Kingstone Press Championship Round Four preview: Centurions look out to maintain winning start

Ryan Brierley scores for Leigh against London. Photo: Brian King
Ryan Brierley scores for Leigh against London. Photo: Brian King
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A look ahead to this weekend’s action in the Kingstone Press Championship, including Leigh’s trip to Doncaster on Sunday.

Sunday March 8

Doncaster v Leigh Centurions (2.00)

Doncaster are still searching for their first win and the 33-6 defeat to Workington Town was hugely disappointing for player-coach Paul Cooke: “We were in it up to half-time then came out poorly in the second half which is most unlike us,” said Cooke. “We’ve prided ourselves on being a tough team to play against but that just wasn’t evident in the second half.

“There’s been a little bit of soul searching from the players on their individual responsibilities and the staff as well. But full credit to Workington.

“Unfortunately the start gets no easier. We always knew it was going to be difficult and this week we play Leigh. When this group are given absolutely no chance from anybody outside, I know what I’m going to get from them so I think they’ll turn up.”

Conversely Leigh remain unbeaten although coach Paul Rowley admits the game against London Broncos was tough: “They wanted to prove a point on the back of a disappointing result for them,” he said. “They played well, it was a slow game, which didn’t suit us but I never thought we were in danger of losing.”

Looking ahead to Sunday he said: “Whilst Doncaster haven’t picked up any league points they’ve played some really good stuff. They are a club with serious ambition and they’ve got some quality from Hull FC. They are a very strong team who will fancy their chances of a top four spot so we need to be good.”

Bradford Bulls v Hunslet Hawks (3.00)

After their emphatic win over Featherstone, Bradford coach James Lowes said: “The first 20 minutes we made a lot of errors but we defended really well and that was the most pleasing aspect of the game in general – the defence.”

Epalahame Lauaki made his debut off the bench and with no injury worries Lowes said he may well be picking a similar team this week.

Barry Eaton’s Hunslet side picked up their first win of the campaign against Dewsbury Rams in tough conditions: “We learned how to cope with the conditions having played in similar conditions against Featherstone and Batley but just didn’t quite get it right when we needed to,” he said. “I think we learned from that in very similar conditions against Dewsbury and did very well under the circumstances to get the win.

“This week, when you look at Bradford’s result against Featherstone, you could potentially get a little bit hung up about the task of going to there. We’re fully aware of where Bradford are; in effect they are a Super League team. We’ll be under no pressure so in that respect hopefully we’ll be able to go there and give a very good account of ourselves.”

Dewsbury Rams v Whitehaven (3.00)

After a disappointing performance last week Glenn Morrison is looking for a much better performance from Dewsbury against Whitehaven: “Against Hunslet, we just didn’t show up, the boys weren’t good enough and couldn’t get ourselves into the game,” he said.

Despite Whitehaven still seeking their first win, Morrison will not be taking them lightly. “There are no easy games, we said that last weekend and they hadn’t won a game either,” he said. “We’ve got to be switched on and want to get back on track straightaway, we can’t afford to turn up like we did last week.”

Newly-appointed coach Whitehaven coach James Coyle is enjoying the challenge. “The lads are responding well to what we’re trying to put in place. I’ve got a nice little team together now with Brett Seymour and James Robinson and we’re trying to get better each week.

“As long as we keep improving we’ll be happy and things that we’re looking at in training we’re improving on,” he said.

Despite losing to Sheffield Eagles, Coyle says he can take some positives going into the game against Dewsbury. “Obviously it was a setback not getting the result, but I think we did quite a few things right which possibly gives ourselves a chance in the game on Sunday.

“We’ve got to stay positive, we’ve got a lot of new players and we’re trying to get them to play together. We’ve just got to stay upbeat and positive and keep moving forward.”

Halifax v Featherstone Rovers (3.00)

Halifax ground out a win against Batley last week and coach Richard Marshall saw some good signs from his team. “It was a tough game for both teams and realistically it could have gone either way,” he said. “Getting the try just before half time gave us momentum and then it was scoreless in the second half, which you don’t usually see. That’s testament to both teams defensively but the last 15 minutes I thought was our best so far.

Looking ahead to this Sunday he said: “Featherstone will be smarting - that wouldn’t have been what they wanted or planned for at this stage of the season so they’ll have a point to prove. We want to carry on the momentum and string together back-to-back wins which we haven’t done yet.”

London Broncos v Workington Town (3.00)

It has been a turbulent time for London Broncos. Following their defeat at Leigh, coach Joey Grima announced he was leaving the club for family reasons and returned to Australia. Assistant coach Andrew Henderson has taken temporary charge of the squad and admits it’s been a tough week.

“Obviously the news of Joey stepping down came as a shock not only to the club but to myself and the players,” he said. “This week we’ve been trying to prepare the players as best we can going into the fixture against Workington on Sunday.

“The week leading into the Leigh game was very, very good. I think everybody was embarrassed with the scoreline at Sheffield and I was confident we’d get a response. We spoke about our attitude and how it needed to improve and we certainly had that in abundance on Sunday.

“I think we’ve laid a foundation for us to hopefully move forward against Workington this week. I think it’s pretty obvious that in this division this year there’s no easy games and Workington will certainly be very confident after that result against Doncaster.

“They are a good side with some handy players. Hopefully, come game day, we’ll have prepared well enough to deliver and execute what we need to do to get the result.”

Workington claimed their first win last weekend and coach Phil Veivers is looking to back that up against the Broncos in London: “There was a lot of improvement from the Batley game so I was pleased,” he said.

“We’re going to be very very thorough on our preparations this week. We’re travelling down on Saturday, so it gives the boys ample time to recover from the journey and we’ll be prepared and ready to go on Sunday.”

Jack Murphy is doubtful due to a ligament injury to his thumb while Callum Phillips has a neck injury.

Sheffield Eagles v Batley Bulldogs (4.15)

Sheffield had a tough win against Whitehaven last weekend “on probably the worst pitch I’ve ever seen,”according to Director of Rugby Mark Aston. “We did really, really well,” he said. “It was a leveller and we couldn’t play the football that we like to play but what I did like was that we toughed it out and the attitude and resilience of the group pulled us through.”

Looking ahead to this weekend he said: “Batley have started the season pretty well. There are four players there who played for Sheffield Eagles and John Kear coached here as well so there’s a bit of spice in there. The players will want to show me that I was wrong to let them go.

“They are playing with confidence and they work hard for each other and look like they’re enjoying themselves, which is the be-all and end-all as far as I’m concerned.”

There are concerns over Michael Knowles who has a thumb injury while Tony Tonks has had a virus and hasn’t trained all week plus Jon Molloy, on loan from Wakefield, has an ankle problem.

Batley coach John Kear said the defeat to Halifax was very physically demanding for his players: “Our players gave it 100 per cent and it was a very physical energy-draining game. All those things are being considered in our preparation and selection for this week,” he said.

On their challenge at Sheffield he added: “People are talking about Featherstone and Halifax for the fourth spot but I’ve always had a slight fancy for Sheffield. They’ve made some really shrewd recruitments and are playing this year on a pitch which suits them. I can see them coming up on the rails and getting that fourth spot – that’s how big the task is.”

Kear could be without James Craven for a while, the full-back having damaged his medial collateral knee ligament.