TOMORROW’S TRIP to London Broncos in the First Utility Qualifiers is a key game for Batley Bulldogs – but coach John Kear says all the next six are.
Batley were beaten 58-18 at Super League side Hull KR last weekend and will need to pick up points against their Kingstone Press Championship rivals to have any hope of featuring in the million pound match.
London – who finished the regular season in second place, one ahead of Batley – also began with a defeat, going down 34-30 at Leigh Centurions after trailing 34-8 inside the final 10 minutes.
Both teams are anxious to get off the mark, but Kear said: “They are all key games.
“It is a measurement of us progressing as a side.
“The regular season was a dream, getting into the top-four and now we’ve got to see how well we can compete at a higher standard of rugby league, with greater intensity.”
Batley beat London 31-20 at Mount Pleasant less than a month ago.
London are a tougher proposition on their own artificial pitch, where they defeated Bulldogs 32-8 in April, but Kear insisted: “We are confident every game.
“When you’ve got a record like we have this season, basically you are used to giving a good account of yourselves.
“We are confident every week, but we are also aware London are pretty good.
“Their home record is pretty good and against Leigh last week they really scared them.
“They have progressed this year and they are good, but we are good as well so it should be an interesting game.”
Winger Shaun Ainscough suffered a knee injury last week and Patch Walker picked up a groin problem which could keep him out of action until next month.
But Kear said: “We have got Sam Smeaton, who will benefit from some game time against Hull KR.
“He was a bit rusty last week. Keegan Hirst [who was dropped for disciplinary reasons] will return, which will strengthen us up front.
“We’ve also got Cain Southernwood and Alex Brown who can come in as direct replacements for Walker and Ainscough, so we are confident we will put out a very competitive and good team.”