Hemel Stags v South Wales Scorpions (2.30)
Hemel Stags go into the game on the back of a 31-28 defeat at Oxford. Coach Troy Perkins: said: “It was very frustrating last week. We set ourselves a couple of goals and we achieved those goals, however, the amount of ball we spilled and the unforced errors we made is unacceptable.
“To be honest we beat ourselves; we turned over too much ball in our own half and put ourselves under massive amounts of pressure. We need to be better than that or we won’t beat anyone.
“We’re back at home this week against South Wales. We’ve been away for the last couple of weeks and it’s a good opportunity to get back on track but South Wales could be a bit of a banana skin for a lot of teams. By all accounts they are a tight-knit group and they’ll be looking to put things right after being beaten quite heavily last week up at Barrow.”
South Wales Scorpions were beaten 86-0 at Barrow Raiders last week. Coach Mike Grady said: “It was one of those days. Barrow were on fire but we did everything wrong. We had one last year against York so we’ve been there before, we’ve just got to get out of it.
“Hemel will be smarting from their defeat to Oxford and looking to get a victory. I don’t think I’ve ever won at Hemel, it’s a tough place to go.”
New signings Jonny Leather and Micah Manuokafoa are both injured while Ryan Millington is unavailable. Centre Brad Hill is a doubt but forward Neil Dallimore should be back.
North Wales Crusaders v Barrow Raiders (2.30)
North Wales Crusaders lost their game at Keighley Cougars last week to a drop goal as the hooter sounded. Coach Anthony Murray said: “We led for large parts of the game and I think at least deserved a point out of it. I think the competition this year is showing that if you’re not switched on for the full 80 minutes then everybody is capable of beating anybody.
“I was pleased with the performance. Not many teams will go to Keighley and be in front for 75 minutes of the game and I am a little disappointed we didn’t kill them off. But full credit to Keighley for coming back into the game.
Looking ahead to Sunday he said: “If you put 86 points past someone, like Barrow did, you’re full of confidence. They are more than capable of racking up points against sides, which they’ve shown on numerous occasions this season. It’s up to us to make sure our defence is bang on and if we stop their key players then hopefully we can get back to winning ways.
“It’s our second home match of the league campaign and one we want to start well to get our season up and running.”
Centre Christiaan Roets is doubtful for the game having picked up has rib and hand injuries.
Barrow Raiders coach Paul Crarey was naturally delighted with his side’s performance against South Wales Scorpions. “We prepared well all week and wanted a reaction from the Rochdale game,” he said. “The goal was not to concede any tries and we did that.
“This week against North Wales will be a totally different game, they’ve got some great personnel and they don’t warrant that position in the table. They were leading against Keighley at the death, so we know what quality they are. They’re in the final of the iPro Sport Cup so have had all these distractions. We’ve got to prepare well and be on our guard.
“At the moment we’ve done really well at home but we want the lads to compete away from home. If we can compete and knock out our sets we can be a force but we’ve got to start doing it and want to do it.”
Second row Matt Heaton suffered a bang to his neck and will probably miss out this week.
Coventry Bears v Rochdale Hornets (3.00)
A poor opening quarter against York City Knights led to Coventry Bears’ defeat last week according to coach Tom Tsang. “We served up the game on a plate really giving away four or five penalties and at least three or four errors,” he said. “Doing that in any league against any opposition you’re going to struggle never mind against a team who topped the league last year. York were good for the win.
“We didn’t really do ourselves justice but we’ll look ahead to this week and try to fix up a few bits and pieces. It’s going to be tough; I’ve watched bits of Rochdale’s games this season.
“They were very unlucky to lose to Oldham in the first game and have had some mixed results since then but have been close in all the games they’ve played – they look very strong.
“We’ll be doing our best and I think if we can get into the proverbial arm wrestle in the first 25 minutes, then we’ll give ourselves a bit of a chance to do OK.”
Both half-backs Billy Sheen and Cameron Boulter were injured last week and are a doubt while rower Liam Thompson is unavailable
Ian Talbot was a very frustrated Rochdale Hornets coach after his side’s one point loss to Newcastle Thunder last week. “With two minutes to go we looked like scoring but knocked on over the line and then conceded at the other end to lose the game,” he said. “It was a massive effort from the lads but I think we need a little bit more smartness at key times.
“Injuries contributed to it, we lost Tony Suffolk in the first few minutes of the game which was costly because he’s very influential. We then lost Mike Ratu with a dislocated shoulder and Dean Mignacca with a shoulder injury so we were having to rotate some of the big guys in the middle.
“Coventry is a trip into the unknown. We’re under no illusions it’s going to be a tough ask particularly with a few players ruled out through injury. The squad’s looking depleted this week so we’ll have to roll up our sleeves, not feel sorry for ourselves and just get on with it.”
Newcastle Thunder v Oxford (3.00)
Newcastle Thunder coach Stanley Gene wasn’t overly impressed by his side’s one point win at Rochdale Hornets: “We played dumb,” he said. “We talked about completing sets and cutting down on the errors and it didn’t work for us but this group of players will fight all the way to the end. For us to go to Rochdale and get two points it’s better than looking back on how many sets we completed – I’ll take the win and the two points.
On Sunday’s home game against Oxford he said: “We won’t take them lightly, they’ve got two Bradford players in and a couple back from London who are really dangerous with the ball. We’re a team who want to get that winning mentality. I’m looking at making a couple of changes but there won’t be too many.”
Reflecting on Oxford’s win over Hemel Stags coach Tim Rumford said: “I was happy with the win but not the performance. It was a real scrappy game. Credit to the opposition they came out with a game plan, which predominantly was to slow the game down and make it a bit of a war of attrition. Our guys were probably guilty of getting suckered into that a little bit more than we would have wanted. But we found a way to win, so we can take a lot out of that.
“We’ll need to be better at Newcastle on Sunday. We know all about their side and the threats they pose – the big Papua New Guinea guys, the strong running back rowers on the edges and obviously the pace they’ve got out wide.
“It’s a big task for our guys but we’re training hard this week and putting a few things right from the weekend. We’ll go there with our eyes wide open and we’ll have a dig, look to be competitive and see what comes out of it.”
Oxford are likely to be without half-backs Danny Allan and Andy Speake for up to a month. Allan has a knee injury and Speake suffered shoulder ligament damage.
Oldham v University of Gloucestershire All Golds (3.00)
League leaders Oldham notched up a convincing win over London Skolars but coach Scott Naylor believes there’s room for improvement: “I was pleased with the score line but the performance was a little bit off,” he said. “If I’m honest the score probably didn’t reflect the game, it was closer than that. We can improve, which is a good thing.
“We’ve got Gloucester this week, who have improved season-on-season since coming into the division, which is a testament to them as a club. They’ve won a couple of games already this season and we always seem to have tough games against them. It will be a good test for us this week, we’ll have to improve on last week’s performance.”
Winger Jarrod Ward, who missed last week’s game with a hamstring problem, should be back this week but centre Tom Ashton is unavailable.
Looking back on the 60-18 defeat to Swinton, University of Gloucestershire AllGoldscoach Lee Greenwood said: “It wasn’t nice to be on the end of that on Sunday. I thought we were a little bit better than that. It just highlighted a total lack of depth really, which I knew we had. We’re still looking to bring players in because the squad isn’t big enough.
“We’ll change a couple of things this week but it doesn’t get any easier. We’re certainly not shying away from it, that’s the level I want us to get to.”
Prop Ollie Purslow will be available this week following his one match suspension and forward Emmerson Whittel, who pulled out of last week’s game through illness, should be back.
Swinton Lions v York City Knights (3.00)
Swinton Lions picked up their first league win at University of Gloucestershire All Golds last week, which was much needed according to coach John Duffy: “We got a good result in the end, it was good to get two points,” he said.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game he said: “York are playing some really good rugby. They’ve got some real decent half-backs who get them around the park and a good set of forwards who can play as well as run hard. We’re really looking forward to the game and testing ourselves against a team that play some decent rugby.”
Swinton are likely to be without centre Chris Rothwell who picked up a head injury in last week’s game.
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