DEWSBURY Rams will be without stand-off Pat Walker but welcome back Luke Blake as they play the second of their Northern Rail Cup group game against Keighley Cougars at Tetley’s Stadium on Sunday (3pm).
Walker will be out for around three months after having pins and screws in his broken hand, received in the first half-hour in Toulouse last Saturday, just as the Rams were finding their feet.
Blake, who damaged his knee in the warm-up at Batley on January 2, was cleared by the specialist to resume and will come straight into the side and coach Warren Jowitt said: “His return gives everybody a lift.”
Jowitt has been trying to find a replacement from Super League Wakefield for Walker, on dual registration or on loan, but things have been halted by Trinity going into administration.
He is now considering switching Dominic Brambani from scrum-half to stand-off with Tom Wandless coming in at scrum-half and playing Josh Tonks at loose forward, where he had an excellent game as a substitute in Toulouse.
The Rams’ boss said: “Josh really showed everybody how to play the game and he continued with the great form he showed in pre-season. I was delighted with him.”
But Jowitt has called for the Rams to tighten ranks and produce a much better defensive display on Sunday. They scored seven tries in Toulouse but conceded seven and the odd goal kick made the difference.
The coach added: “Defence is what we pride ourselves on but that aspect of our play, which was watertight in the previous game against Bradford Bulls, let us down and too many good players had off days.
“Players have set themselves targets and they are as upset as I am about the way we defended. They all know what we have to do to put things right.
“Rob Spicer hasn’t had a bad game for us in two years but he wasn’t at his best.
“I told him he would have to have a bad one at some stage in his career but he’ll get back to form. He’s a massive figure for us, we need Rob Spicer playing well.
“The big positive was the way we dug deep and clawed our way back from 16-0 down. If that had happened early on last year it would have been a rout.
“But the lads worked hard for each other to get a 10-point lead and be within minutes of a victory, it was unfortunate the real damage was done in the first half when we conceded 22 points.
“They have a very good Australian in Josh Lewis, who has played more than 50 games in the NRL, and his kicking game kept them in the hunt.
“Even then Brambani and Tonks had tries disallowed and we missed a couple of goal kicks which would have won it. But if we had won I would have been unhappy at conceding so many tries.
“We had trained really well in midweek and were looking good. There seems to something about Toulouse that doesn’t agree with us.
“We play them in our first home league game. Hopefully by then we’ll be firing on all cylinders and I think we’ll be able to put one over on them.”
Keighley, who have former Wakefield man Jason Demetriou as player-coach after Barry Eaton left to join Crusaders, started their campaign with a 24-6 win over Rochdale.
With some strong teams in the group, the Rams can’t afford any more slips if they are to reach the next stage.
n The Rams and Kirklees College launched a new partnership on Tuesday.
The aim of the partnership is to bring new opportunities for students and the prospect of working with the Rams to help improve skills and lifestyles in Kirklees. See Page 5 for more details.