Championship Round 21 Previews

Sunday July 12

Doncaster v Hunslet Hawks (2.00)

Doncaster coach Gary Thornton admitted it’s getting harder and harder as the weeks go by without a win for his team: “The more games that go by without a win, the tougher it’s going to be to get one,” he said. “We’ve just got to keep going and try and stay as positive as possible but it’s getting more and more difficult.

“There were some encouraging signs last week but not enough of them. We were chasing the game all the time, being 30 points behind is a big deficit to make up when you’re not playing particularly well. But it’s been the pattern for the last three or four games I’ve been in charge. It’s disappointing but we’re trying to stay as focused and positive as possible

Looking ahead to Sunday’s match against Hunslet Hawks he said: “It will be a test of Barry’s squad this Sunday. They had a tough day against Bradford and then had to back up against Leigh in midweek so we’re hoping that will work in our favour. But we can’t take anything for granted and rely on what other teams are going to do, we have to think about what we’ve got to do.

“Whilst it will test Barry’s resources quite heavily, we’ve got to concentrate on our own jobs and make sure we perform as we should do. Who knows, with Hunslet having had a tough week, it might be the one where we get our win.”

Following the defeat to Leigh Centurions on Wednesday, Hunslet Hawks will be playing their third game in seven days on Sunday. Coach Barry Eaton said: “We have planned accordingly. We haven’t had many players that will have played both Sunday and Wednesday and again on Sunday and the ones that do, we try to limit how much game time they actually have.

“As well as Sunday being a big game against Doncaster, there’s a player welfare issue as well for my part-time players.

“If I’m absolutely honest I’m not concerned with Doncaster in terms of where they are in the league and whether they’ve won a game or not, our focus is on Hunslet and preparing correctly, picking the right side and playing to our optimum standard at the weekend. If that’s good enough for a victory, then brilliant.”

Dewsbury Rams v London Broncos (3.00)

A fine second half performance gave Dewsbury Rams victory over Featherstone Roves last week. Coach Glenn Morrison said: “We weren’t allowed to do our own thing in the first half but we spoke at half –time about sticking to the game plan and if we got 50 per cent of the ball we thought we could win it. They did very well and I was very pleased with them.

“We’ve now got to do it for 80 minutes in every game because we know how good we can be. This week is the same as last week in that it’s a must-win for us to keep in the mix. It’s going to be tough. We beat them up here in a friendly and we won down in London so we’ve had a couple of good results against them but they’ve got some new players in and have been playing some good rugby so I think they’ll be very tough to beat.”

Second row Luke Adamson is likely to miss the game due to a head injury.

London Broncos coach Andrew Henderson said: “It was good to get back to winning ways against Whitehaven. We played some really good rugby at times and improved in certain areas of our game that we were poor in against Halifax the week before.

“There were a lot of positives but again still some areas of our game that we let ourselves down in but overall I was pretty pleased with the performance.

“I’m hoping that Dewsbury don’t prove to be our bogey team. We met them in a pre-season friendly and they did a job on us. Then they came to our place in the first half of the season and managed to grind out a result.

“The team’s drastically different to what it was then. I think we’ve improved in a lot of areas and Dewsbury have too. That was a fantastic result for them last week against Featherstone.

“I think Glenn Morrison will admit that his side’s been a little bit inconsistent so that was an important result for them. It will make for an interesting contest on Sunday.”

Second row Rhys Lovegrove, who came off with a concussion last week, is the only doubt.

Halifax v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)

Halifax continued their fine run of form with an excellent win over Sheffield Eagles. Coach Richard Marshall said: “It was a good win last week, Sheffield are a good team. We needed to be close to our best to beat them and we were. We were good defensively and racked up the points again.

“This was an important game for both teams so we’re pleased and relieved to get through it with a victory. We’re playing well, everybody’s improving and that’s all you can ask really.

“Batley are a well-coached team, I’ve got a lot of respect for them. They’ve got some good individuals but probably just not put it together for 80 minutes. I think if they do that they can beat anybody in the division.

“We played them at their place and I think there was only six points in it towards the end of the game. It was a tough game, probably the most physical we have played in this year, so we’re in doubt this will be as tough. But we’re a different team to then. We’re confident and confident in what we’re doing defensively and have numerous players who can score tries from anywhere on the field. We’ve got to continue in that form but respect Batley.”

Wing Gareth Potts took a knock to the head last week and unlikely to play this week.

John Kear’s Batley Bulldogs got back to winning ways with a victory over Doncaster. “I was delighted,” he said. “I thought in the first 40 minutes we were really good. The weather obviously affected the second half and Doncaster stepped up their level of performance as well. But to score seven tries, with six coming from the backs, five from the outside backs, was very pleasing. I thought the manner in which we played as well was heartening.

“I think Halifax are probably the form team at the moment, they really have picked up their levels of performance. I thought they were good at the Summer Bash against Bradford and since then they haven’t lost and to put 30 points on Sheffield is a fair old performance. Having looked at the game, they played some really good stuff.”

Leigh Centurions v Featherstone Rovers (3.00)

Leigh Centurions went back to the top of the table with their 72-6 victory over Hunslet Hawks on Wednesday. Assistant coach Neil Jukes said: “They’ve played well over the last two games, saved a lot of energy, completed very well and defended really well so it’s shown that after the Warrington game they can back up with big performances and they’ve done two back-to-back.

“Featherstone will be a tough game, they’ve got a lot of good individuals and a lot of ex-Super League players in there, but it’s up to us to prepare ourselves. It can be unpredictable when you are coming up against a team without a coach, they can be a bit fragile but it sometimes pulls them together as a squad.

“Again we’ve got to make sure that what we do is very good and the result will look after itself. There were probably seven or eight fresh bodies on Wednesday who didn’t play last Sunday. On Wednesday it wasn’t the quickest game so the lads came back in the following morning and were bouncing and I don’t think we have any injuries in the squad at the moment so it’s good.”

Featherstone Rovers assistant coach Danny Evans said: “We got beat by Dewsbury and everybody was disappointed but we have to dust ourselves down and get ready for our next challenge, which is Leigh away.

“We understand that we’ve got to play well to beat them, they’re riding high at the top of the division but we’ll go there with confidence and try and knock them off and take the points.

“They’ve had two very good wins so will go into it full of confidence. We know how it feels to play three games in a week, so we’re not going to use that as a springboard or an excuse we’re just going to go there and try and perform to the best of our ability.”

Whitehaven v Workington Town (3.00)

Following Whitehaven’s defeat at London Broncos last week, coach James Coyle said: “We went quite well and matched them for long periods but overall I don’t think our transition was good enough.

“Our kicking game wasn’t very good and our chase was pretty poor in parts that gave them the emphasis to get good starts in their sets. Inevitably, if you get a good start to your sets you can usually get more out of it. They did well on their transition and we weren’t good enough, that was the difference between the two teams in the end.

“This week will be the biggest game of the year for us so far. Workington are on nine points and we’re on 12. It’s a four-pointer and in the context of what we’ve done this year and what they’ve done, if they win the game they’ll have picked up six out of 11 points against us and put us under pressure chasing our tail, so we need to make sure that doesn’t happen and we get a good win at the weekend.”

Workington Town coach Phil Veivers said: “There were a lot of positives in last week’s game but individual errors cost us points. We created a lot of opportunities that we didn’t take and had three tries disallowed.

“Whitehaven are a much-improved side, I’ve watched their last three games and they have competed very strongly and scored some points. Last week against London was no different. To score 24 points and come away with a loss must be disappointing for the coach and I’m pretty sure they’ll come out in a positive frame of mind, especially on their own ground, and try and roll us. They’re not been able to do it so far this year.”

Sheffield Eagles v Bradford Bulls (4.15)

Looking back at the defeat at Halifax, Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston said: “We let ourselves down a little bit. There was nothing between the teams, albeit the score suggests that. Looking back at the seven tries they scored I would put them all down to individual errors.

“There were plenty of positives, we started alright with the ball and we had opportunities to score and didn’t take them. The bounce of the ball didn’t go our way but there were plenty of things to talk about. We need to make sure we try and get a bit of belief and confidence back because the players are feeling it a little bit, it wasn’t the performance they wanted.

“We’re only an inch or so away for being where we want to be. We’re still in control of our own destiny, we’ve got three games to go and are still two points clear.

“We’ve got Bradford this week then Featherstone and London, which are all tough games but we want tough games. Hard physical games is what Rugby League is about.”

Centre Sam Smeaton will be available this week.

Bradford Bulls coach James Lowes said: “Sheffield will be a challenge, it will be a tough game. They didn’t play particularly well last week, from what I’ve seen, but they’ve got some good players and will have a good go. We put pressure on ourselves to perform. For the boys that will be playing this week it will be an opportunity to showcase themselves.”


Reports from all Sunday’s Championship matches will feature in Monday’s edition of League Express, the digital version of which can be downloaded from the website.