Featherstone Rovers will aim to end the regular season in the Kingstone Press Championship on a high note with their first win under new head coach Jon Sharp against Whitehaven at Big Fellas Stadium on Saturday (6pm).
Six defeats in nine home games have scuppered Featherstone’s promotion bid, resulting in their failure to qualify for the top-four.
They now need to beat Whitehaven to seal fifth place ahead of the Championship Shield Bottom 8s.
Rovers will be firm favourites on Saturday after winning twice at Whitehaven this season but new boss Sharp will not take anything for granted.
“It’s easy to raise the bar when you are playing in big games but this Saturday is also a big match and the players have already been told they shouldn’t be under any illusions that it is just a dead rubber,” said Sharp.
“It’s very important because points carry over into the new competition so I expect players to be playing for their places and expect them to put everything into this game.
“If we do that and we perform and execute well we should be good enough. We’ve still got to win and win well.
“The Championship Shield is very important to the club and the players that are here. Players are playing for their futures at this club and I want see them working as hard as ever.
“I want to see a determined group of blokes in training and a tough team out on the field giving everything they’ve got, irrespective of what competition they are playing in.”
Sharp will check on centres Ian Hardman and Thomas Minns who were injured in last Sunday’s 38-28 defeat against Sheffield Eagles at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.
Jamie Cording switched to centre when Hardman was taken off after just five minutes.
“Hardman took a knock to the head on a clash of heads with Menzie Yere so he’s doubtful for Saturday,” added Sharp.
“Minns has a bit of a strain so we’ll wait to see how he is.
“Gareth Moore has an ankle strain but he is recovering well and could be back in the frame this weekend. Matt James returned against Sheffield and he’s pulled up well from that match.
“My main concern is at centre with the injuries to Minns and Hardman. I thought Cording went well at centre but we may have to juggle some more players round and bring others into the mix.”
Sharp will be looking for an improved defensive display in his third match in charge.
“We are definitely conceding too many points,” he said.
When you score 28 points you should be winning a game but I think that’s been something that has been constant all year and we are working hard to rectify that.
Sharp added: “Tightening up defensively is something we’ve discussed.
“You shouldn’t be scoring that many points and getting beaten.”
He felt the performance against the Eagles was an improvement on the previous week at Leigh Sports Village.
“I had mixed emotions after last Sunday’s game. I was disappointed we lost because I thought we were good enough to win.
“I was disappointed we conceded four tries from kicks, one from a barge over from dummy half and another from an intereception. I felt we gifted them tries and that’s disappointing because we’d worked really hard on defending kicks.
“There were lots of good things in there as well. We got off to another really good start and played some excellent football.
“We scored some lovely tries and played some really good stuff. It was very attacking minded and threatening which is how I like my teams to play.
“We went 22-10 down and we never gave up. We battled ourselves back into the game and showed the resilience I’d spoken to the team about and I thought was lacking against Leigh the previous week.
“Overall, I thought it was an improved performance from the week before and saw signs that this team did take on board what we practised during the week and improved in some areas.
“We lost Hardman after five minutes and that really knocked our rotation from the bench. It had an impact on how we could freshen up our players.
Sharp admitted he is still getting to know his players after being in charge for less than two weeks.
“I’m finding stuff out all the time about the players and what they are good at and not so good at and trying to work out their characters as well and what motivates them,” he said.
“As well as that, I’m finding out how the club operates and what we need next year recruitment wise.
“We’ve had two of the hardest games we could have had at Leigh and Sheffield and I’m quite happy with that.
“It gives me an opportunity to benchmark this team and benchmark players against the best in the competition.
“It gives us a true perpspective of where we need to head to as opposed to maybe having easy games and thinking all is rosy in the garden.
“The reality is we’ve played two really tough teams and we’ve almost been there but not quite got there.
“It a case of drip feeding the players and setting new challenges for them and revisting things we’ve tried to do and not improved on.
“Defending kicks was not good enough against Sheffield. We worked on it last week and it’s something we’ll be working on again this week.
“It’s an ongoing process of not giving them too much but giving them enough and just addressing some of the techniques of the team.”
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