Press Championships previews

Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers (1.00pm)

Leigh Centurions coach Paul Rowley is aiming for a fifth consecutive win when his side host Featherstone Rovers on Saturday.

The Centurions are currently fifth in the Kingstone Press Championship table, but are only two points behind Featherstone.

Rowley said: “Featherstone are the big team of the league and we’re under no illusions as to the challenge we face.

“However, we’ll just concentrate on our own performance. You’ve got to get your own house in order – sometimes you can look too much at what the opposition does.”

He added: “We’ve improved as the year’s gone on, and we’ve won as many games as anyone else in the league.”

Martin Ridyard could return for Leigh, while interim Rovers coach Ryan Sherdian looks set to check on Jonny Hepworth (hand), Jack Bussey (facial injury), Anthony England (shoulder) and Greg Worthington before finalising his team.

Sunday June 2

Kingstone Press Championship

Barrow Raiders v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)

Barrow Raiders coach Darren Holt continues to battle against a major injury crisis as the Raiders search for only their fourth Kingstone Press Championship win of the season.

Holt was down to his last 17 players for last week’s 30-18 defeat by Whitehaven.

The Raiders coach will now keep his fingers crossed that any of Jamie Butler (calf), Jack Spencer (ankle) and Scott Kaighan (ankle) will be fit to return for Sunday’s match.

Liam Finch and Mike Whitehead should both be available, but Lee Haney (shoulder) is definitely ruled out.

However, Holt was encouraged by his side’s performance last week.

He said: “One of the key areas for us to keep up the effort and commitment that we saw at Whitehaven. The lads proved there that they will put their bodies on the line.”

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston is aiming to maintain his side’s momentum after they moved to top spot in the Kingstone Press Championship table with a 38-22 win over Hunslet Hawks on Wednesday night.

A second game in four days will test Aston’s squad, but Michael Knowles is set to return after being rested for the Hawks clash.

Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams (2.00pm)

Batley Bulldogs look set to be boosted by the returns of George Flanagan and Ash Lindsay after the pair served one-match bans against Hunslet Hawks.

Full-back Miles Greenwood remains sidelined after recent knee surgery, while Ben Black and Jason Walton will be assessed ahead of Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship derby with Dewsbury Rams.

Dewsbury  have their own injury concerns, with Karl Pryce and Aaron Brown facing late fitness tests. Ryan Wright (torn bicep) looks set for a number of weeks on the sidelines.

Dewsbury coach Glenn Morrison said: “There are some points that we’ve thrown away and we could have been up a bit further in the table, but over halfway through and sitting in sixth with injuries we’ve had, we’re looking OK.

“We’ve just got to keep kicking on and picking up wins against those teams around us.”

On Batley, he added: “They’re a tough, quality side. They’ve been together for three years now, and you can see how well they’re going, but if we want to make something of the season then we’ve got to keep our confidence going.”

Swinton Lions v Halifax (3.00pm)

Swinton Lions are boosted by the return of Richie Hawkyard, David Mills and Gene Ormsby for Sunday’s showdown with third-placed Halifax.

However, Matt Sarsfield serves a one-match ban as coach Gary Chambers ponders a number of changes to his line-up.

Swinton earned a bonus point in their 24-16 defeat at Dewsbury last week, but Chambers insisted his side could have done more.

Chambers said: “I probably thought we could have pushed on and maybe got all three points.

“We made far too many errors and gave ourselves too much to do, and that in turn diluted our attack because we’d defended for too long.”

He continued: “It’s a tough division. You’ve got to be on your guard and keep improving, and we’re working hard defensively.

“It’s difficult, because when you’re tired you make rash decisions. For us it’s about being a bit smarter, making some simple choices and doing the right things at the right time.”

Struggling Halifax are desperate for a return to form after losing four of their last five matches.

Their latest defeat came in a 31-18 reverse against Sheffield last week, and Fax are still without Adam Robinson (shoulder) and Luke Adamson (hand) remain sidelined.

Whitehaven v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)

Whitehaven coach Dave Woods will pick from a full-strength squad for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Hunslet Hawks.

Woods reported a clean bill of health following last week’s 30-18 win over Batley Bulldogs – a win that keeps them level on points with sixth-placed Dewsbury Rams.

Woods said: “We haven’t really looked at the table. We know where we are, but more importantly we know we just need to keep winning at home and putting in performances away.

“Hunslet have been playing well recently and they were unlucky against Batley. We know they’ll be strong and come here ready to play.”

Hawks coach Barry Eaton has called for ‘honesty’ among his squad as he assesses their fitness levels ahead of a third match in 10 days.

Hunslet lost 24-18 against Batley last week and 38-22 against Sheffield on Wednesday night.

Eaton said: “Players are going to have to have a bit of honesty about how their fitness is holding up for this third game.”

He added: “Whitehaven a playing really well, especially at home. They certainly look like they’re making their ground a fortress.

“We beat them 30-0 earlier in the season and I’m sure that’s been hurting them. It’ll be in their mind on Sunday, I’m sure.”

York City Knights v Doncaster (3.00pm)

York City Knights full back Nat Browne faces a race against time to recover from an ankle injury in time for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash with Doncaster.

James Ford is still struggling with a groin problem, while Aaron Lyons looks like being sidelined for a number of weeks with a shoulder injury.

York coach Gary Thornton said: “We’re struggling with depth at the moment. We’ve not got the biggest squad and we’re struggling to bring players in, but I was very pleased with our effort last week.”

He added: “We’re looking to get back to where we were a couple of weeks ago.

“We know what we’ve got to do, and I’m sure we can turn it around.”

Knights faced Doncaster in a recent Northern Rail Cup tie, and Thornton believes he got a good grasp on Tony Miller’s side.

“I don’t think they’ll be too different to the team we played, but they’ve had two good wins since then and got themselves above us in the league table, so that puts a bit of pressure on.”

Dons are likely to be without Grant Edwards (neck) as they look to follow up their 24-20 win at Workington Town – which earned them the Premier Sports Performance of the Week award – with another win on their travels.

Kingstone Press Championship One

North Wales Crusaders v Gloucestershire All Golds (2.30pm)

North Wales Crusaders prop Simon Stephens is suspended for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One match against the Gloucestershire All Golds, while Jamie Durbin is a major doubt with a hamstring injury.

However, North Wales coach Clive Griffiths has an otherwise fully fit squad.

He said: “We’re very fortunate that we’ve got a big complement of front rowers, given Simon’s suspension.”

Griffiths has warned his men against any hint of complacency as they prepare to face a Gloucestershire team still searching for its first league win of the season.

Griffiths said: “It’s classic top v bottom. If you underestimate anybody you get burned badly, and we won’t be underestimating them in any shape or form. I coached a number of their players in the Wales Students team.

“It’s a game we must win and a game people expect us to win. We’re in a good position now, and it’s a different kind of pressure that we’re facing.”

He added: “Gloucestershire aren’t a new team, but it’s a new standard for them.

“They’re keen and enthusiastic, they try to play with pace and width, and they’ve got some good individuals.

“We’ll have to watch Tyla Hepi – he’s one of the leaders of the ship. We know how important it is to keep our momentum going.”

All Golds coach Brad Hepi has warned his team they must improve after last week’s 54-10 defeat by Rochdale Hornets.

Hepi said: “We need to step up our levels of enthusiasm and commitment in the second half, but that didn’t happen.”

Oldham v London Skolars (3.00pm)

Oldham coach Scott Naylor could recall Neil Roden after Danny Whitmore suffered a broken arm in last week’s 54-18 win over Gateshead Thunder.

However, Kenny Hughes could also be given a chance after impressing off the bench against Thunder.

Roughyeds duo Adam Files and Phil Joy earned selection in the Premier Sports Team of the Week after their excellent efforts last week, and Naylor is confident his side will continue to improve.

Naylor said: Our fitness levels are high and as a consequence of that we seem to do better in the later stages of each half than we do earlier on.

“Once we can hit our best for 80 minutes we will be a very tough team to beat in this division. We’ll be well on the way to getting to where we want to be.”

London Skolars coach Joe Mbu will be hoping to kick on from last week’s 40-34 win over Oxford.

The Skolars are only four points behind Oldham going into Sunday’s clash.

Oxford v Gateshead Thunder (3.00pm)

Oxford coach Tony Benson faces an anxious wait to see whether four key players are fit for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One match with Gateshead Thunder.

Valu Bentley (virus), Dave Ellison (hip), Danny Halliwell (back) and Brett Robinson (back) are all battling to be in contention for Benson’s matchday squad.

Benson said: “Gateshead are using the dual registration system and they’ve had some quality players through it.

“While their scores have blown out, they’ve been pretty strong in their last three or four games and they’ll certainly be a good challenge for us this week.”

Thunder coach Kevin Neighbour will check on Benn Hardcastle (mouth) and Chris Parker (knee) before finalising his team.

Neighbour said: “We’re going to have to be mentally strong this weekend.

“We’re very capable of putting things together – we were the better team by far for the first 29 minutes last week – but in adversity at times we choose the softer option.

“We’re choosing to go away from what works, and that’s what is putting us in trouble.”

Rochdale Hornets v Hemel Stags (3.00pm)

Rochdale Hornets pair Dave Llewellyn and Jordan Case will both face late fitness tests to prove their availability for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship One showdown with Hemel Stags.

Hornets secured a 54-10 win against Gloucestershire All Golds last week, but coach Ian Talbot will not be taking Hemel lightly.

He said: “Having been involved with St Helens over the last few years, I’ve seen first hand the talent pool down in London.

“There are a lot of good players down there that are starting to come through. Mike Bishay is a really good player – we’re just hoping he’ll be involved with London Broncos this week rather than playing against us!”

Hemel coach Troy Perkins admits he is not sure whether Bishay will play, while winger Harry Mostyn is also unavailable this week.

Perkins said: “This is probably one of the toughest away games we’ll get this season. Rochdale have had some decent form.

“I don’t know a lot about their individuals, but I know they’ll be a tough proposition up there and they’re doing a promotion on tickets to get a big crowd behind them.”

He added: “We spend a lot of time on attack, but we really work hard on defence – that’s what we pride ourselves on. If you’re frustrating teams then you can score off the back of that.”


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