenge Cup, you want lower league teams playing the top teams, that’s the magic of it,” said Morrison.
Newcastle coach Stanley Gene believes that the Challenge Cup provides the perfect opportunity for his Kingstone Press League 1 side to pit themselves against the best in the sport. “I was very pleased with our performance against York on Sunday, they are a class team with some former Super League players so I thought we did really well,” said Gene.
“We are a different team to last season and I believe we are capable of progressing in this competition, it would mean a lot to us to get through to the next round.
“The Challenge Cup is a chance for all teams of all different levels to have a crack. It is a competition that means a lot to me and I know that it would mean a lot to the club to progress.
“Dewsbury have class all over the park, it is going to be a huge challenge for us but it’s the Challenge Cup and anything can happen.”
Swinton Lions v Rochdale Hornets (3.00)
Swinton Lions coach John Duffy is expecting a spicy encounter in this local derby clash: “Rochdale have a great coach and a very good team so we’re going to have to prepare well but we’re really looking forward to it,” he said.
“We were a bit below our standards last week but it shows the quality we have in our ranks that we came away with the win at Keighley, who are a very, very good team. The lads are going to have to train hard this week and come with the desire to be in another big battle with Rochdale.”
Second row Tommy Gallagher is a doubt with a calf strain.
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot said: “We had a couple of interesting games against them last year which ended up with us both winning one. But they’re both totally changed squads this season so it’s going to be interesting and another test for us.
“We were very disappointing last week against the Crusaders, we didn’t really stick to any of our tasks and targets. It is a new squad and it was the first time they’d faced any adversity really. We’ve been working hard this week to get a little bit more faith back in the systems and structures that we have in place.”
Rochdale will be without full–back Wayne English who has a broken hand.
Sheffield Eagles v Oldham (3.00)
Sheffield Eagles had a good win at Workington Town last week and are going well in the Kingstone Press Championship but coach Mark Aston is wary of the challenge of Kingstone Press League 1 side Oldham:“There’s a bit of apprehension,” he said. “They’re going to be one of the top teams in that competition and justifiably so looking at some of the players they have.
“They’re going to be a threat and a different challenge for us. I’ve been quite hard on the players this week. I don’t think we’re at the levels we want to hit at the moment. It’s going to be a different challenge mentally and we need to raise the bar because week in week out now if you don’t raise the bar then you can get beaten.”
Rob Worrincy is a doubt due to a knee problem but Jamie Langley is expected to play some part this week.
Scott Naylor’s Oldham come into the game following an impressive 32-10 victory at Barrow in the iPro Sport Cup: “We went up to Barrow with a game plan and stuck to it,” said Scott. “We started the game pretty slow but didn’t panic and then just got into our flow, which is good. We played a really good, solid match and it was a good team performance.”
But he’s under no illusions how tough the task will be on Sunday. “There’s not many more places in the Championship that’s harder to go to than Sheffield,” he said. “They’ve proved for years that they’re a quality team and they’ve got some top class players.
“We understand the task in front of us but at the end of the day it’s a challenge. We’ve got to go there and challenge ourselves and see what happens. We’ll be more confident after last week’s victory and I’m absolutely 100 per cent positive my lads will give everything they’ve got.”
University of Gloucestershire All Golds v Hunslet Hawks (3.00)
The University of Gloucestershire All Golds go into this clash as underdogs but that doesn’t worry coach Lee Greenwood: “It’s another one we’re not expected to win, Hunslet are a division above and will be favourites,” he said. “But we can test ourselves and see how far we are off that level because it’s the level we want to be at in two or three years.
“Let’s see how far we’re off now and how far some of the players in the squad are. We’ll prepare this week to give them a really good game and give it our best shot.”
Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton was pleased with his side’s recent victory over Doncaster saying: “It was a decent performance,” he said. “We gradually ground them down and finished the game really strongly, we’re not doing too badly at the moment.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s Cup tie he said: “We know a little bit about them from last year, they beat us in one of our games and we’re certainly aware that they can be a threat. They’ve got a new coach in Lee Greenwood, who I know really, really well. He’s already looking like he’s stamping his authority on the club.
“They’ve had a decent pre-season, played some decent sides and if they’ve not won they’ve been really competitive so he’ll have them pumped for a Challenge Cup shock. We’re certainly preparing 100 per cent, as we would do for every other game.”
Half-back Andy Kain is a doubt with a groin strain as is back rower Callum Casey who has a shoulder problem.