Doncaster RL v Keighley Cougars Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)
Date: Sunday 30th July
Venue: Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
Securing a top eight finish in record breaking fashion has sent the Cougars into the Super Eights on a high after the draw in Workington and the race to close the five point gap on a top five finish starts in South Yorkshire as the boys face 5th placed Doncaster RL in the opening game of the Eights.
LAST TIME OUT:
Doncaster RL secured a 5th placed finish in the regular season with an easy 4-42 win on the road against the University of Gloucestershire All Golds for a third consecutive victory. Sam Doherty and Reece Dean scored two tries each whilst Mark Castle, veteran Prop Iafeta Paleaaesina and Brad England wrapping up the victory in Cheltenham for Richard Horne and his side.
The Cougars ran in 16 tries to equal the club record for a home victory in a 92-6 triumph against Oxford RL. Despite conceding the first try, Hamish Barnes scored a quartet of tries with Ritchie Hawkyard, Brad Nicholson, Harry Aaronson and Josh Lynam all contributing with a brace apiece in the rout with the other four tries coming through Mike Emmett, James Feather, Brendon Rawlins and Adam Ryder.
Doncaster Head Coach Richard Horne has been left with a selection headache on the back of three consecutive victories with 28 players available for the visit of the Cougars this Sunday afternoon. Horne can boast an injury-free squad which was strenghtened last week by the arrivals of Hull FC’s Nick Rawsthorne and Brandon Westerman, Warrington winger Ryan Jones and France international Hakim Mildoudi.
Craig Lingard will be welcome back Scott Law (Groin) after near to two months on the sidelines through injury but is without Brad Nicholson who is serving his one game suspension for Grade B Punching. Emmerson Whittel (Knee) is too miss the remainder of the season with Aidan Scully (Finger) also injury whilst Sean Kelly is unavailable for selection due to the birth of his son earlier this week.
Previous meetings between these two sides have seen the Dons bully the Cougars up the middle of the park through the sheer size and power of the pack at their disposal. This means the Cougars will need to recreate the quickness and speed of the ruck and around the play the ball than tore Oxford to shreds a fortnight ago on a much better and bigger pitch available to them at the Keepmoat this Sunday.
DONCASTER: Braham; Carr; Cross; Dean; Doherty; England; Green; Hedges; Jones; Kesik; Martin; Miller; Muranka; Paleaaesina; Rawsthorne; Spiers; Tali; Thackray; Westerman.
COUGARS: Aaronson; Bailey; Barnes; Beharrell; Brook; Cherryholme; Conroy; Dixon; Emmett; Feather; Gabriel; Hawkyard; Law; Lynam; O’Sullivan; Rawlins; Reed; Ryder; Sagar.
Doncaster RL Head Coach Richard Horne: “Obviously a lot of players are going to be disappointed but my main focus will be picking what I feel is the best team to face Keighley.
“Some people might be unhappy at losing their place to a new player we’ve just brought in who we feel will strengthen the squad and boost our promotion prospects, but that can’t be helped and it’s something all clubs have done
“It’s all down to the players: their attitude and performance are key to them being selected and keeping their places. “All the players have been working hard in training and I know they are looking forward to the start of the 8s and so am I.
“We’ll be playing competitive games every week, whereas in the regular league season just finished there were games against the development sides which we were expected to win. I certainly would have been disappointed had any of them done a job on us because we’d not had the right attitude.
“We know we’ll have to play well in seven games if we want to finish in a top-five play-off spot or challenge for third place and we’ll be doing everything we can this week to make sure the players are in the right frame of mind ahead of Sunday’s game.
“Even though we ended the (regular) season with three successive wins we’ve still had things to work on and hopefully we’ll see the benefits of that this weekend.”
Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “We didn’t play very well at all in the league away and we’ve got something to make up for on that display.
“We wanted to tie their middle up, get a quick ruck and play off the back of that but we didn’t do that. We went wide too early and we didn’t make them work.
“This time we’ve got to look to win that ruck and have people like Nathan Conroy, Ritchie Hawkyard and Harry Aaronson coming in and picking up and scooting. Once we get a roll on, that’s when we can start going wide.
“We’ve identified we are not the biggest group in the league. Everyone else plays very similar in that they get big men down the middle and try to blow you away, and play off the back of that.
“We haven’t quite got those big men and have to use speed and agility and play fast on people. Certainly the last game and a half that’s how we’ve played and the lads have realised that is our strength and that is what we need to keep doing.”
The referee for this Kingstone Press League One Super Eights Round One fixture at the Keepmoat Stadium is Jonathan Roberts from Huddersfield. The game this Sunday afternoon in South Yorkshire will be the second occassion that Roberts has officated the Cougars this season after being the whistle blower for June’s away defeat at the hands of the Newcastle Thunder.
This game could swing either way with both sides looking to build on the confidence bred through recent form. Doncaster in the past have bullied the Cougars up the middle but have been playing more expansive rugby since the arrival of Richard Horne whilst the partnership formed between Ritchie Hawkyard and the pivots and halves since his return from injury has completely transformed the Cougars attackings style. It’s must not miss action as the Super Eights get underway.