This week the Kingstone Press League One reaches Round 2 of this season’s competition, with two games scheduled for Saturday and four for Sunday, while the University of Gloucestershire All Golds will play a delayed match on Wednesday against South Wales Scorpions.
Full reports from each game will appear in Monday’s League Express.
Saturday March 12
Toulouse v Hemel Stags (5:30)
Toulouse Olympique got their league campaign off with a bang by defeating Coventry Bears 54-6. Coach Sylvian Houles said: “I thought our first half against Coventry was pretty good. We looked in great shape; we built a lot of pressure, which was a reflection on us scoring the six tries.
“In the second half we were a little bit sloppy. We need to look at building more pressure to kill the game more easily. There are a few things to work on but overall it was a good performance for our first game in League 1.
“Against Hemel we need to build on our last performance, so we’re looking at fewer errors than we made against Coventry. Our field isn’t in the best condition at the moment so we need to work with the conditions to keep pressure on the opposition.”
After sitting out last week Hemel Stags kick off their league programme with a trip to France. Their last game was a defeat to community club Kells in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. Coach Troy Perkins said: “I probably would have preferred to play and try and improve on a few things. Having a bye in the first week of the season isn’t ideal; it’s probably better midway through the season, but it is what it is.
“I tried to organise a squad game, which unfortunately got cancelled, because I wanted the players to play again. They needed to improve in certain areas from the Kells game but the positive will be that they are that little bit fresher for having had the weekend off.
“I watched the tries Toulouse scored against Coventry, they’ve got very skilful offloads in the tackle and plenty of speed. Their full-back and their halves are very dangerous and very creative so they’ll cause some problems if you let them.
“We’ve got to be switched on but it’s a really good challenge for us and a good experience for all the players. I played for Toulouse for three years so it’s a fantastic opportunity to go back as a coach.
“They are one of the favourites, they’re full-time but we’ve just got to go there in the right frame of mind, put in a really good performance and come away knowing that we’ve performed to the standard I expect and we expect of ourselves.”
London Skolars v Oxford (6:00)
London Skolars were beaten 28-12 at York City Knights, which was an improved performance after their loss in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup to Pilkington Recs the previous week. Coach Jermaine Coleman said: “It was a step in the right direction and I commend the boys for their effort, we just need to be a bit more clinical and a bit cleaner in our skills to give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.
“Oxford beat us last year away and we managed to turn them over at home. For us this week, it’s all about turning up and performing at the level we are capable of. I think all year our focus needs to be on us and what we’re capable of doing and making sure that we turn up and do what we’ve rehearsed and play at the level we’re capable of playing at.
“If we do that, then we will be in with a chance of winning every fixture we play in.”
Oxford were beaten 30-22 by Newcastle Thunder. Coach Tim Rumford said: “I think we certainly put enough application and effort in to win the game against Newcastle. But you don’t always get what you deserve. Newcastle were a little bit smarter than us in certain areas and that’s what won them the game.
“We know what to expect from London, they have a big set of forwards, they come hard in the middle and we need to match their physicality so there are some big challenges for our middle men. If we can match them and control the middle and get a bit of go-forward, I’m really confident in the finishing power of our outside backs. So if the forwards can do their job on Saturday then we’ll give ourselves a good chance of getting something from the game.”
Forwards Andy Hoggins (shoulder) and Marcus Brooker (ankle) are doubtful this week.
Sunday March 13
Coventry Bears v Rochdale Hornets (3:00)
Coventry Bears suffered a heavy defeat at Toulouse last week. Coach Tom Tsang, said: “Performance-wise I don’t think we did ourselves justice, we gave them too much respect in the first 20/30 minutes and we didn’t play how we trained.
“It became evident that they were very, very strong through the middle, strong carriers. We were going up the middle in ones, which is not how we want to play. We were losing that middle ground very easily and they were very good at knowing when to move the ball and when to stick in the middle. They were very clinical, very fast and very strong.”
“It will be another tough game this week against Rochdale. We played them pre-season, hopefully the scoreline will be a lot different this time round. But we’re looking forward to it. It was a great trip last weekend and the lads will be much better for the experience. Toulouse are great hosts but it will be good to be back home.”
There are doubts over full-back Joel James (hamstring), prop Elliott Liku (ankle), half-back Jay Lobwein (dead leg) and centre Eddie Medforth (groin).
Rochdale Hornets beat Hunslet Hawks 28-18 last week. Coach Alan Kilshaw said: “I was happy with elements of the performance. We were disappointed with our start and we gave away a lot of penalties, especially in the first half. Some of our attack was off as well but in the second half I was really pleased with the character we showed.
“There are plenty of areas to build on but the nuts and bolts are there. The effort’s there and I was pleased to get the win, especially with some of the players who are still unavailable to us. It highlights the depth we’ve got.
“We won’t be complacent at all this week. Coventry had the toughest trip out of everyone last week and they would have got a little bit out of that in terms of on and off the field. They’ll be pinpointing this as it’s their first home game, so we’ll be expecting a battle.
“We played them in a friendly a few weeks ago and the first 40 minutes was tough, so we know what to expect. We know we need to turn up with the right attitude otherwise we’ll get turned over.”
Back rower/centre Alex Trumper could be back in the squad this week.
Keighley Cougars v Doncaster (3:00)
Keighley Cougars had a convincing victory at South Wales Scorpions last week. Coach Paul March said: “It’s always good to score some tries, we created a lot of opportunities as well and defensively we were better than the week before, so that’s a positive.
“Obviously this weekend is another challenge. Doncaster came down from the Championship last year and are looking to bounce back. They will see us as a threat and we’ll see them as a threat. We’re at home and it’s going to be a big challenge for both sides.”
Loose forward Ash Lindsay could return this week.
Doncaster got their league campaign underway with a good win over University of Gloucestershire All Golds in their opening fixture. Coach Gary Thornton said: “There were lots of pleasing elements about our game last week. I think possibly the score flattered us a little but I was very pleased with a lot of what we did. We did give Gloucester a bit of a sniff in the second half – they came back at us and scored two tries but I’ve got to be pleased with a 40-8 win at this stage in the season. Some of the stuff we did defensively was very, very good, so it was a good start.
“Obviously Keighley are going to be up there at the top challenging and they spent quite heavily in the off-season. They were a good squad last year and if they’ve spent a little bit more this season to improve them, it’s going to be tough. But we’re looking forward to it. I think it will be a measure of where we’re at at the moment and we’ll be going there reasonably confident. If we put an 80-minute performance together I think we’ll be OK.”
Prop Zac Braham is back in the squad this week.
Newcastle Thunder v North Wales Crusaders (3:00)
Newcastle Thunder won 30-22 at Oxford last week. Coach Mick Mantelli, said: “We’ll always take the two points but the style of the win wasn’t as impressive as I wanted. We need to check where we are and what we need to be doing going forward. We’re a new squad and we just need to make sure we don’t carried away with what’s expected so early.
“I’ve heard that North Wales Crusaders were competitive in the first half against Barrow but in the second half they only had 15 players. They’re in a bit of strife financially but we can only deal with what they put on the field. They’ll be wanting to come over and put in a good performance against us.”
North Wales Crusaders lost 37-18 at home to Barrow Raiders and are doing it tough at the moment. Coach Anthony Murray said: “We only managed to turn out 15 players last week but all credit to the boys. Barrow could have easily run away with it by a bigger margin. We went 28 points behind and found some form and got ourselves back into the game and were within 12 points.
“So as much as I’m disappointed we lost, I’m really pleased with the effort that the players put in. You’ve got to give credit to the opposition for being well-drilled. Our boys had a dig and that’s all you can ask for.
“It’s going to be a tough game at Newcastle. They’ve got a new coach and have recruited a couple of overseas players. We’ve managed to get a few dual-reg in for this week to make our numbers up until we get ourselves on our feet and start getting more of a squad back together.
“We’re looking to build on our second half performance against Barrow. We’re going to go there and compete and if we compete then we stand a chance of getting something out of the game.”
Barrow Raiders v Hunslet Hawks (3:30)
Barrow won 37-18 at North Wales Crusaders. Coach Paul Crarey said: “I thought we were very good. We shut down for about five minutes, where we conceded back-to-back tries, but I think we were totally in control of the game. I thought we were very good in the first half, which was a big improvement on our performance against Hunslet the week before.
“I just thought we were pretty clinical in our approach and some of the tries we scored were pretty good. They were a team who beat us twice last year, so to get a win on the road was very good.
“It’s going to be tough this week. I thought Hunslet were very good when we played them in the cup. I was surprised at their result against Rochdale but apparently it was very close. Hunslet were very physical and beat us up a little bit and our pack was second best, so it’s for them to put it right this weekend and front up.
“Once we do that it will be an absolute ding-dong of a battle. They’ve got good halves, two good hookers and the ingredients to be a very successful side. We want to make Craven Park a fortress so we’ve got to front up in the middle or else we’re going to get what we got away from home.”
New signing Jamie Dallimore will be added to the squad this week.
Hunslet lost 28-18 at Rochdale Hornets and coach Matt Bramald said: “If we had been more clinical and ruthless in the first half we would have scored more points. We offered a massive threat with the ball in that first half, we bombed some chances and didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we created.
“We lost our way a bit in the second half and Rochdale came back pretty strongly. I think we were guilty of trying too hard to score – we needed to build our way back into the game. We looked like we were a little bit desperate and made some errors and went away from our patterns and shapes, which was what ultimately lost us the game.
“It’s never easy going up to Barrow but we’ve got to try and not let that journey affect our players. The start of the game is going to be big, as it always is when you go up there. If we can get a good start, as we did when we played them at home, knock some sets out and build some pressure, hopefully we can have a successful afternoon and get our first league points.”
There are doubts over prop Mickey Haley, who has a shoulder problem, scrum-half Danny Ansell, who picked up an ankle injury as did second row Ben Crane.