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League One Campaign Gets Underway – North Wales Preview

Keighley Cougars v North Wales Crusaders Match Preview by Joshua Chapman (@JRCSport)

Date: Sunday 5th March

Time: 3:00pm

Venue: Cougar Park, Keighley

Following the incident packed victory at Fryston in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, the Cougars return to home comforts as North Wales Crusaders visit for the opening round of the new Kingstone Press League One campaign.

LAST TIME OUT:

The Cougars progressed in the Challenge Cup with a 32-50 victory away at the Fryston Warriors. Sean Kelly grabbed a second-half brace with further tries on the afternoon coming through James Feather, Josh Tonks, Danny Lawton, Adam Ryder, Brendon Rawlins, Andy Gabriel and Ritchie Hawkyard. Davey Dixon was sin-binned and Emmerson Whittel dismissed following an ugly brawl.

North Wales exited the competition at the Third Round stage as they fell to a 36-18 away from home at the hands of the University of Gloucestershire All Golds. The Crusaders had a horrendous first half hour of the game and fell 24-0 behind and despite tries from Earl Hurst and Callum Mulkeen either side of a James Dandy brace, they never got back into the game as the All Golds knocked them out of the cup at this stage for the second consecutive season.

TEAM NEWS:

Craig Lingard welcomes Nathan Conroy (Ankle) and Matthew Bailey (Calf) back into the first team with both out of action since the Joe Phillips Memorial Trophy victory over Bradford. Emmerson Whittel (Jaw) joins Ben Sagar (Hamstring) and Adam Brook (Rib) on the physio’s table whilst James Brown comes into the 19 on dual registration from the Batley Bulldogs.

Ryan Millington drops out of Mike Grady’s side with a bicep injury sustained in last weekend’s defeat to the All Golds. Andy Unsworth returns following injury whilst this week comes too soon for Josh Simm. Otherwise, the Crusaders head to West Yorkshire near unchanged from last Sunday.

KEY BATTLE:

In James Dandy the Crusaders have one of this division’s most versatile players who will have a taste for success after helping Rochdale earn promotion as Champions from League One last season. Mike Grady has been using Dandy as a second-row forward this season as an experienced head next to Widnes youngster Jack Houghton and should provide a different kind of test for Josh Lynam and Josh Tonks this Sunday.

THE SQUADS:

COUGARS: Bailey; Beharrell; Brown; Conroy; Dixon; Emmett; Feather; Finigan; Gabriel; Hawkyard; Law; Lawton; Lynam; Milner; Nicholson; Rawlins; Ryder; Tonks; Welsh.

CRUSADERS: Baker; Bloomfield; Cookson; Dandy; Davidson; Hansen; Houghton; Hudson; Hurst; Johnson; Joy; Lee; Moore; Mulkeen; Price; Smith; Unsworth; Walker; Warburton.

THE COACHES:

Keighley Cougars Head Coach Craig Lingard: “It is really important that we calm down from what happened last week.

“It’s massively important we get off to a good start. After North Wales at home we’ve got Gloucester away and if we want to achieve anything this year, we have got to get two wins on the board.

“We’ve then got Toronto at home which is a step into the unknown. If you win your first two games you are riding the crest of a wave and anything can happen – and then we’ve got Hemel Stags after that.

“They play some good rugby and if we let them get on a roll they’ll cause a bit of trouble.”

North Wales Crusaders Head Coach Mike Grady: “They’ve got a new coach and have made some good signings.

“They will want to make a good start and show that they can be pushing at the top end of the table this season.

“We’ll have a few back and available for selection. Josh Simm and Andy Unsworth are both back in training.

“However, Ryan Millington is likely to miss the game due to a bicep injury. Aside from that we’re in the same situation as last week with regards to players out.”

THE REFEREE:

This Sunday’s referee at Cougar Park for the opening Kingstone Press League One game off the season between the Cougars and Crusaders is Nick Bennett from Sheffield. Bennett has thrived as a match official at amateur level and was awarded the 2015 NCL Grand Final for his performances. Sunday will mark his first appointment as the whistle blower for a Cougars fixture.

PREDICTION:

Fixtures between these two in the past have been close fought games with very little in them and the Cougars come into this one looking to banish the shadow of the disgraceful scenes at Fryston whilst the Crusaders will be looking to bounce back from defeat at Gloucester last time out. It has all the makings of a great game of Rubgy League. – COUGARS BY 10.

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