Championship Weekend Preview

 

It’s the final weekend of the Championship regular season, and Featherstone are looking to secure their third consecutive league leaders’ shield.

 

Dewsbury Rams v Sheffield Eagles (3.00pm)

Former Challenge Cup winning teammates Paul Broadbent and Mark Aston will go head-to-head as Sheffield Eagles look to make a late step up the table.

Broadbent and Aston were both members of the Eagles team that won the 1998 Challenge Cup, but will put their friendship aside this weekend.

For Dewsbury caretaker coach Broadbent, it is the last chance to impress the Rams before they announce the permanent successor to Warren Jowitt this week.

Broadbent has won one and lost one of his two games to date, and was among a list of candidates for the job recently interviewed by the club.

Sheffield, meanwhile, are looking towards the play-offs, and can still move up to fourth if they win at the Tetley’s Stadium and Batley Bulldogs lose at Halifax.

“We upped the ante in the game against Featherstone, and we’ll be looking to kick on again now,” Aston said.

“We’ve had a week off since then, and that can work one of two ways.

“But we’ll be looking for a strong performance that we can take into the play-offs.”

Aston will have a near fully fit squad available, with back rower Joe Hirst back from a knee complaint, and centre or second row Duane Straugheir having completed a suspension. 

 

Featherstone Rovers v Keighley Cougars (3.00pm)

Featherstone Rovers can clinch a third consecutive League Leaders’ Shield if they secure at least a bonus point against Keighley Cougars.

Victory would mean that Daryl Powell’s side has lost just five league games in 58 over the course of those three years, but the Featherstone coach says he is taking nothing for granted.

“Doing that is a recipe for disaster,” Powell said.

“We’re focusing on what we’ve got to do, and going into the play-offs on a good note. This us a crucial game for us.”

Rovers are hoping for a bumper crowd for the match, but will still be without back injury victim Jon Hepworth, although he is expected to play in an under-23s friendly with Catalan on Thursday night.

Powell will also check on winger Tommy Saxton, who is rated as 50/50 due to his own back complaint.

Keighley player coach Jason Demetriou is without winger Semi Tadulala, who has a hamstring injury, but says that there is little pressure on his side.

“The only pressure on us is individually, to put the right foot forward going into the play-offs,” Demetriou said.

“It’s all about preparing for next weekend for us – that’s the way we’ve approached the last two weeks and that will be the same this week.” 

 

Halifax v Batley Bulldogs (3.00pm)

Halifax and Batley Bulldogs still have plenty at stake as they jostle for positions in the top six ahead of the play-offs.

Both clubs can still finish second should they win, but are relying on Leigh Centurions losing against Swinton Lions.

Victory does assure at least third place for both, however, and Bulldogs coach John Kear says that will ensure a keenly contested clash at the Shay.

Kear said: “If Halifax win they know they come at least third, and it’s the same for us.

“The nice thing is that we both get another shot next week whatever happens, but obviously we would prefer to be going into the play-offs playing from third rather than fifth.”

Kear is hoping to have dual registration prop James Green available for the match, and says that calf injury victims Alex Walmsley and Danny Maun have trained fully and are ready to play.

His counterpart Karl Harrison has had mixed news on the injury front.

Ex-Bulldog Wayne Reittie is available again after three weeks out with a shoulder problem, but Dane Manning is out for the season.

Manning broke his jaw in two places during the recent defeat against Leigh.

Harrison said: “It’s a blow for the team, because he’s been influential all year and my guess is that he’ll be right up there when the players vote for their player of the year.”

 

Swinton Lions v Leigh Centurions (2.00pm)

Swinton Lions’ assistant player-coach Ian Watson is confident his side can go out with a bang when they face Leigh Centurions in their last Co-operative Championship game of the season.

Watson said: “The former Leigh players in the Swinton team will add some extra spice to the afternoon.

“Hopefully we can finish the season with pride in our own performance.

“If we produce the same attitude and effort we put into the Keighley game we can come out of it with a win.”

Centurions coach Paul Rowley has a doubt over Michael Ostick, but insists that ‘everyone who is fit will play’.

Rowley said: “We’re doing it tough. We’re all right energy-wise, but the season has taken its toll in terms of where we’d have liked to have given some rests, we’ve not had that luxury.”

Now Rowley is preparing his men for what he believes will be one of their toughest challenges of the year.

He said: “Swinton have had a difficult year, but I they don’t lack any experience.

“They’re full of ex-Leigh players and if they’re going to target one game all year, it’d be this one.

“They’ve got a lot of reasons why they’d want to knock us off, and it’ll probably be our toughest fixture of the year.”

 

York City Knights v Hunslet Hawks (3.00pm)

Paul King, James Ford, Jack Lee and Tom Bush could all return for York City Knights’ final game of the Co-operative Championship season.

Knights coach Chris Thorman said: “We all want to finish the year on a high.

“Hunslet have improved recently, and they’re competing with teams a lot more regularly.

“It’s going to be tough, because neither of us wants to finish bottom of the competition, but our guys are really determined to finish well.”

Tommy Haughey (hip) is ruled out for Hunslet, while Danny Grimshaw and Steve Dooler are also expected to miss out.

Anthony Henderson will be missing after breaking a bone in his hand while at work.

Hunslet Hawks coach Barry Eaton was encouraged by his side’s last performance. He said: “We created enough opportunities to win two games. We’re certainly not too despondent, although we need to be more clinical.”

On York, he added: “They’ve had a similar problem to us in the halves, although they’ve had Chris Thorman for most of the year.

“They’ve had a tough year, but they’re still massively higher in terms of their budget than we are.

“I’m expecting a very tough game, and both teams will be wanting to avoid the wooden spoon.”