Saturday April 25
Barrow Raiders v South Wales Scorpions (6.30)
Barrow Raiders were well beaten by Rochdale Hornets last week and coach Paul Crarey said: “We’ve probably got to look at ourselves after last week’s performance at Rochdale. We had the same done to us what we did to Swinton the previous week.
“We conceded a lot of tries down the right, which is uncharacteristic for us. We had only 13 sets in the second half, completed 60 per cent and gave 16 penalties away. If we do that against South Wales we’ll get beat so it’s about looking after ourselves, preparing well and just getting back to what we do well which is completing sets, running hard and tackling hard.
“We’re bitterly disappointed after last week’s game so we want a reaction. They are a bit of an unknown quantity for us but if you take anybody lightly you’ll get done.”
Prop Anthony Bate is struggling with a knee problem, full-back Chris Fleming has a thigh strain and prop Andrew Dawson has a shoulder problem but at least front rower Adam Nicholson is back in training.
South Wales Scorpionscoach Mike Grady is expecting a tough game at Barrow: “They’ve had a mixed bag of results recently – beating Swinton then losing to Rochdale,” he said. “I expect a tough game because there’s a lot of pride at stake when you recruit a lot of local lads like they have done.”
The Scorpions will be without forward Neil Dallimore, who has a rib injury. Morgan Evans has left the club and Osain Phillips is unavailable but prop Anthony Symons should be back.
Grady also has signed three new players from the Widnes area, half back Ryan Millington, utility back Jonny Leather and Australian-born utility forward Micah Manuokafoa.
Sunday April 26
Gloucestershire All Golds v Swinton Lions (3.00)
Gloucestershire All Golds had a good win at London Skolars last week but coachLee Greenwood believes there’s room for improvement: “We were good enough to get the job done but missed opportunities to score more points. I think we are a work in progress so to get that win was obviously good,” he said.
“I’ve talked before about that North/South divide. Everyone thinks they can pick the points up when the southern teams play each other. They target them, so it’s good for us that we’ve won the two southern games we’ve played so far.
“Swinton will certainly be targeting this as two points and we want to beat a northern team. We can do it and will do it eventually but we want to do it sooner rather than later.”
Following their victory over Newcastle Thunder in the iPro Sport Cup semi-final, Swinton have suffered from a dip in form. Coach John Duffy said: “Obviously those three games in eight days have taken their toll on us a little bit but that’s no excuse. We were a little bit inconsistent up at Batley; it’s tough going up to Mount Pleasant, they’re a good team.
“We’re looking to get back on the horse this week. It’s going to be a tough game down at Gloucester. They’ve got a good coach and are getting some stability so we’re going to have to look after ourselves on the way down and go there with a good attitude.”
Duffy hopes to have a number of players back this week including props Jordan James, Ben Austin and Conner Dwyer.
Oldham v London Skolars (3.00)
Oldham are sitting at the top of League 1 with a 100 per cent record but coach Scott Naylor is taking nothing for granted when they entertain London Skolars this week: “At home we’re pretty confident no matter who we play,” he said. “We had a good league campaign last year at home and were undefeated for the first time in 20 odd years.
“Since I’ve taken over we’ve had tricky games against London Skolars, they’re one of those teams where form doesn’t matter. We’ve had tough games against them both home and away.”
London Skolars, who lost 36-10 at home to Gloucestershire All Golds last week, are expecting a tough encounter at Oldham. Coach Jermaine Coleman said: “Oldham are one of the better teams, especially on their home pitch, and they play it very well. It’s probably the hardest challenge I’ve faced so far with the team.
“Last week was very disappointing. I was disappointed with our overall performance, because I thought we let ourselves down. We didn’t start very well and were very lethargic and slow. We were 20 points down at half-time before we got into the game.
“The reaction after half-time was good, it’s a step forward and was progress from where we were when I took over so I was happy in that respect but disappointed with the result and the way we conducted ourselves.”
The Skolars will be without half-back James Anthony, who has a hamstring injury and hooker Danny Burke is side-lined with possible knee ligament damage
Oxford v Hemel Stags (3.00)
Oxford didn’t have a fixture last week which was useful according to coach Tim Rumford. “It gave us the opportunity to freshen people up,” he said, “and we had a couple of injuries after the York game.
“We put one or two players into the Oxford Cavaliers, which is our reserve grade club who play in the Southern Conference. It was an opportunity to support them and gave me a chance to look at a few of the guys playing there.
“The Hemel game is a big challenge for us because we are among the same group as them who are hungry for points. We’re getting into a situation where everybody’s targeting each other in that area of the league.
“They will certainly be targeting Oxford for a win and we’ll be looking across at them thinking it’s an opportunity to compete against one of our peers in the development section of the league. That brings its own challenges – it’s a bit ‘dog eat dog’. That’s a situation we ultimately want to get out of but while we’re in it we need to embrace that challenge and meet it head on.”
There are injury concerns over half-back Andy Speake, who has a shoulder ligament problem, while hooker Nathan Kitson has a suspected fractured cheekbone.
Rumford is hopeful of making a couple of new signings this week.
Troy Perkins, the Hemel Stags coach, was very disappointed with the second half display by his side at Coventry last week. ”I thought we were OK in the first half and probably a little bit unfortunate to be down at half-time but the second half was defensively probably one of the worst halves I’ve seen,” he said.
“Oxford beat us in the Challenge Cup so have got the wood on us already this season. They are a decent team who have got some good local players and have brought in three players on loan from Bradford, which should give them a bit more experience and strength in key areas.
“I watched them play against Coventry and they were in the game but probably didn’t take their opportunities. They’re a competitive team but it’s more about us needing to improve after last week.”
Rochdale Hornets v Newcastle Thunder (3.00)
Rochdale Hornets go into the game against Newcastle Thunder on the back of a convincing win over Barrow Raiders. Coach Ian Talbot said: “We go into every game with confidence and we’ll approach this game no differently.
“Newcastle have been a bit up and down. They went to North Wales Crusaders and beat them pretty convincingly and then were beaten last week by Keighley. They have a new squad and are a new team trying to build up as the season progresses.”
Stanley Gene, the Newcastle Thunder coach, says his team are getting used to playing tough opposition: “We play another team who were in the Championship last year in Rochdale, who are full of experience.
“During the game with Keighley I felt disappointed but having looked at the video you could see a little bit of tiredness in that first 40minutes; I can accept that. Rochdale played really well last week when they hammered Barrow. It will be a big test for us but one we are looking forward to.”
Newcastle will be without key half-back Benn Hardcastle, who is likely to be out for 12 weeks with a knee ligament injury.
York City Knights v Coventry Bears (3.00)
Coventry Bears notched up their second home win of the season against Hemel Stags in emphatic style. Coach Tom Tsang said: “When the fixtures came out we aimed for three wins out of the first five games and those games against Oxford and Hemel were ones that we wanted to target.
“We went into the Hemel game pretty confident but there was no way we could predict that we would end up with that score line. We’d been saying for a long time that our lads need a dry track and I put it back on them saying ‘go out and prove it’. They did so, I can’t really say much more than that really, it was a real good team performance.
“I’ve watched a bit of video on York. They play up tempo with quite fast rucks and are not afraid to throw the ball around in their own half.
“That’s similar to the way we play – we’re not the biggest team and I don’t think York are so we have to play at bit more expansively. It should be an exciting game but if we can play anywhere near the way we did, especially in the second half, against Hemel then we won’t be too far away. Obviously the travelling will have an impact but our lads are in good spirits and we’re going there feeling pretty confident.”
Half-back Billy Sheen, who scored a hat-trick against Hemel, picked up a shoulder injury but is hoping to make the trip