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Kingstone Press Championships previews

Sunday August 4

Kingstone Press Championship

Keighley Cougars v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm) _H3J0639

 

Keighley Cougars coach Paul March has urged his squad to show solidarity as they battle to secure a place in the Kingstone Press Championship play-offs.

 

Keighley are five points behind eighth-placed Dewsbury Rams.

 

March said: “We’ve got difficult games coming up, starting with Batley, and we have to stick together and show character.”

 

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear is without Byron Smith (broken hand) and Paul Mennell (dislocated shoulder), while Mark Applegarth is in doubt after suffering a reaction to a recent knee injury during training on Tuesday.

 

Kear said: “We’re doing it tough at the moment, there’s no doubt about that.

 

“We’ve had five league losses and there’s a concern about that, but it’s not unusual in rugby league – teams have flat spots in the season.

 

“Ours is here and now, and it’s tough while you’re in it – but we showed against Workington that the effort and application was far, far better. The players showed they were prepared to start working their way out of it.

 

“These players have got to realise that just as we’ve lost five in a row, earlier in the year we’d won seven out of eight.

 

“There’s no crisis and I haven’t lost faith in any of the players. What you’ve got to do is roll your sleeves up and work even harder.”

 

 

Barrow Raiders v Halifax (3.00pm)

 

Barrow Raiders prop Jamie Butler faces a fitness test to determine whether he is able to play against Halifax.

 

The powerful forward was knocked out during last week’s game against Doncaster.

 

Raiders coach Darren Holt has set his squad the target of winning three of their remaining five games in order to secure their status in the Kingstone Press Championship.

 

But Halifax will be determined to bounce back from their midweek loss at Leigh Centurions.

 

New signing Ben Davies could feature for Halifax after missing out on selection against the Centurions.

 

Harrison said: “Ben’s a really good, experienced Super League forward who’s only 23 years old.

 

“If Ben performs well, he’ll be at Halifax next season. We’ve thrown a challenge down to him.”

 

He added: “We’ve got a tough schedule and it’s about playing your cards right and getting the right balance to get as many points as we can.”

 

Dewsbury Rams v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)

 

Aaron Brown and Austin Buchanan are both battling to be included in Glenn Morrison’s Dewsbury Rams squad for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Hunslet Hawks.

 

Morrison said: “We’ll check on them later in the week, but if they’re fit they might well be in, because some people haven’t been good enough in the last couple of weeks.”

 

He added: “Hunslet are a good side. They’re playing for their survival and in every game we play from now on, the opposition is playing for either play-off positions or survival, so everyone we meet is raising their game.”

 

Hunslet have been dealt a major blow with the news Jake Normington is out for the rest of the season with a fractured cheekbone, while Matthew Tebb is unavailable this week.

 

Hawks coach Barry Eaton said: “So far this year we’ve got 10 bonus points, which proves we’re being competitive more often than not.

 

“We just need to turn a couple of those close defeats into wins and that will secure our position.

 

“It’s certainly not all dead and buried. If we win one, we’re likely to go on and win two or three.”

 

Doncaster v Whitehaven (3.00pm)

 

Liam Cunningham (shoulder) remains sidelined for Doncaster as Tony Miller’s men continue their pursuit of a top-eight spot.

 

Last week’s 32-4 victory over Barrow Raiders has kept Doncaster in contention, and they have a game in hand on eighth-placed Dewsbury Rams.

 

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods could name an unchanged side from the team that beat Dewsbury last week.

 

Sixth-placed ‘Haven are in pole position to land a play-off place and are currently six points clear of Doncaster.

 

Woods said: “We’re happy with where we are – others have to catch us now. It’s all in our hands.

 

“We’ve got to make sure we don’t lose, and if we don’t lose then we can’t get caught.”

 

On Doncaster, he added: “They’re going really well. We know they’re a tough side, and we need to be smart and play well to get a result.”

 

Leigh Centurions v Swinton Lions (3.00pm)

 

Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley has promised his side will give 100 per cent as they prepare for their third game in seven days.

 

The Centurions beat Halifax 11-4 on Wednesday and Rowley said: “The only prediction I’ll make is we’ll keep working hard and see where that gets us.

 

“There was a strong Swinton presence at the game on Wednesday having a look at us.

 

“They’ll be very buoyant and they’ll be fully aware of our schedule over recent days. They’ll be targeting a big start and playing with lots of energy.”

 

Ian Watson is back in contention for Swinton Lions, but coach Gary Chambers insists he will keep faith with the majority of his side after last week’s 12-10 win over Featherstone Rovers.

 

Chambers said: “I won’t tinker with it too much. You can’t change much when you get a result like that, can you?”

 

He added: “It gives the guys a lot of confidence in what we’re doing. I’ve probably changed a lot of things around and that takes time to bed in, but it seemed to click against Featherstone.

 

“We can compete with anyone if we go set for set, it’s just sometimes we lose a bit of focus and make it harder than it needs to be.”

 

But Chambers has dismissed suggestions that Leigh’s midweek win over Halifax could be a bonus for the Lions.

 

He said: “I went to watch them and they’re good athletes. They’ve a good coach and good players. They’ll be ready to play.

 

“They’ve had a good week and you want to keep playing when things are going like that for you.”

 

Workington Town v Featherstone Rovers (3.00pm)

 

Proud Workington Town coach Gary Charlton is hoping for a third committed display in a week when they host Featherstone Rovers on Sunday.

 

Workington won at Batley Bulldogs last week before losing 36-0 against Sheffield Eagles after having Elliott Miller sent off.

 

Charlton said: “Considering we lost a man early on, we defended very well.

 

“There was always going to be a time when they got on top, but we were really committed.

 

“Hopefully that win at Batley can set us up for the rest of the year. Going there is always a hard task and there are not a lot of teams that come away with three points.

 

“We defended well against them and took our chances when they arose, and we’ll need to do the same against Featherstone.”

 

Charlton will assess his squad’s fitness later in the week, but expects to make a number of changes.

 

He said: “We’ve got a few bumps and strained hamstrings knocking around.

 

“There are some guys that have had two hard games and we’ll protect a couple of them so they’re OK for next week.”

 

Anthony England (shoulder) remains sidelined for Featherstone as they attempt to bounce back from last week’s shock 12-10 defeat against Swinton Lions.

 

York City Knights v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)

 

Nathan Freer (illness) and Adam Sullivan (ankle) are both unlikely to feature for York City Knights, but James Ford could return as coach Gary Thornton aims for another proud performance against Sheffield Eagles.

 

The Knights lost by just two points at Halifax on Sunday. Now they face table-topping Sheffield, but Thornton believes his side’s record gives reason to be optimistic.

 

Thornton said: “Sheffield are a quality team, but we’ve shown we can push top teams close.

 

“We’ve beaten Featherstone and pushed Halifax close twice. If we play to our potential, we can match the top teams.”

 

Eagles coach Mark Aston is set to check on his squad’s fitness after Wednesday’s 36-0 win over Workington Town.

 

Sheffield are now three points clear at the top of the Kingstone Press Championship, but Aston is still striving for better.

 

He said: “We got a win (on Wednesday), but that’s all. It was scrappy, messy and not the football we want to play.

 

“If we keep dropping our guard then someone’s going to come and get us.”

 

Kingstone Press Championship One

 

Gateshead Thunder v North Wales Crusaders (3.00pm)

 

Gateshead Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour could name an unchanged squad for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture with North Wales Crusaders.

 

Gateshead are aiming for a Welsh double, having won 36-30 at South Wales Scorpions last week.

 

Neighbour said: “That result is a massive boost for us. For long periods of the first half we were by far the better team, and we took our chances when they came.”

 

North Wales are aiming to respond to a rare defeat, having lost 28-10 at Oldham.

 

Crusaders coach Clive Griffiths said: “We were flat and we got what we deserved.

 

“The players know we’ve got to get a certain number of points in the next five games, but it’s still in our hands.”

 

On Gateshead, he added: “They’ve a few new players in their team since we last played them and they were pretty impressive against South Wales. We’ll be giving them plenty of respect.”

 

Stuart Reardon (ruptured Achilles tendon) is out for the rest of the season.

 

Hemel Stags v Oxford (3.00pm)

 

Hemel Stags coach Troy Perkins insists Oxford’s 54-12 defeat at Rochdale Hornets is not an accurate reflection of Tony Benson’s side.

 

Perkins said: They got beat pretty heavily, but they’re battling away to try to secure a play-off position.

 

“They’re going to come here ready to improve on last week’s performance.

 

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Tony Benson and he’ll have them very well prepared. They’ll be targeting this game, but we’re also aiming for a top four position.”

 

Perkins will check on his squad’s fitness after Wednesday’s 28-18 win at Gloucestershire All Golds.

 

Oxford coach Benson has injury worries over Martin Roden (bicep), Danny Halliwell (broken nose), Jonny Leather (back) and Valu Bentley (ankle).

 

Benson said: “We need a response this week. What I’m looking for is just a bit of a reaction when things don’t go right.”

 

London Skolars v Oldham (3.00pm)

 

London Skolars could be unchanged for Sunday’s visit of Oldham as coach Joe Mbu aims to keep the pressure on the top three.

 

Hemel’s win on Wednesday saw them leapfrog the Skolars into third place, but Mbu is confident his side can finish the season well.

 

Mbu said: “We had a very positive first half against Gloucestershire (last week).

 

“We’ll have to be good again this week because Oldham are a very good side.

 

“They keep coming from minute one to minute 80, and that’s what we’ve got to do in response.

 

“We’ve got to turn up on the day and deliver what we need to.”

 

Mbu has also praised former Great Britain winger Gareth Raynor after he scored on his Skolars debut.

 

Mbu said: “A neutral person watching that game wouldn’t have spotted that it was his first game with the squad. He fitted in and did what he needed to do. There’s not much more that you can ask for.”

 

Oldham coach Scott Naylor is facing a couple of selection headaches as Richard Lepori and Jason Boults battle to be included in Sunday’s squad.

 

Naylor said: “I’ve got a fully-fit squad so once again I’ll have some tough decisions to make.”

 

Rochdale Hornets v South Wales Scorpions (3.00pm)

 

Chris Tyrer (groin) is Rochdale’s only absentee as the Hornets prepare to host South Wales Scorpions in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One fixture.

 

Hornets coach Ian Talbot said: “Other than Chris, we should be a pretty similar 17 to last week.

 

“You’d imagine South Wales will be wanting to right a few wrongs, but we’ve changed the focus this year on to what we’re doing, rather than worrying too much about the opposition.

 

“We just need to keep improving week on week. If we keep doing that, we’ll end up where we deserve to be.”

 

Connor Farrer and Andy Powell could both feature for South Wales, but David James (back) is unavailable for selection.

 

South Wales coach Dave Clark said: “The players know what the need to do.

 

“We had a disappointing July and we know that we should be higher in the table. We have the quality of players in the side.

 

“We made too many mistakes against Gateshead last week. If we can put that right against Rochdale then we’ll be in with a chance of taking all three points.”

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