DEWSBURY Rams regard themselves as the underdogs for their big opening Co-operative Championship game of the season, at Batley Bulldogs on Sunday (3pm).
Rams coach Warren Jowitt probably had his tongue firmly in his cheek when he argued: “Batley have home advantage, which is always important in these games, and they beat us in the new year challenge and in the league there last season. So we’re the underdogs – and that’s how I like it.”
Whatever his feelings, Jowitt was spot on when he stressed the importance of this first game of the league season for the Heavy Woollen duo as they seek to get their campaigns off to a flying start.
Both are on song, having qualified for the knockout stages of the Northern Rail Cup and had hefty wins in the Challenge Cup last week, Dewsbury against professional opposition in South Wales Scorpions when they won 62-6.
He added: “It’s a great prospect on Sunday because I think both clubs will do well in the league this time and could easily make the top six. To get a derby win so early in the season will be a massive lift for one of us. The season is our priority, we shall be ready to rock and roll on Sunday but it will be a tough one to call.”
Jowitt said his only problem regarding selection was which players to leave out. He has no injury problems from last week and dual registration man, Ben Bolger, will come into the reckoning for a pack place after his Super League club Harlequins said he could not play in the Challenge Cup for the Rams.
Jowitt added: “I have a real selection headache. The lads who went down to Wales showed a very professional attitude and to beat them so convincingly was very encouraging. After all they are a professional team and this could have been a very tricky tie but we handled it all well.
“We travelled down the previous day and stayed over and were up for the game. It was a good pitch and in excellent condition and that made a welcome change. I think that’s the reason we started so impressively and had things well in hand after the first 20 minutes.”
Dominic Brambani, who was named player of the round after the Rams’ Northern Rail Cup success at home to Barrow, again led the way but Jowitt was very pleased with the form of centre Elliot Cosgrove, prop Anthony England and hooker Johnny Horton, who came on to have a strong game, and he and Cosgrove scored their first tries for the club.
Dewsbury look set to make a better start to the campaign than last year when, hampered by a farcical trip to Toulouse, they lost their first 12 league matches, despite looking very good at times but with things going against them. In their last eight games they were very impressive and an opening win on Sunday would ease matters.
The Rams will come up against one of their most recent players in second row Alex Bretherton but another, prop Adam Robinson, may not be risked by Batley as he made only his first appearance as a substitute against amateurs Fryston last Sunday following a knee injury.
The Rams also have Luke Menzies seeking to prove a point against his former club and Mike Wainwright is another to have played for both. Batley have such as Ian Preece, Danny Maun and Ash Lindsay to have appeared in both colours to add further spice to what promises to be a very keen occasion.
Dewsbury were left counting the cost of their trip to South Wales with an overnight stay, winning money and a crowd of only 356, which included an estimated 100 from Dewsbury. It is fair to say the outing will have cost the Rams more than £5,000. The Northern Rail Cup quarter-final draw is on Thursday during Sky’s coverage of the York v Sheffield game.