Northern Rail Cup Preview: Leigh v Batley (Thurs)

Two former Northern Rail Cup winners clash on Thursday night as Leigh Centurions host Batley Bulldogs in the semi-final of this year’s competition.

Three times winners Leigh take on the 2010 winners Batley, with both sides keen to book a place at next month’s final at The Shay.

The Centurions have already beaten John Kear’s side 20-0 at home in the league this season, and also knocked them out of last year’s Northern Rail Cup.

But coach Paul Rowley insists his charges will take nothing for granted.

Rowley said: “They’re a tough team and a big side.

“They like to dominate through the middle, and they have some exciting players, especially their back three.

“They have plenty of threats all over the field – they’re not in the top four for no reason.

“The Northern Rail Cup is our Challenge Cup – everybody wants to win it. It’s a huge game and we’re looking forward to it.”

Rowley has been boosted by the return to fitness of halfback Ryan Brierley (leg), but says a host of players face late fitness tests.

The only dual registered players available are Wigan duo Tom Spencer and Scott Taylor, who played in their last 16 game, but Rowley said it is unlikely either will play due to the Warriors’ own injury crisis.

Long-term absentees Rob Parker, Martin Aspinwall and Craig Briscoe remain sidelined.

Batley’s dual registered duo Josh Johnson and Jacob Fairbank are both unavailable as they didn’t play in the last 16, but Castleford’s Dan Fleming did.

Kear is also boosted by the return of Johnny Campbell, Keegan Hirst and Alex Bretherton after they missed last Thursday’s defeat against Sheffield Eagles.

Kear said: “It’s a very big game in and amongst a very big period for us.

“Last year we went undefeated in the group stages of the Northern Rail Cup and went out at Leigh, and this season we’ve got ourselves into the last four and we’re back at Leigh again.

“I thought we played poorly there in the league.

“They were by far the better team, the more dominant team, and the scoreline reflected that.

“This is another one for us, but if you’re going to get to a final and win a competition, nobody is going to give it to you – you have to play good teams along the way.”

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