Leigh Miners welcome last years all conquering West Hull to Twist Lane on Saturday to play in the third round of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup, Kick off 2-30pm. The winners going into the hat for round four which will include Championship big boys Bradford Bulls and Leigh Centurions.
Miners go into the game on the back of a 26-18 round two victory against Walney Central three weeks ago, whilst Miners where always in control against a decent outfit from Barrow their attack was still scrappy at times and defensively they let in a couple of soft tries late on.
The team performance was much improved five days later when they played against a Leigh Centurions select side in the Steve Maden Testimonial game, narrowly losing 10-6 in the second half playing some nice attacking rugby and defending strongly against a Leigh side who had a number of first team lads playing.
With West Hull coming to Twist Lane this week it is a contest that all at the club are looking forward to with it being ideal preparation for the start of the NCL which starts next weekend against Wigan St Pats and also a chance to progress and earn a money spinner for the club. The lads know they are going to have to be at the top of their game to beat a Wests side who have won their two previous visits in Leigh, but with having a good tough pre season under their belts the seventeen selected for Saturday will be keen to impress and keep there place in the side for the “Battle of the Borough” season opener.
Speaking about the game this week, club captain Scott O’Brien said “The game on Saturday will be really tough as we know from last year, They won the grand final again last year so they’ll be coming confident but I have no worries, I think if we play to our capabilities we’ll be fine.”
Coaches Allan Coleman and Paul Whitworth will have a virtually full strength squad to choose from with only Danny Jackson missing after picking up a hamstring injury during training on Wednesday night, leaving Coleman and Whitworth with some very tough selection headaches with over twenty five lads hoping to be selected in the seventeen to play West Hull this weekend.
Speaking about Miners last two games during pre season Allan said “Walney Central was a real good hit out for us, it gave me and Paul a chance to look at a few players who want to stake a claim for a first team jersey.”
“I thought the Leigh game was better though as it was more intense and it also asked a lot of questions of our defence.”
On training since them games and looking at the West Hull game, Coleman added “Training has been real tough and great to see everyone buying into it,we have by far the best squad we have had down at the club why I have been coach and Its going to be hard for myself and Paul to make sure we stay happy.but its a job we are looking forward too.”
“West hull is the best draw we could of had. I am over the moon with it and we will see were we are at as a squad against a very good Wests side.”
Paul Whitworth said of the Walney game “It was a quick turnaround after the decision to put us back into the cup and it was clear to see that Walney Central are a team that are not use to losing, they had a strong line up with around 3 – 4 players that faced us in the Barrow professional side back in 2013 so it was always going to be a tough contest. Again we made sure we rotated the some positions to make sure the squad all get decent preseason game time. We showed, at times, we are a decent rugby league side but there was one or two areas where I felt we could really improve on especially on the floor. I was disappointed in the final couple of minutes, it was job done by then but we let our guard down. Individual performances of note for me were Darryl Kay and Bud Skinkis.”
On pre-season progress since that second round win, Whitworth added “After the Walney game we managed to get some video review done on a couple areas we weren’t up to scratch on and a chance to put them right came against Leigh Centurions on the Thursday night in the Steve Maden Testimonial game.”
“We really saw some key areas we have been working on start to click – it took a really strong professional side right to the last play to nudge in front and we had the chances to put ourselves in front before that on a couple of occasions. So lots of positives for us to take forward.”
With West Hull coming to Twist Lane on Saturday Paul said “They are the team to beat, a champion side. We are looking forward to it and we’ll have to have the right attitude going into this game and if we have that we certainly have the quality in the squad to make the outcome very clear.”
“There’s no expectation on the squad and to be honest we are still trying to find our best balanced side, Myself and Allan will have to make some difficult choices to select the team and there will be 9 to 10 quality players being left out who are certainly good enough for a spot in a NCL Premier side. We have built a strong bond together and I expect those left out to support their team mates but also to continue to work hard to claim their spot in the side.”
West Hull swept away all before them in 2014 winning the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy by beating Miners at Stanningley in February, adding their second piece of silverware in October when they won the Conference Challenge Trophy against East Leeds and that was quickly followed by wrapping up the NCL minor premiership. The Humberside outfit finished the clean sweep when they beat Wath Brow Hornets for the second successive year in the Grand Final. Wests have again started this year with more trophy success, beating East Leeds 20-16 to win the Steve Prescott Memorial Trophy for a second year.
To get to this stage of the Challenge Cup West Hull have beaten Thatto Heath Crusaders at home 14-12 and Hunslet Warriors away 24-8. There only defeat was last weekend against professional opposition when they went down 36-10 against North Wales Crusaders in the first round of the inaugural League One cup, Wests giving a good account of themselves against one of the favourites for promotion in Championship One.
The Green and Golds have recruited well in the off season with the signings of Scott Spaven who returns to the club after a spell with Doncaster and Ricky Hough who signs from Newcastle Thunder. With a number of talented youngsters coming up from their successful u18s side as well, West Hull will be very confident of having another successful season with the talented squad they have.
The u18s start their season at home on Sunday in the league (NW Premier Division 2) against Crosfields, looking to build on some encouraging pre season performances under new coach Mick Blakely, kick off 11-45am at Twist Lane.