Saturday June 27
University of Gloucestershire All Golds v Oldham (3.00)
Reflecting on a competitive performance at Barrow Raiders last week, University of Gloucestershire All Golds coach Lee Greenwood said: “We did well, we stuck in the game right up until the last five to 10 minutes. A few decisions went against us at crucial times and Barrow capitalised, they kicked a penalty and then scored a try in the final play of the game.
“I was disappointed, I thought we deserved something out of the game. There’s plenty to work on but we just need to find the consistency that we’ve been after all season so we’re looking to back that up this week.
“We gave Oldham a game up there and they’ll come down thinking it’s going to be tough. We are struggling for bodies again and it might mean players playing out of position. It is difficult.”
Oldham coach Scott Naylor was delighted with his side’s 32-26 victory at Swinton Lions last week: “It was a big, big game for us, it keeps us at the right end of the table,” he said. “It’s obviously going to be extremely close come the end of the season, so you need to win as many of those games as you possibly can. The lads were brilliant and deserve all the credit because they’ve done all the hard work. We just put things in place, but they’ve still got to go out and do the right things.
Looking ahead to this week’s game he said: “Gloucester are a bit of a strange team for us, we always seem to struggle against them. I think we conceded 30 points against them at home, so we’re going to have to prepare like we did for the Swinton game and show them the respect they deserve because if we don’t, we’ll get beat and the Swinton game will become irrelevant.
“It’s no use not backing it up. I think they should have more wins on the board than they have, it belies the performances they’ve been putting in. It’s going to be a tough game, it’s a long travel and it’s not an easy place to go to.”
Oxford v Coventry Bears (5.30)
Despite Oxford’s 36-12 defeat to North Wales Crusaders, coach Tim Rumford was pleased with his side’s performance: “It was probably one of the best 40 minutes we’ve put in over the season in the second half,” he said.
“For large periods of the first half we went toe to toe with a really good North Wales side with a few big names. I think one or two of our lads felt a bit privileged to be on the same field as Kevin Penny and Stephen Wild but once we came to terms with that and got on with our job we looked pretty competitive.
“The pleasing thing was we only had one dual-reg player in there. A lot of local boys, who have been with us for some time, are really progressing. After the heavy defeat to Oldham the week before, to come back and have a real dig against North Wales says a lot for their character.
“It helps to propel us forward into what is going to be a big game against Coventry. They beat us in that first game of the season. We started really slowly on a really wet, horrible day and it was a bit of a battle of attrition. I’m hoping this week we get a nice dry day at Iffley Road and we can serve up an entertaining game of rugby.”
Loose forward Jamie Milburn is a doubt with a shoulder injury while centre Josh Nathaniel has a hamstring problem.
Looking back on Coventry Bears’ 42-14 win at South Wales Scorpions, coach Tom Tsang said: “It was a good result in the end. It wasn’t the tidiest of performances but we did enough to get the win. We played some decent stuff throughout the game but got a little bit scrappy at times. It was good to bounce back from the week before.
“Oxford will be looking to get one back on us from the first game of the season and we obviously want to keep on track from last week. So far, every time we’ve won a game we haven’t managed to back it up the following week so we’re looking to win two on the bounce for the first time this season.
“We’re all looking forward to it. We’ve got a little bit of confidence coming in from the win and thankfully we didn’t pick up any injuries against South Wales.”
Rochdale Hornets v Hemel Stags (5.30)
Ian Talbot, the Rochdale Hornets coach, was desperately disappointed with his side’s 54-20 defeat at Keighley Cougars: “For the level of performance to drop back down again after the week before was bitterly disappointing,” he said. “There were a few freakish tries but their outside backs were phenomenal, they scored three tries from our attacking plays. We didn’t do ourselves justice and contributed to our own downfall, which is something we’ll have to work on.
“Hemel this week is one of those games where we’re expected to go out and win. We know it’s not just going to happen. One of these Southern teams are going to sting one of us Northern teams pretty soon and we just need to work hard and make sure it’s not us.
“They were on the end of a tough result against York last week and I’m sure they’ll be trying to make amends.”
Wing Dale Bloomfield is out while a torn quad muscle while forward Tony Suffolk has been suspended for 10 matches for an incident in the game against North Wales Crusaders.
Troy Perkins was another disappointed coach after his Hemel Stags side were hammered 70-10 at home by York City Knights: “We just weren’t at the races and weren’t good enough in any area,” he said.
“Our defence was embarrassing at times and our lack of respect for the ball is just killing us. If you keep turning the ball over and all you are doing is tackling, eventually it’s going to come and bite you. I think we completed about 50 per cent at the weekend and it’s not good enough. Our skill level at times leaves a lot to be desired and we’ve got to work hard at training to improve those areas.
“Rochdale were beaten at the weekend and they’ll be looking to bounce back. Spotland is a tough place to go to, it’s a big, wide pitch and it’s going to be another big test for us. All we can do is try and improve on last week’s performance and see where that brings us.”
Barrow Raiders v Newcastle Thunder (6.30)
Barrow Raiders ground out a win over University of Gloucestershire All Golds last week. Coach Paul Crarey said: “The game was really slow and a little bit dour. It turned into a wrestle-a-thon and the rucks were slow. We’re not big enough to play up the middle, we like to play quick. They’re a good side, well-structured but sometimes mistakes let them down.
“Our goal is to make the play-offs. We’ve got a young side; a lot of amateurs and academy players who have never played at any level and a lot of them are local boys. To compete you’ve got to beat sides like Newcastle at home.
“We were well beaten by them at their place but it was the first game of the season. There was a big crowd and their new signings were on show. We were pretty raw and hadn’t played away, all our friendlies were at home, so it was a big shock for us but we’ll be prepared this week. We’ve trained really hard and got some bodies back.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of Newcastle. They had a close call last week, so it’s not just us that struggles, but a week’s a long time in Rugby League. You can play badly one week and the next you’re on top again. I think it will be a quick game because they play nice, attractive, fast rugby, which is what the crowd wants to see so hopefully it will be entertaining and we come out on the right side of the result.”
Second row Adam Nicholson is a doubt with a knee injury but Barrow welcome back prop Anthony Bate and centres Cameron Pitman and Andy Litherland
Newcastle Thunder were given a stern test at London Skolars last week. Coach Stanley Gene said: “We went down at seven o’clock in the morning but that’s no excuse, it’s just the mental attitude of the players. Sometimes you go down there thinking it’s going to be an easy ride but players in teams below you will train extra hard and prepare 100 times better to play against the sides who are above them.
“We got taught a lesson in the first half but in the end it shows you’re a good side if you play badly and come out with the two points. I wasn’t happy with the performance but happy to take the two points.
“Barrow are a top side and are hard to beat and we’ll be working hard. We know how to play them and are confident enough going there.”
Newcastle will be without prop Matty Barron, who has been suspended for one match, and full-back Louis Sheriff, who has been banned for two matches.
Sunday June 28
North Wales Crusaders v Keighley Cougars (2.30)
North Wales Crusaders coachAnthony Murray wasn’t entirely happy with his side’s 36-12 win at Oxford: “We were leading 24-0 and in the second half scored two early tries so I thought we were going to kick on but full credit to Oxford they got themselves back into the game and showed a lot of grit and determination.
“They got into us in that second half and knocked us off our game a little bit. But to score 36 points away from home and have three tries disallowed – I’m reasonably happy with that.
“In our first game against Keighley I thought we were really unlucky to give up an 18-6 lead and to lose it at the death was a bitter pill to swallow. But that just shows the quality of Keighley, they can come back into the game and beat you. They’re not sitting at the top of the league for nothing.
“I’ve no doubt it’s going to be a good game and a real tough one but if we do win and get those points that we desperately need, it blows the league wide open again. It’s a game I’m looking forward to.”
Centre Matt Reid has been added to the injury list and second row Sam Peate is a doubt.
Keighley Cougars had an emphatic victory over Rochdale Hornets and remain top of the league. Coach Paul March said: “Defensively we were still a long way away but with ball in hand I thought we put an 80-minute performance together. This week at North Wales it’s going to be another tough game. I think we can put a bit of daylight between ourselves and the rest if we come up with another good performance.”
Loose forward Ash Lindsay took a knock to the head against Rochdale and is a doubt but hooker James Feather is likely to return
London Skolars v South Wales Scorpions (3.00)
London Skolars lost 12-19 to Newcastle Thunder last week but coach Jermaine Coleman could see some positives, he said: “Last week’s performance was clearly better. We had a lot more purpose in everything we did and, but for some poor execution in the attacking third, we could have come away with two points.
“The challenge for us this week will be to back that performance up with a repeat. Without doubt South Wales will come full of energy desperate to get their first win. We must match that desire in order for us to get a positive result. They will come with confidence as they turned us over last year at home and will be targeting this game, It’s up to us to be ready for that.”
South Wales Scorpions coach Mike Grady said: “I was disappointed last week. We went 10-0 up and in the first 20 minutes we looked like the team that wanted it but after that it changed and Coventry wanted it a bit more than us. It was disappointing because we should have been in the game. I won’t say we should have won the game but we should have had a bit more out of it than what we did.
“London are doing OK without actually getting the wins on the board. They’re improving every week and Jermaine’s obviously made a few changes; he’s been playing himself, which has been helping things tick along. He’s doing all the right things and they’re going in the right direction.”
Hooker Connor Farrer has a possible broken wrist, half-back Paul Emanuelli and forward Neil Dallimore are doubtful while prop Osian Phillips is unavailable
York City Knights v Swinton Lions (3.00)
York City Knights had a convincing 70-10 victory at Hemel Stags last week. CoachJames Ford said: “I was pleased with the second half. I thought we were a little bit scratchy in the first half but in games like that it’s hard to ensure players remain disciplined. We’ll be looking to improve this week.
“Swinton, for me, are arguably the best team in the competition. The league table may not reflect that at the minute but we’re not even at the halfway point yet, I think that’s a false reading. John Duffy’s doing a really good job. I think we’re in for a real tough encounter.”
Scrum-half Pat Smith should be available this week.
John Duffy, the Swinton Lions coach, was very disappointed with the performance against Oldham last week. “That performance was unacceptable,” he said. “Credit to Oldham because they turned up with a good attitude. We had a good week in training but didn’t turn up on Sunday. I hope this week will be a lot better
“It will be very tough at York. We’ll be travelling again and playing in new surroundings so we’ll have to create our own atmosphere against a York team who are flying high at the minute. We played them a few weeks ago at our place and they threw some good stuff at us so we’re going to have to have a good week this week.”