Thursday August 22
Kingstone Press Championship
Keighley Cougars v Halifax (7.30pm)
Sean Hesketh, Scott Law and Danny Jones all return for the Keighley Cougars after being rested for Sunday’s game against Featherstone Rovers.
The trio will give Keighley player-coach Paul March a major boost for Thursday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Halifax.
March said: “We’ve shown a lot of character recently, with two trips to Cumbria and then facing Featherstone. If we show that same character on Thursday I’m confident we can do well.
“We go into this game having played probably the best side in the league and competed for the majority of the game.”
On Halifax, March added: “Scott Murrell takes them around the field and we need to keep an eye on him, but ultimately it’s up to what we do. It’s our performance that counts.”
Halifax coach Karl Harrison is likely to check on Adam Robinson, who missed Sunday’s win over Batley Bulldogs due to illness
Harrison said: “It’s a short turnaround but that game against Batley will have battle-hardened our troops.
“It’s always tough over at Cougar Park. It’s a really tight field and there are quite a few ex-Halifax players in their team.”
Batley Bulldogs v Leigh Centurions (7.30pm)
Johnny Campbell could come into contention for Batley Bulldogs after a dead leg kept him out of Sunday’s defeat against Halifax.
Leigh Centurions, who have won seven of their last eight Kingstone Press Championship fixtures, are without Simon Finnigan.
But Leigh coach Paul Rowley expects Sam Hopkins and Mat Gardner to be fit for Thursday’s trip to West Yorkshire. Rowley said: “Batley are a tough side, especially at home. They’ve got a really good team at paper. When Ben Black’s on the bench you know they’re doing well.
“We’re fully aware of what they offer. They’ve got a real local flavor that provides the inspiration and desire among the team.” But Rowley insists Leigh will continue to entertain as the play-offs approach.
He said: “We just want to put ourselves in good positions and offer options. If a pass is there it doesn’t matter if it’s in our half or their half, we’ve got the freedom to pass.
“We just want to win games, and if we can do that playing good rugby, all the better.”
Dewsbury Rams v Doncaster (7.30pm)
Dewsbury coach Glenn Morrison believes victory on Thursday would guarantee the Rams a top eight finish in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Morrison said: “Looking at the other teams around us and what games they’ve got, if we can get a win I think that should virtually cement us a play-off spot. It’s a really big game and the last home game of the year.
“The club hasn’t been in the play-offs in this division since 2000. It would be a big achievement if we get there, and the fans are a massive part of it.
“The boys enjoy having the supporters there. We want to win for them and give them something to cheer about.”
Morrison will make a number of checks on players after Sunday’s defeat against Sheffield Eagles. “We’ve got a lot of blokes in the physio room,” he said.
Doncaster are currently in sixth place, two points above the Rams, but they only secured a 29-26 win over Swinton Lions on Sunday through Craig Fawcett’s last-minute try.
Coach Tony Miller said: “We have a never-say-die attitude and that got us through.”
Featherstone Rovers v Whitehaven (7.30pm)
Featherstone Rovers football manager Sean Long insists Featherstone must be more clinical if they are to achieve their goals this season.
Featherstone, who are three points adrift of league leaders Sheffield Eagles , won 24-12 at Keighley Cougars on Sunday.
But Long will demand improvement on Thursday. He said: “We were a bit scrappy.
“We started well and had a lot of ball, but our execution let us down.”
Featherstone’s Ben Kaye (shoulder) faces a late fitness test, while Whitehaven will travel without Dave Houghton, who is ruled out with a knee problem.
Whitehaven coach Dave Woods said: “We’re desperate for a bonus point as a minimum this week.
“If we’re to have any chance of trying to make the play-offs we need a bonus point on Thursday and then to get a win next week.”
On Rovers, Woods said: “We know they’re a good, tough side. They’ve a strong pack, plenty of experience out wide and some really smart halves.”
Sheffield Eagles v Hunslet Hawks (7.30pm)
Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston looks set to be boosted by the return of Mat Garside, Duane Straugheir and Scott Turner for Thursday’s Kingstone Press Championship fixture with Hunslet Hawks.
Aston is calling for complete focus from his troops as they approach their final three games of the regular season with a three-point lead at the top of the table.
Aston said: “The lads set a standard against Leigh and at times we hit that at Dewsbury, but then dipped below the bar. We need to be more consistent.”
Hunslet coach Barry Eaton says he has “doubts over a number of players” for Thursday’s match.
Eaton said: “We’re counting the cost of Sunday’s game against York, that’s for sure.”
He added: “It was a good win, but we’re still in the same situation and wanting points to secure safety.
“Nothing’s changed in terms of our mentality and approach to games. We’re still in there fighting and that’s all we can ask.
“We’ve got a tough last couple of games, but we haven’t been far away. We’ve won our last two games, and before that we’d picked up bonus points in seven of our last eight.
“We’ve got to have belief, because we’ve already competed against the top sides.”
Swinton Lions v Barrow Raiders (7.30pm)
Swinton Lions coach Gary Chambers faces a double headache ahead of Thursday’s Kingstone Press Championship showdown with Barrow Raiders.
Captain Ritchie Hawkyard is suspended while stand-off Craig Harvey is a major doubt with a knee injury.
Swinton are 13thin the league table, two points behind 11th-placed Barrow, and Chambers insists the pressure his squad faces now will benefit them in the future.
Chambers said: “It stands these young fellows in good stead for their careers as they move on.
“They are learning good lessons and we learned another one the other day at Doncaster.”
He added: “We appreciate what Barrow can do, but we have got to start appreciating what we’ve got here – we’ve got a very good team.
“We’ll prepare as hard as we can, roll our sleeves up and go again.”
Raiders coach Darren Holt has warned his squad they have no excuses if they fail to avoid relegation. Holt said: “It’s in our hands now.”
Workington Town v York City Knights (7.30pm)
Workington Town coach Gary Charlton has urged his players to simply “do their best” as they prepare for their seventh game in 25 days when they host York City Knights on Thursday.
Charlton said: “We’ve had four games in 12 days and seven in the last 25. We’re down to the bare bones and there’ll be a few young lads in the team on Thursday.
“It’s certainly taken its toll on us. There’s just nothing left in the tank of a lot of these guys and I can understand why.
“We did all right for 60 minutes against Barrow, but I understand how we’re fatigued in the last 20 minutes and I think everybody else does too.”
He added: “York have got everything to play for and we’ve just got to give it our all.”
Knights coach Gary Thornton remains optimistic as his side battle to avoid the drop.
York are three points adrift at the bottom of the table but have a game in hand on the teams around them.
Thornton said: “We’ve got three games left and three wins are possible. We’ve got to give it a go.”