A look ahead to the games in Round 18 of the Kingstone Press Championship, including Leigh v Sheffield.
Leigh Centurions v Sheffield Eagles (3.00)
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley was delighted his team came through with the win at Batley Bulldogs after a tough battle. Looking ahead to the challenge of Sheffield Eagles he said: “Ninety per cent of the Sheffield team are full-time so while they don’t get branded a full-time outfit they pretty much are. They’ve got big aspirations they’re a well-run club and we’re expecting another tough battle as always.”
Mark Aston, the Sheffield Eagles coach was pleased with his side’s win over Whitehaven but there were question marks over their second half performance: “We started off very strongly and probably were in total control in the first half,” he said. “In the second half, credit to them, they certainly had a dig and got back into the game. They’re not a bad team and are getting better but we dropped our standards and didn’t do what we were supposed to do. It was a little bit of a frustrating afternoon.
“Having asked them to start the game strongly they did that but then we dropped away and we’re coming into an area now when we need to be playing for 80 minutes and we’re still not.
“You want to be playing against the best and Leigh are obviously the best team. They are the benchmark and have some quality players right across the board. They’ve been the stand-out team this season.”
Featherstone Rovers v Doncaster (Friday, 7.30)
Featherstone Rovers go into this game on the back of a 52-0 win at Workington Town. Coach Andy Hay said: “It was a very professional performance at Workington. After a long trip up there we did a really good job.
“I thought we were clinical and it proves we can play and there’s some life in us. We’ve also proved to ourselves as a group that we are better than we have been showing in the last couple of weeks, so hopefully that’s the start of a good run-in now.
“We worked on and talked about defence all week, there were no targets set but the players had the determination right from the start. The enthusiasm and desire was there, which we probably lacked the week before.
“We need to kick on this week. We don’t want to be the team that Doncaster get their first win against. They’re making small improvements, they got their half-backs back in the team and the dual-regs with Hull, so they’ll throw a few of those players in.
“When we played them at their place at the start of the year it was a very tough game so we’ll expect a tough one again. We need to keep improving, we can’t afford to take our foot off the gas and think ‘it’s Doncaster and they haven’t won a game’. If we do it’s going to make it a very tough evening – that’s when you get caught out.”
Doncaster coach Gary Thornton was able to take some positives out of his side’s 30-4 defeat to London Broncos: “In the first half we were well in the game,” he said. “But I was really disappointed with the final score, I didn’t think it reflected the game to be honest. We ran out of stream a little bit in the second half and came up with a few poor options but that’s to be expected.
“I made eight changes from the Bradford game and it’s going to take time for them to gel but the more we train and the more we go through things, then the better we will be.”
Looking ahead to Friday’s match he said: “There aren’t any easy games are there? For a team low on confidence every game we go into is tough. Featherstone had a terrific win up at Workington, so we know we’ve got to improve even more. If we can improve week by week we’ll get better and I’m looking for a bit more improvement this week.
“We’re trying to up the fitness levels because we do seem to drop off in the last 15/20 minutes. It’s bit by bit, we can’t change it all at once.”
There is a doubt over second row Steve Snitch who has a groin strain and front rower Matt Groat is suspended but prop Brett Waller is available and scrum-half Danny Nicklas is back in training.
Sunday June 21
Dewsbury Rams v Halifax (3.00)
Dewsbury Rams came very close to winning at Bradford Bulls last week. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “We performed really well. We had a game plan we stuck to but unfortunately gifted them a couple of tries and that’s all it takes. Looking back, three of their tries could have been easily stopped. It was disappointing, we should have won the game.
“But we’ll take confidence from that in these next few games and hopefully get points on board. We’ve had some good performances against Halifax, especially at home. They’re fighting for that fourth spot, as are we, and will be going into the game saying the same thing - these are must-win games.”
Second row Jason Muranka is on international duty for Serbia and is unavailable.
Halifax had a tough contest against Hunslet Hawks. “They made a real good game of it and pushed us all the way,” said coach Richard Marshall. “I thought we did deserve to win the game. We made a few clean breaks more than Hunslet but they kept plugging away. We pulled away in the last five minutes with a try and a penalty but there’s wasn’t much in it.
We were pleased to come away with two points, it could have easily gone the other way.
“Dewsbury are a very good team, they’ve got a very good squad, a big squad and they’re well coached. It’s another away game for us, we’ve had three on the bounce now, and we feel confident we can come away with a win.”
Ben Eaton is set to return and prop Luke Menzies, on loan from Salford, will come into the squad to replace Jason Fairbank, who has gone back to Huddersfield.
London Broncos v Hunslet Hawks (3.00)
London Broncos have come through a testing period of three games in seven days with flying colours, including a win over Leigh Centurions. Coach Andrew Henderson said: “It was about as tough a week as you can have and with our relatively small squad, it was hard to make too many changes over the course of the three games.
“It was testament to the 21 players and the backroom staff, to be able to come through and deliver and get the results. It was a great week for the club and the team and hopefully we can continue to build on these foundations and this momentum and take it forward to the back end of the season.”
Looking ahead to the Hunslet game he said: “At this stage of the season every team has something to play for, which was the whole point of the concept of ‘every minute matters’. It doesn’t matter who you play they’re all going to be tricky fixtures.
“Hunslet really pushed Halifax last week and have added a couple of new players, which has offered them a little bit more in attack. Certainly they’ll be coming down to London feeling they’ve got nothing to lose.
“We’ve got to focus on ourselves, get our house in order and be ready to go and get the result. We need to keep winning games to give ourselves a chance of finishing in the top four. We didn’t have it all our own way when we played them at the South Leeds Stadium so it will be a tough one for us.”
Wing Elliot Kear is back in contention while French half-back William Barthau could also be available for selection.
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton said last week’s performance against Halifax was probably his side’s best 80 minutes of the season: “It was tough on the boys, they played some great stuff and it looked like we were going to hang on for a win,” he said. “Halifax showed their class just when they needed to and got the score at the end.
“London have hit their straps now, they’ve got a settled squad and are on a great run. They’re the only team to beat Leigh so they’ll be bouncing at the moment and have probably got their sights firmly set on the top four. But we go there with nothing to lose. We’ll be massive underdogs but hopefully have the same spirit that we had last week and play with a bit of freedom.”
Centre Luke Briscoe is out with a knee injury and centre partner Danny Maun is doubtful following a neck/back spasm
Whitehaven v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)
Following Whitehaven’s 26-16 defeat at Sheffield Eagles coach James Coyle said: “We defended pretty well and stuck to our guns but there were a lot of mistakes in the game from both teams. With a little bit of composure we would have got the win and had Sheffield played better they would probably have won more easily. It’s disappointing in some ways but positive in others.
“It’s going to be tough against Batley, they ran Leigh all the way at the weekend. They’re a tough team to play against, really enthusiastic and aggressive and a big side so it’s going to be difficult for us.”
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear said: “We played very well indeed against Leigh and I was really pleased with what the players contributed. The most pleasing thing is that we’ve played Sheffield, London and Leigh within a very short space of time and we got better.
“I was really happy with their effort and application but we need to start posting points on the league ladder as well.
“It’s always very tough going up to Whitehaven. They’ve bettered us the last three times we’ve played them, twice at our place and once up at Whitehaven. We’re fully aware that they’ve got the Indian sign over us at the minute but it’s up to us to prevent that happening again.”
Full-back James Craven is doubtful with a hamstring injury but stand-off Cain Southernwood and wing Johnny Campbell are available while second row Sam Scott, prop Keegan Hirst and centre Elliot Cosgrove, who were rested last week, should return.
Workington Town v Bradford Bulls (3.00)
To say Phil Veivers, the Workington Town coach, was disappointed with his side’s 52-0 home defeat to Featherstone Rovers, is an understatement: “It was a case of ‘rabbits in headlights’,” he said. “In one 16-minute period they had it for 14 sets and we had four - they scored six tries. The tries they scored were preventable, which is the annoying thing.
“The games don’t get much easier. We’re probably looking for some reaction this week but we’ve picked up some injuries, which doesn’t help.
“Brett Phillips is out for about four weeks with a cartilage problem and Jarrad Stack for probably the same period with a dislocated shoulder and there are still a couple of others out injured. It makes us a little bit light but we’ll keep looking to try and find some bodies to re-inforce the team and hopefully we’ll get our just rewards.”