Kingstone Press Championships previews
Saturday September 6
Kingstone Press Championship One
Oxford v Hemel Stags (3.00pm)
Oxford coach Tony Benson is seeking an eighth win of the season to finish 2014 on a high note.
Benson’s men have secured seven wins from their 19 league fixtures this year, but have been let down by claiming a bonus point in only one of their 12 defeats.
They are aiming to back up last week’s victory over South Wales Scorpions with another success on Saturday, but visitors Hemel Stags are fighting for a play-off spot.
Stags coach Troy Perkins said: “We know if we win we’re in the play-offs, but Oxford will want to finish their season on a high. The challenge is for us to build on last week’s performance.
“We’ll focus on our defence, and try to limit their attack.”
Hemel emerged 44-24 winners in a crunch clash with Gloucestershire All Golds last week.
And Perkins believes that display proved that Hemel can make an impact in the play-offs – if they qualify.
Perkins said: “It was good that in a must-win game, all the boys responded accordingly and we played some of the best stuff we have done all year.”
Hemel’s Jermaine Coleman is ruled out after suffering a hamstring strain against Gloucestershire All Golds last week.
Sunday September 7
Kingstone Press Championship
North Wales Crusaders v Leigh Centurions (2.30pm)
Stephen Wild and Mick Govin are both ruled out for North Wales Crusaders ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture against Leigh Centurions.
Crusaders coach Anthony Murray said: “It’s a massive game, and I’m expecting a bumper crowd.
“We’d like to finish on a high, but it’s just about us competing and putting in a good performance.”
He added: “The challenge for us is regrouping, and trying to rebuild again next season.
“But our players have got some real pride about them, and they’ve shown that over the last 10 weeks.
“There’s a good nucleus of a side here that will compete in Championship One. The foundations are there for the club to compete.”
Dom Speakman is set to come into contention for the hosts, while Centurions coach Paul Rowley could make “one or two” changes.
Rowley said: “We can’t mix it up too much, but there are one or two boys carrying knocks, and we’ll probably rest them.
“But it will still be a strong side that we put out. There’ll be no messing about.
“We took loads of positives out of last week, and we’re doing some really good things – especially in defence.”
Doncaster v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)
Doncaster coach Paul Cooke has challenged his team to be “more desperate” than relegation-threatened Batley Bulldogs in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship showdown.
Cooke said: “What’s imperative for us is that we stay where we are in third place. The opportunity to finish second is out of our hands.
“Can Batley be more desperate to avoid relegation than we are to finish third? That’s the only question this weekend.
“I know how John Kear prepares his teams when their backs are against the wall, and there’s so much at stake this weekend. It’s two teams that have both got a lot to play for.
“We either drop to fourth if we lose, or we win and stay third – and possibly go second.”
Pasqualle Dunn (leg) is unlikely to feature for Doncaster, but Mike Kelly could be available following a recent foot problem.
Batley’s Ben Black looks set to keep his place at stand-off, having made a successful return to action last week.
Bulldogs coach John Kear said: “The equation now is a simple one – if we win, we stay up.
“If we lose we are relying on other people, so it’s a big, big game.”
Halifax v Barrow Raiders (3.00pm)
Halifax coach Karl Harrison is hoping to have Ben Johnston fit for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Barrow Raiders.
Johnston missed last week’s defeat against Doncaster due to an ankle problem.
But Harrison is keen to get his playmaker back after witnessing what he described as an “amateurish” performance by his players last week.
Harrison said: “The league table shows we have been good in defence this year, but for the last three or four weeks our goal-line defence has been pathetic.”
Ben Kaye and Adam Robinson are also believed to be closing in on playing returns.
Raiders, who have won just four league fixtures this term, will start as huge underdogs against Karl Harrison’s men.
But departing Barrow coach Bobbie Goulding said: “We will go there and give it a real go.”
Keighley Cougars v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)
Keighley Cougars coach Paul March insists his side will “fight for their lives” in Sunday’s crunch Kingstone Press Championship clash with Featherstone Rovers.
Cougars are one of four teams battling to avoid the final relegation spot.
March said: “We’re still in the mix for relegation, so we’ve got to fight for our lives.
“We can only concentrate on what we’re doing in-house.”
But March, who has no new injury concerns ahead of the match against second-placed Rovers, is demanding a solid start from his team.
He said: “We’ve started slowly for three weeks on the bounce. When you do that against good sides, you’re always chasing the game.
“We can’t start playing when we’re behind, we’ve got to start playing from minute one – and that’s what we got to do this week.”
Featherstone’s Jason Crookes faces a late fitness test, with coach Andy Hay calling for a big improvement from his side after last week’s home defeat against Sheffield Eagles.
Hay said: “You can’t go into games thinking you’re going to be able to play and win; you’ve got to put in the hard work and effort.
“You generally get what you deserve.”
Rochdale Hornets v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)
Rochdale Hornets coach Ian Talbot has challenged his players to finish the season well – despite the club’s relegation already being confirmed.
Talbot said: “It’s been a long season, and a real learning curve after our promotion.
“The squad’s busted and depleted, so it’s just a matter of getting a team out there and giving it our best shot. We want to finish outside of the bottom two.”
He added: “We’re trying to consolidate where we’re at and what we’ve got, and if we can just make a few additions we could have a strong squad next season – but it’s also going to be a lot tougher division than the last time we were in it.”
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston is aiming for a sixth successive win as his side approach the play-offs.
Eagles have not lost since a home defeat against Batley Bulldogs in July.
Aston said: “We always try to improve as the season goes on, and we seem to have found a little bit of consistency which has been lacking throughout the season.”
Swinton Lions v Whitehaven (3.00pm)
Swinton Lions coach John Duffy is hoping for an improved performance d after last week’s 42-0 drubbing against Batley Bulldogs.
And Swinton, who have already been relegated, could kill Whitehaven’s hopes of avoiding the drop – if they produce a solid performance on Sunday.
But Whitehaven coach Dave Woods, who expects to be picking from a full-strength squad, has warned that his side are ready for the challenge.
Woods said: “The last couple of weeks have been preparation for semi-final footy, and this week is no different.
“We’re treating this like a Grand Final, and we’ve just got to make sure everybody is fit and ready to go come Sunday afternoon.
“The players have been great throughout all this, and they’re fully focused, know what’s at stake and are keen to do well.”
Kurtis Quinn was expected to be doubtful after suffering an injury last week, but Woods insists Quinn will be “fine” to face Swinton.
On the Lions, Woods added: “They probably want to finish the season on a win.
“They’re always tough when you play them and, when you look at some of their results, they’ve really pushed sides to the wire.”
Workington Town v Dewsbury Rams (3.00pm)
Workington Town need just a point to guarantee their Kingstone Press Championship status for 2015.
And Town coach Phil Veivers believes his side are close to breaking into the division’s top clubs – if they avoid relegation on what looks set to be a nerve-shredding weekend.
Veivers said: “We’re good side at the moment, and we’re not far off being a really good side that can challenge at the top and become a top four or a top five team.”
Dewsbury Rams coach Glenn Morrison has doubts over Matthew Haggerty and Ryan Wright, who both suffered head injuries in last week’s 24-12 victory over Keighley Cougars.
Morrison said: “We want to keep going. We’ve had some good results along the way, and we want to continue that.
“We know it’s going to be a tough one up at Workington, and we’re likely to be playing them the week after, too.
“If we can get one up on them, and put that result in the back of their minds, that would be good.”
Kingstone Press Championship One
Oldham v Gloucestershire All Golds (3.00pm)
Oldham coach Scott Naylor will check on Lewis Palfrey (dead leg) before naming his team for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture with Gloucestershire All Golds.
Palfrey was one of five players who missed training on Tuesday.
George Tyson, Mo Agoro, Danny Langtree and Sam Gee also missed out, and Naylor has admitted he will be making changes to his line-up – irrespective of injuries.
Oldham lost 40-14 against Gateshead last week. Naylor said: “It’s time to stop talking and start doing, and that will happen, I’m sure.”
Gloucestershire All Golds could still extend their season – if results go their way this week.
Steve McCormack’s men need to win to have any chance of qualifying for the play-offs – and hope Hemel Stags lose by more than 12 points against Oxford.
Defeat would bring to an end McCormack’s spell in charge of the club.
South Wales Scorpions v Hunslet (3.00pm)
South Wales Scorpions coach Mike Grady is promising his team will “fire into” Hunslet Hawks in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One clash.
Scorpions, who have just two wins to their name this season, are determined to end the campaign on a high note.
Grady said: “Hunslet need a win, so it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to enjoy it. We’ll fire into them from the start.
“The lads are confident, looking forward to it and ready to go. Anything can happen on the day.”
Shaun Owens is unavailable for the hosts, while Phil Carleton is 50/50 as he battles to overcome a rib problem.
Grady added: “I think we’ve improved over the season. People look at the paper every week and see the results, but fellow coaches can see how much progress we’ve made.
“We should have won another four or five along the way, but we’ve just lacked experience.”
Hawks travel without Liam Hood and Danny Grimshaw, with coach Barry Eaton warning his remaining players not to underestimate their opponents.
Eaton said: “They’ve had some decent games, especially at home. We’re treating them very seriously, and we’re going down on Saturday, a day before the game, to make sure our preparation is spot on.”
York City Knights v London Skolars (3.00pm)
James Haynes has an outside chance of featuring for York City Knights, but coach Gary Thornton insists Haynes will not be rushed back into action after a recent rib injury.
York, who have already secured top spot in Kingstone Press Championship One, have been challenged by Thornton not to let their standards slip.
Thornton said: “We’ve got to keep things moving along now.
“We’ve got to make sure coming top doesn’t detract from what we’ve still got to do. While it’s a great achievement, we haven’t won anything yet.
“We had two goals at the start of the year; win the league, and then get promoted. We’ve achieved one, and now we want to get the other.”
On London Skolars, he added: “Some weeks they’re very good, and other weeks they’re not so good, but they’ve got some real quality in their ranks.”
Skolars coach Joe Mbu has a full squad to pick from for his side’s final game of the season.
Mbu said: “We’re looking for a good effort and a good performance, and that’s all we can ask for.
“What we put in is what will reward us at the end.”
On York, he added: “Only two or three teams have been able to consistently win back-to-back games, and that’s the sign of a team that works hard and applies what it works on during the week. York are very well-drilled and well-disciplined.”