Kingstone Press Championship Previews

Saturday June 27

Halifax v London Broncos (6.00)

Halifax had an impressive 46-16 win at Dewsbury Rams last week which pleased coach Richard Marshall. “We did well last week, I thought were class on the day,” he said. “On paper it looked easier than it was. It was a tough battle but we pulled away at the end. Scott Murrell had a really good game and led us around the park really well. We scored some nice tries and made a few line breaks as well, which was encouraging.

“The game on Saturday is important in terms of where we’re going to finish and where London will finish. We’re in form and London are as well. Ever since they beat Leigh a couple of weeks ago they’ve kicked on. But we have as well; we’ve won four away games on the bounce. Although on paper we’ve playing at home on Saturday, we’re actually playing at Keighley, so we’re away again really!”

Centre Stephen Tyrer is a doubt with a hand injury but prop Adam Robinson returns to the squad

Andrew Henderson, the London Broncos coach, declared himself very happy with his team’s recent form: “It’s been a pretty good month,” he said. “Five wins out of six games has really turned our season around. Six games ago it was a pretty dark and gloomy place, we didn’t know where the next win was going to come from.

“Fortunately, we’ve managed to come together as a group and turn things around very quickly and now we’ve given ourselves a chance to get something out of this season. Hopefully that form will continue but we’re coming to a massive game this week against Halifax, who themselves have hit some form in recent weeks and are playing some really good rugby.

“We know we’re going to have our work cut out on Saturday night and need to deliver our best performance of the season if we’re going to come away with the two points. In terms of outcome for the season, this game can play an important part in where either team finishes this year.”

Second row Daniel Harrison could be out for up to 12 weeks with a medial collateral ligament injury while prop Ergon Dollapi has a foot injury.

Sunday June 28

Bradford Bulls v Batley Bulldogs (3.00)

Bradford Bulls coach James Lowes said: “Last weekend, against Workington, we were again far from our best and I was disappointed. We started the game off at a pace that they could not cope with but for whatever reason we lowered ourselves.

“The pace and control we showed at the start dropped off after we scored our early tries and we allowed them to get back into the game and apply pressure. We sorted ourselves out and pulled away as the game wore on but we know we need to start putting together 80-minute performances.

“We were not good enough last week but we have worked hard this week to put right our wrongs, moving into this game. Obviously everyone wants to beat us and we accept that but we want to win as well and we are not going to lie down.

“Batley will be no different and their league position means they need to start collecting points in a hurry. I am sure they are going to come flying out of the blocks and throw everything that they have got at us but if we perform better than we have over the last couple of weeks, I am confident that we can get a good result.

We need to be better and we need to improve, otherwise we will end up enduring tough days at the office. It is a mental challenge for the players and a lot of it is down to them and their personal standards. The boys have got to shape up and I am confident that it will start with this afternoon’s game.”

Batley Bulldogs coach John Kear was very disappointed with his side’s 24-12 defeat at Whitehaven. “I thought we’d made genuine progress in the previous two games,” he said. “We had a week to prepare and came up with an under par performance. What compounded that, was it was such an important game.

“This Sunday we’ve got a full-time team away from home but it’s the last of what you’d call the really big teams. After that we can hopefully start picking up league points.

“This is going to be a really difficult task because Bradford have adapted to life in the Championship and have been on an upward improvement graph. We need to play better, that’s the top and bottom of it.”

Doncaster v Whitehaven (3.00)

Bottom club Doncaster suffered another heavy defeat at Featherstone Rovers last week. Coach Gary Thornton said: “I thought we started really brightly against Featherstone. We took the lead and it was only 16-4 after 30 minutes but we make some poor decisions at times that are costing us heavily. For a team that’s lost 18 on the bounce, once we go a couple of scores behind, the confidence just drains out of them – that’s the issue.

“We’ve got to stay in games for longer, we need to get a couple of scores away from teams and then build on that. I think if we can go set for set with teams for longer periods and take our chances when they come along we’ll be much better.

“Everybody’s going to be looking at Sunday’s game as a four-pointer and when you look at where we are, you would have to agree. We’re coming to a period now where we’re playing teams in and around us. As a realist you’ve got to say that if we don’t get something out of these next few games then it looks a bit gloomy for us.

“Whitehaven had a very good win against Batley at the weekend which has pushed them out of the relegation zone. This is going to be another tough encounter for us. They’ll be confident and we’ve got to make sure we start well and try and get a lead we can defend rather than having to chase games all the time.”

Second row Steve Snitch returns and there’s a possibility that fellow second row Mike Kelly might be available

Following last week’s win over Batley Bulldogs, Whitehaven coach James Coyle said: “We’re building a bit of momentum. This week against Doncaster is probably the first time this year we’ll be going into a game as favourites. It’s a different pressure to deal with so hopefully we’ll be able to do it.

“They’re going to beat someone at some stage; we need to make sure we stick to our guns and perform well.”

Hunslet Hawks v Featherstone Rovers (3.00)

Despite the Hunslet Hawks’ defeat to London Broncos, coach Barry Eaton found plenty of positives in the performance: “We were outstanding in long spells,” he said. “We had a try ruled out in the first half but if we had gone in at half-time in front, the second half might have been more of a challenge for London. But it wasn’t to be and their superior full-time fitness and physicality probably took over in the last 20 minutes, but it was another commendable effort from the boys.

“We’ve had two really promising performances against top sides over the last two weeks so we’re hoping to keep that going this week against Featherstone. We’re building a little bit of form and that’s all we can ask for against these top sides. Nobody’s given us any real chance of toppling them, so we know we’re going to be going in as underdogs this week.

“We have put in commendable performances against Halifax and London so we hope to do the same and who knows, a result might come our way.”

Forward Callum Casey will be having a head test as a result of receiving a head injury in last week’s game

Featherstone Rovers beat Doncaster 54-14 last week. Coach Andy Hay said: “I was happy with the win but thought we could have played a little bit better and been a bit more clinical. But it’s all about winning now and points, so I’m pleased with the win.

“It promises to be another tough game at Hunslet. They’re at home and it’s a tight pitch and so we’re expecting a tough encounter. They’ve got a couple of ex-Fev players in there to spice it up, I think it will be a good battle for us.”

Prop Andy Bostock is likely to be out for at least six weeks with a broken arm.

Sheffield Eagles v Workington Town (5.15)

Sheffield Eagles coach Mark Aston was disappointed with his side’s 58-18 defeat at Leigh Centurions. “It didn’t help we were down to 12 men after four minutes,” he said. “They’re a good team at the best of times, that’s why they’re at the top of the league. To play with 12 men against the best team in the competition at home is always going to be tough but we’ll dust ourselves down and get on with the next one.

“It’s about bouncing back against Workington, like we did after the London game when we got a bit of a touch up. We need to make sure that defensively we’re very strong and clinical with the ball. We are preparing for it and if we get the right team out there we’ll win the game.”

Workington Town coach Phil Veivers said: “I thought we were pretty patchy against Bradford; we were good in parts and very poor in others. We were 16-0 down then fought back to 16-10, which I thought was a fair reflection of the game at that point. We were in an arm wrestle for 23 minutes of the second half but for 14 minutes after that we never saw the ball which resulted in five penalties and four tries and the game’s gone from you.

“We’re going into the unknown on Sunday because none of our players have played at Castle Park before. Sheffield are at the top of the table and they are there for a reason. They’ve got quality in their side so we need to get pretty physical going into this game.”

Hooker Graeme Mattinson is out with a dislocated shoulder.