Championship Weekend Preview

Batley Bulldogs v Dewsbury Rams (Friday, 7.30pm)

Ben Black, Jonny Walker and Kris Lythe are all available for John Kear’s first competitive Heavy Woollen derby squad.

The Batley Bulldogs trio’s return will give Kear a boost after last week’s 26-18 defeat at Swinton, but Danny Mills will not feature despite x-rays revealing that he has not broken his foot.

Kear said: “Our results this year show that everyone can actually beat everyone in this division.

“A lot of people say it, but I’m not sure they fully believe it. I definitely believe it after seeing our first few games.”

He added: “This is my first competitive Heavy Woollen derby, and with the television spotlight and all the hype because both teams are in good form, it should be a cracking game.

“There are two teams involved looking forward to a heck of a challenge. We need to embrace the occasion and enjoy it, while making sure we have some cool heads to help us play the football we need to play.”

Dwayne Barker is ruled out for Dewsbury Rams after suffering a medial ligament injury against Featherstone Rovers.

Jowitt said: “We battled hard and I was very pleased. We stuck to our guns and got a bonus point.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction. We had Featherstone on the rack and that shows how good our side is.

“That game against Featherstone will stand us in good stead. What we need to do now is regroup and come out the other side.”


Halifax v Keighley Cougars (Friday, 7.30pm)

Halifax coach Karl Harrison says his team have no reason to fear any opposition in the Co-operative Championship after last week’s 50-18 win at Sheffield Eagles.

That result means Fax top the table, with only Featherstone Rovers being able to match their 100 per cent start to the season.

Harrison said: “The guys showed great resilience and commitment to the cause. We sent a proper message out that this squad may have come of age.”

Fax forward Sam Barlow misses out after being unable to train after injuring his finger, while Keighley Cougars coach Jason Demetriou has highlighted Sean Penkywicz as Halifax’s biggest threat.

Demetriou said: “Sean’s probably the best nine in the competition, but Halifax throw a lot at you from all directions. In guys like Handforth and Thackeray they’ve got weapons across the field.

“Last week they put 50 points on Sheffield at their place, and I can’t remember the last time that happened. They’ll be absolutely buzzing on Friday.”

Jy-mel Coleman and Jake Normanton are in contention for Keighley, who last week emerged 48-6 victors over Hunslet Hawks in a result that has given Demetriou even more confidence.

He said: “We always knew we could compete at this level, but it’s good to get the results to back that up.

“We’ve got a lot of belief, but this is one of the biggest tests in the Co-operative Championship. They really test your defence.”


Leigh Centurions v Swinton Lions (Friday, 12.00pm)

John Duffy (back) and Ricky Bibey (suspended) are both ruled out for Leigh Centurions, but Tommy Goulden could return to Paul Rowley’s line-up.

Centurions coach Rowley said: “I went to Swinton’s game against Batley, and it was a tremendous result for them. Any team that can leave out Kevin Penny and David Mills has got to have a decent squad.

“They’re a lot healthier than us in terms of numbers and personnel, but we’re at home and we do put pressure on ourselves to win at home.”

Rowley has pinpointed Ian Watson as Swinton’s danger-man. He said: “Ian’s the rudder on their ship. He was fantastic against Batley and was probably the difference between the two teams.”

Leigh’s 36-6 win over York last week was their first of the league campaign, but Swinton Lions coach Steve McCormack believes they are better than their record suggests.

McCormack said: “I’ve been impressed with Leigh this year. They had a very good result against York, and they’ve got good players in key positions.

“Paul Rowley has steadied the ship and has got them playing some good stuff.”

McCormack has a doubt over Carl Forster‘s availability, while Alex Hurst is definitely ruled out after damaging his knee in training.

David Mills, Danny Meekin and Lee Wingfield could all return to the Lions’ squad.

McCormack added: “The fact we’ve got so many ex-Leigh players makes it a special game, but ultimately it’s about three points and both teams will be determined to get them.”


Featherstone Rovers v Sheffield Eagles (Saturday, 6.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers could be unchanged from last week’s 24-12 win at Dewsbury as they aim to continue their 100 per cent start to the Co-operative Championship season.

Featherstone coach Daryl Powell said: “It wasn’t one of our best performances, but we won the game. We’ll get better and we’ll need to, there’s no doubt about that.

“Sheffield are looking good. They had a poor result against Halifax, but they’ve looked strong when I’ve watched them play and they’ve got threats all over the field.

“They’re a good team and they’ll cause us some trouble. We’ll need to be 30 per cent better with the ball to open them up, and we’ll need to be just as tough defensively.”

On his side’s start to the season, Powell added: “We’ve managed to win our first three games without really hitting our straps yet.

“It’s in September or October that we’ll need to be at our best and there’s plenty more to come from us.”

Sheffield Eagles prop Mitch Stringer is struggling to overcome a virus ahead of Saturday’s fixture.

But Sheffield coach Mark Aston’s biggest concern is his side’s ability to focus.

Aston said: “We can’t play for little spits and spurts. We’ve got to play for the full 80 minutes and we’ve been talking about that for a while.

“We’ve got to dust ourselves down (from last week’s 50-18 defeat by Halifax) because we’ve got some big games coming up. We’ve got to learn to play for longer periods of the games.”


Hunslet Hawks v York City Knights (Sunday, 3.00pm)

Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton faces a half back crisis ahead of Sunday’s Co-operative Championship  clash with York City Knights.

Eaton said: “Anybody that wears a half back jersey is deemed to have an injury, with Danny Ratcliffe the latest one. He’s looking at a number of weeks out with a groin problem.

“We’re losing a lot of our pivotal players, but that’s the way it is at the moment and we’ve just got to get on with it.”

Steve Lewis could return from a recent rib injury as Eaton tries to lift his team after last week’s 48-6 defeat at Keighley.

Eaton said: “Our response needs to be trying to our hardest to be as we have been in games for 40 minutes across the whole 80 minutes.

“We competed really well for 45-50 minutes at Keighley. I was very pleased at that stage, but then unfortunately we capitulated after that.”

On York, he added: “Chris Thorman is their general. He’s their player-coach and the organiser-in-chief for them.

“It’s important that we try to shut down whatever he’s creating. If we don’t, then we’ll probably lose the game.”

Knights coach Chris Thorman is definitely without Waine Pryce, while Paul King, James Haynes, Rhys Clarke and Ed Smith will all need to be assessed before any team decisions are made.

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