Kingstone Press Championships previews
Sunday August 17
Kingstone Press Championship
Sheffield Eagles v Whitehaven (2.00pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston wants his side to finish the year with a flourish as they attempt to book a spot in the Kingstone Press Championship play-offs.
Aston said: “We know we have let ourselves down a bit this year.”
But Whitehaven coach Dave Woods is hopeful of causing more pain for Sheffield after his side’s 28-13 victory over Batley Bulldogs last week.
Tenth-placed Whitehaven remain in the relegation zone, but are only three points behind seventh-placed Keighley Cougars.
Woods said: “We’ve got to be confident going to Sheffield.
“We’ve been doing alright, and now it’s just about our mental strength.
“We can’t do anymore with plays and things like that; it’s all about how we turn up, what we do, and hopefully we can get amongst them and really make them have to earn points.
“Sheffield’s home record hasn’t been as good as they’d expect, but if we allow them to play then it doesn’t matter, they’ll still do a job.
“We’ve got to not allow them to play.”
Woods has been dealt a major blow with the news Craig Calvert is likely to miss out due to a foot injury.
Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear must cope without Lee Paterson for the rest of the regular Kingstone Press Championship campaign.
Paterson, who started in last week’s 28-13 defeat against Whitehaven, has been banned for five games after being found guilty of using homophobic abuse.
Ben Black is also sidelined for the Bulldogs, while Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison expects to have 11 players unavailable for Sunday’s clash.
Morrison said: “We’ll still have the same 19 to choose from that we did last week; there’s nobody due back in time for Sunday.”
He added: “Batley need to try to get as many points on the table as they can and they’ll want to beat us. Every local derby is like that, and we’re expecting them to come firing at us.
“All sorts of things go out of the window in derbies. It’s a big emotional day, and I expect it to be no different this time around.
“We played some good footy last week, but there are still a lot of errors in us.
“I was happy with the win and the effort though, and hopefully we can produce something even better this week.”
Halifax v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison insists his side are ready for a match some are dubbing the “£250,000 showdown”.
Sunday’s clash with Featherstone Rovers could have a huge impact on deciding who finishes second in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Halifax are currently one point ahead of Featherstone with three games remaining.
And with prize money of £450,000 for the team who finishes second, compared to £200,000 for the team finishing third, Sunday’s fixture has enormous implications.
Harrison said: “We just need to make sure we get as many healthy troops as we can, prepare really well, do what we need to do and then the result will take care of itself.
“We’ve been preparing for this game for a few weeks now, because we know the importance of this fixture.
“We need to be at our best to even get anywhere near Featherstone, but I can assure you that we will be ready.”
Featherstone look set to travel without Tim Spears, Jamie Cording, George Flanagan, James Mendeika and Liam Kent.
Rovers lost their last game, a 48-18 defeat against Leigh Centurions, but coach Andy Hay is fully focused on Sunday’s challenge.
Hay said: “Halifax is the big one. It’s a must-win game, and we need to get the three points.”
Keighley Cougars v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March says relegated North Wales Crusaders will be “dangerous” opponents in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.
March said: “They’ve been confirmed as relegated, so they’ll be playing for pride and have no pressure on them, and when you’re playing like that you can be a dangerous team.
“We’ve got to be on our guard against them, but hopefully we can get the points. It’s all about us this week and how we approach the game.”
March has been dealt a major blow with the news that Brendan Rawlins will miss the rest of the season with a broken hand.
Olly Pursglove, Ben Sagar and Lewis Graham are all in contention to face Crusaders, with March setting his sights on a strong finish to the regular season.
He said: “We want to get into the play-offs and hopefully achieve something.
“The situation that we’re in now means that if we play to our ability and get three points on Sunday, we’re not then looking over our shoulders but looking forward instead.
“By my reckoning I think if win every game from now, we can get as high as fifth. We’ve a lot to play for.”
Crusaders coach Anthony Murray is still searching for his first win in charge of the club.
Rochdale Hornets v Doncaster (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot must overcome a mounting injury list if his side are to secure a shock victory in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash.
Hornets, whose relegation has already been confirmed, are without Ryan King, Chris Baines, John Cookson, Lewis Sheridan, Ryan Millard and Warren Thompson.
Talbot said: “The injuries have hit us hard at the back end of the season, and we’re backing up on Wednesday away at Sheffield, so we’ve got a big challenge in front of us.
“When we went to Doncaster early in the season Paul Cooke was very influential, so we’ll be looking for an improved performance. We like playing at home and we’ve caused one or two upsets, and hopefully we can cause another.”
Jordan Case could come into contention for the hosts, while Doncaster have been dealt their own blows with the news that Kyle Kesik (broken hand) and Mike Kelly (foot) look like missing the rest of the season.
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke said: “The news about Kyle and Mike is not ideal, but we’ve had to deal with injuries all year.”
He added: “We desperately need to win this game. With the two teams directly above us (Featherstone Rovers and Halifax) playing each other, it gives us the chance to narrow the gap on one of them.
“But Rochdale are carefree, and they’re not a bad side at all. They troubled us at our place, and we’ll have to be on our guard.”
Swinton Lions v Leigh Centurions (3.00pm)
Josh Barlow returns from suspension as Swinton Lions look to cause one of the shocks of the season in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture.
The Lions have managed just five league wins this year, but coach John Duffy is in hopeful mood after last week’s 31-30 defeat against Sheffield Eagles.
Duffy said: “There was a lot of effort from our lads.”
Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley is picking from a full-strength squad and insists his side will not ease off despite already clinching the League Leaders’ Shield.
Rowley said: “Whether it be a friendly, league or cup fixture, we’re sportsmen and we prepare to win every game.
“We won’t be fielding any weakened teams between now and the play-offs. We’ll be going strong every week.”
On Swinton, he added: “They’re playing for contracts, and the influence from the Warrington lads last week was quite significant.
“I’ve seen them using a lot of our shapes and structures; they’re certainly a good attacking side and they give you plenty to think about.”
Workington Town v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Workington Town coach Phil Veivers insists he has every faith in his players’ ability to secure three points against Barrow Raiders.
Town lost 36-10 against Doncaster last week, ending a seven-match winning streak in disappointing fashion.
But Veivers said: “I’m confident we will put in a performance this weekend.”
Town are without Alex Szostak (knee) and Lewis Tierney (knee), but will still start as favourites against a Barrow team that has lost 17 out of 19 fixtures under current coach Bobbie Goulding.
Raiders, who have lost their last 10 fixtures, have a doubt over Joe Bullock (leg).
Barrow are certain to finish bottom of the Kingstone Press Championship, but Goulding will be keen to secure a victory in what could be one of his final games in charge of the club. Last week he rejected a contract offer for 2015.
Kingstone Press Championship One
Gateshead Thunder v South Wales Scorpions (2.00pm)
Gateshead Thunder coach Stanley Gene is hoping for a return to winning ways after last week’s 34-30 defeat against York City Knights.
Thunder, who are fourth in Kingstone Press Championship One, had won their previous three fixtures.
And their cause is helped this week by the news that South Wales Scorpions’ squad has been decimated by injuries and unavailability.
Scorpions coach Mike Grady has at least 12 players unavailable, while Chris Vitalini has joined Gloucestershire All Golds on loan.
Grady said: “We’re possibly going to have a look at some of our Academy lads, and we’ve just got to go up there and give it a go.
“All I can ask is for everyone to give 100 per cent. If they do that, and do themselves and the team proud, then that’s all I’m after.”
On Gateshead, he added: “They’ve come good in the second half of the season.
“Stanley Gene was a competitive player, and he’s coached that into his side too.
“It’s going to be difficult, and it’s a big trip, but we’re staying the night before and hopefully that will help the lads a bit.”
Paul Emanuelli and Dan Parry are among the absentees for the Scorpions.
Gloucestershire All Golds v London Skolars (3.00pm)
Gloucestershire All Golds coach Steve McCormack is aiming to strengthen his side’s play-off chances with victory over London Skolars on Sunday.
And McCormack believes the All Golds’ spirit will be key to any success they enjoy as the regular season draws to a close.
McCormack said: “The injuries we’ve had have hit us hard recently, but the enthusiasm the lads showed, and the fact they’re willing to run through brick walls for each other, makes all the difference.”
London Skolars coach Joe Mbu is urging his men to start well in this week’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.
Mbu said: “This season has been a bit of a mystery to me in terms of how we’ve been playing.
“We’ve accumulated more bonus points than anybody else, which shows how close we’ve been.
“But it’s also a reflection of us always starting from behind and trying to play catch-up. By the time we get the wind in our sails, we’re fighting against the clock. We need to start well this week.”
Mbu has no new injury concerns and could name an unchanged side, while loan signing Chris Vitalini could feature for the hosts.
Hunslet Hawks v York City Knights (3.00pm)
Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton insists his side’s only focus is on achieving a win against York City Knights on Sunday.
Second-placed Hawks host table-topping York in a mouthwatering Kingstone Press Championship One clash.
Eaton said: “It’s a tasty one and an exciting game, but we’re focusing on a one-off performance that will hopefully get us the win.
“Whatever may or may not happen on the back of that is hard to say. We’re fighting tooth and nail with Oldham for second place, and ultimately we’re just focusing on producing a performance and trying to get a win this week.”
He added: “York are a quick team and they play fast, so we need to nullify that to be in with a chance.”
James Houston (broken hand) is facing a month on the sidelines, but Michael Haley and Lewis Reed are both in contention for the hosts.
York could lose James Haynes (concussion), but James Ford, Jonny Presley and Greg Minikin are all available.
Knights have won their last eight games, equaling the club’s all-time record.
Coach Gary Thornton said: “It’s an indication of the form we’re in, but if we lose on Sunday and don’t make the Grand Final then it doesn’t count for anything.
“We’ll try our best to treat it as another game, but we can’t hide the importance of it.”
Oldham v Hemel Stags
Oldham coach Scott Naylor hopes to have a fully-fit squad available for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One clash with Hemel Stags – barring long-term absentee Adam Files.
Both David Cookson (elbow) and Kenny Hughes (ankle) are closing in on their return to action, boosting Naylor’s options ahead of a tricky test against the Stags.
Hemel coach Troy Perkins is without Stephen Bannister, who twisted his knee while scoring a try on debut last week, but Matthew Cook and Ciaren Clement-Pascal are available for the trip north.
Perkins said: “I was very disappointed we didn’t get a bonus point last week, because we played well enough to get one.
“It’s more pressure on us this week, and we need to get something out of this game.
“Oldham’s a tough place to go and they play the slope well, but they haven’t beaten us this season, so we’ll go in with confidence that we know we can perform well against them.”
He added: “If we can pick up something from this game and win the next two, I think we’ll make the play-offs.
“If not, we’ll be relying on other results – and that’s something we don’t want to do.”