THIS week's Kingstone Press Championships previews, including Leigh Centurions' trip to Dewsbury Rams.
Barrow Raiders v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)
Barrow Raiders are searching for their first win under coach Bobbie Goulding when they entertain Batley Bulldogs.
Raiders led by two scores going into the closing stages of last week’s game at second placed Doncaster, only to concede two late tries.
Goulding said: “We should have won the game – we were the better team there’s no doubt about that.
“It’s just about getting over the line for us at the moment, slowing the game down at the right times and turning the ball over on our terms.
“We’re getting there, but I rate John Kear and I rate Batley and it’s a big challenge for us.”
Half-back Liam Campbell will have a fitness test on an ankle injury before weekend, while Ian Mort and Nathan Mossop could both come into contention after training fully on Tuesday night.
Batley coach Kear says that the Bulldogs’ inconsistent form continues to be a concern following their 10-30 home defeat to Whitehaven.
Kear said: “It’s very frustrating at the minute.
“We’re in a tough place and it’s up to ourselves to get out of it.
“I’ve seen Barrow’s games against Keighley, Doncaster and Halifax, and against Doncaster and Halifax they played very well indeed.
“They look like they’re improving, but we have to focus on ourselves.”
Hooker or half-back Alistair Leek will see a consultant over a knee injury, but Mark Applegarth is available again and Ben Black felt no ill effects to his knee problem in the Whitehaven defeat.
Dewsbury Rams v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison is looking for a response from his side when they entertain undefeated leaders Leigh Centurions.
Morrison was disappointed by the Rams’ display in their 40-20 defeat at Keighley on Sunday and knows they face another big challenge this Sunday.
Morrison said: “The boys let themselves down at weekend by not turning up to play.
“We’ve done a little bit of yo-yoing up and down this year and we need to find that consistency.
“This is a massive challenge, and similar to a couple of weeks ago when we were off at Swinton and then came up with a great win against Batley.
“I’m hoping we can change it around again and produce a good showing.”
Leigh coach Paul Rowley will take nothing for granted at the Tetley’s Stadium, despite the best start to a season in the club’s history.
Rowley said: “The general trend for Dewsbury this year has been to bounce back after a defeat, so we’re expecting the very best Dewsbury side to turn up.
“I’ve seen a couple of their games and they’ve played some really good stuff at times.
“We’re just carrying on working hard – there’s a lot of pressure from underneath the first 17 in the squad, and nobody is comfortable when they’re not in the team.
“Everyone is pushing hard and that makes everyone hungry.”
Rowley has a full fit squad for the game while Morrison’s only absentee is long-term knee injury victim Aaron Brown.
Halifax v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Halifax will welcome back key duo Tony Tonks and Scott Murrell for the visit of North Wales Crusaders.
Tonks has completed a one-match suspension and Murrell was unavailable last weekend due to his partner giving birth, and both take their place in coach Karl Harrison’s squad.
Harrison said: “North Wales have been a bit of a mixed bag this year.
“They played really well up at Whitehaven and then got well beaten by Sheffield – although Sheffield were very good to be fair.
“They have a few ex-Halifax players in Stephen Bannister and the Ashall brothers.
“But from our point of view we need to kick on now and start putting some wins together.”
Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths knows his side faces another stern test as they adapt to life in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Griffith said: “It isn’t an easy one for us – Halifax have some outstanding half-backs and some outstanding players generally.
“I just hope we turn up and aren’t a shadow of ourselves again.
“We’ve shown what we can do at Whitehaven and then what we can’t do against Sheffield, and the boys want to put the manner of the defeat to Sheffield right.”
Griffiths is boosted by the return of Jamie Dallimore and Toby Adamson, but Andy Moulsdale faces a late fitness text on a recurring shin complaint.
Keighley Cougars v Swinton Lions (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March is looking for a third consecutive win and has set his team a target of climbing the Kingstone Press Championship table in coming weeks.
Cougars knocked Swinton Lions out of the Tetley’s Challenge Cup two weeks ago before accounting for Dewsbury Rams in the league.
March said: “Swinton didn’t have any dual reg’ players in the last game and we’re not sure who they’ll have available this weekend.
“They could bring pretty much anybody in from Warrington, so we have to concentrate on ourselves.
“We sat down as a team recently and set some short term goals, and the first of those was to win against Dewsbury which we’ve ticked off.
“Hopefully now we can get some momentum and start climbing upwards instead of looking over our shoulders at the bottom end.”
March will be boosted by the return of captain James Feather this weekend, for the first time since the opening match of the season following a groin injury.
Ash Lindsay is also back in training after having the pot taken off his leg, but is not ready to return to action yet.
Swinton are without trialist Steve Lewis but Mick Nanyn could return from a leg injury after training fully early in the week.
Coach Ian Watson said: “We only played them two weeks ago so it’s an interesting game.
“We’ll see if we’ve learned a thing or two from that game, because we did some good things but were poor in a couple of tries we conceded.”
Rochdale Hornets v Workington Town (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets will be looking to make it four wins in a row when they host Workington Town.
Hornets have beaten Whitehaven, North Wales Crusaders and Swinton Lions in recent weeks to climb above the relegation places.
But coach Ian Talbot insists they must be on their guard against a Town side that drew with Halifax on Sunday.
Talbot said: “They’re an unpredictable team because they don’t always have the same players from Wigan week-in, week-out.
“They had Sam Powell last week who has a good relationship with Jack Murphy at full-back, as well as Dom Manfredi and Connor Farrell all down the same edge.”
Talbot will be without centre Mike Ratu after he picked up a potentially season-ending knee injury at weekend.
Workington coach Phil Veivers believes he is now starting to see the kind of progress in his side that he’s been looking for.
Veivers said: “Last week was a massive improvement, although we do still have some issues on ball control.
“But there were lots of positives against Halifax for us.
“I’ve seen Rochdale’s game from the weekend, and they have a pretty big pack and some smart players in Ryan Millard and Paul Crook.
“They have plenty of threat and some speed on the edges, and we’ll need to be good across the park.”
Veivers’ only injury problem is long-term absentee Elliott Miller.
Sheffield Eagles v Featherstone Rovers (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston says that he won’t be underestimating Featherstone Rovers despite their turbulent week. Rovers parted company with coach John Bastian on Monday.
Aston said: “I know that they’ll be wanting to get back on the horse.
“They’ve had two losses to Leigh and there’s been a bit of doom and gloom, but they are still a quality team who will come here firing.
“I believe Danny Evans will be in charge, he’s been there a number of years and if I know Danny I suspect he might go back to playing how Daryl Powell did because that gets the best out of the players.
“That wouldn’t surprise me, but we have to look after ourselves.
“The pitches are being a bit more kind to us now, and we looked real good against North Wales with the ball in our hands and defensively.”
Aston has been boosted by the unexpected return of centre Menzie Yere, who had been told that it was “90 per cent sure” he’d damaged his anterior cruciate ligament, before training fully and playing against Crusaders on Sunday.
Eddie Battye and Cory Aston are also closing in on returns but are expected to play in the under-20s competition this weekend instead.
Rovers caretaker coach Evans is set to be without forwards Matty Dale, Andy Bostock and long-term absentee Liam Walmsley.
Whitehaven v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods wants more of the same following his side’s 30-10 win away at Batley Bulldogs last Sunday.
Woods said: “That’s how we can play, and how we should be playing every week.
“All the talk before the game in the dressing room was good and we went out and did what we had to do.
“Doncaster are second at the moment and are going really well, and they always fight to the death in every game no matter what the situation.
“We know they’re going to be strong – we just need to be more consistent and make it harder for teams.”
Woods could be without prop Samir Tahraoui after he couldn’t train on Tuesday due to a hip injury, while Scott McAvoy is also being assessed on a leg complaint.
Doncaster could hand a debut to utility back Tom Hodson, after he rejoined the club following a spell in rugby union.
Hodson was a member of the Dons’ promotion-winning side of 2012, before joining Featherstone and then Huddersfield RU.
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke said: “We know all about Tom’s pedigree and his ability and he’ll be good for us.
“Whitehaven have been up and down, and when there’s a lot at stake at that end of the table teams can get desperate.
“When someone goes to Batley and scores 30 points to win you have to sit up and take notice.
“Our consistency hasn’t been great either form-wise, and if we played like we did against Barrow we won’t get away with it again.”
Brett Waller, Liam Cunningham, Danny Nicklas and Mike Kelly remain sidelined, but Shaun Leaf and Mark Castle could come into contention this week.
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gateshead Thunder v London Skolars (2.00pm)
Gateshead Thunder coach Stanley Gene says that new signing Jamie Rooney is already starting to have an impact at the club.
Rooney made a try scoring debut in the 50-16 win at South Wales Scorpions and is again set for a key role against Skolars.
Gene said: “He’s really, really impressed me.
“This is a kid who’s played at the highest level but has come down and done extras before and after training.
“He brings a lot of experience for the other guys and showed some really good touches last weekend.
“I’ve seen two DVDs of Skolars including their game against York, and they are very strong and physical up the middle.
“They have some really athletic kids out there, and if we underestimate them or take them lightly they will give us a shock.”
Centre Chris Heil is a doubt with an ankle injury, and Gene revealed that he is currently looking for a fullback and an experienced forward.
Skolars coach Joe Mbu is looking forward to pitting his wits against Gene.
Mbu said: “I played against Stan and trained with him at Huddersfield for a while.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him – I’m sure he will bring the experience and toughness he had as a player to the squad.
“The performance at York was disappointing for us.
“Even though we had a couple of injuries including Matt Bradley at seven, we should be competent to play without him.
“We’re making life hard for ourselves and need to be better in terms of execution.”
Bradley has a leg strain that will be assessed again before weekend.
South Wales Scorpions v Hunslet Hawks (2.00pm)
South Wales Scorpions coach Mike Grady hopes to bring in at least two more loan players from North Wales Crusaders before Sunday’s match with Hunslet Hawks.
Scorpions already have three-quarter Greg Wilde from the Crusaders, with five first team players injured.
Grady said: “We will hopefully have another two or three Crusaders players confirmed by weekend.
“Hunslet are on a good run and have plenty of experience in their side.
“It’s another tough one for us but we need to keep building.”
Shaun Owens, Dan Parry, Alex Jones, Owain Davies and Rhys Fitzgerald are all sidelined for the Scorpions, while Alan Pope has this week left the club due to work commitments.
But Martin Luckwell has returned from a spell in rugby union and could come into contention.
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton is familiar with several members of the Scorpions squad.
He said: “I know a fair bit about them from coaching the Wales under-18s side just over a year ago.
“They have some very talented youngsters, and from the outside looking in, maybe they’ve just lacked that bit of experience to help them win games.
“We will be taking it very, very seriously.
“We have a big month coming up and there are some big challenges ahead for everybody.”
Prop Michael Haley is set to return from a hamstring injury and half-back Thomas Coyle from a pectoral problem.
Brother James Coyle also has a chance of returning, meaning that Eaton could rotate his half-back options over the next couple of weeks.
In-form centre Matt Cook will miss out however after sustaining a hamstring injury in training.
York City Knights v Hemel Stags (3.00pm)
York City Knights coach Gary Thornton is keen for his side not to underestimate fourth-placed Hemel Stags.
York lost at home to Oxford in April but Thornton says his young squad is now coming to terms with life in Kingstone Press Championship One.
Thornton said: “Hemel like a lot of teams in the division are a very dogged side.
“They’re very enthusiastic and keep coming at you, and Jymel Coleman is a real threat who has played at a higher level.
“They will be tough opposition and are a big team, but we’re learning week by week.”
Knights back rower Jason Golden will see another specialist after dislocating his should against London Skolars having had three operations in the past.
Austin Bell, Kris Brining, Harry Carter and Iain Morrison are still sidelined, but James Ford returns from a groin complaint.
Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins is still without key Australian recruits Mitchell Barbera and Ben Thorburn plus Ciaren Clement-Pascal, who are all long-term absentees.
Perkins said: “We’ve never played York before but they’re a side that is right up there with Hunslet and Oldham as one of the teams tipped to win the league.
“It’s going to be tough because they have a lot of players with experience in the Championship.
“We know what we need to improve on and that’s taking our opportunities and hanging onto the ball a bit better.
“We’ve been making it difficult for ourselves.”