FEATHERSTONE Rovers will have plenty of motivation to win their final league match at Widnes Vikings on Sunday says coach Daryl Powell (pictured).
Rovers are on the brink of lifting the Co-operative Championship Leaders’ Shield for the second consecutive season. They are level on points with second placed Leigh Centurions with a match in hand and have a superiors points difference of 44.
After Leigh’s 40-22 win at relegated Dewsbury Rams last night (Thursday), Rovers will finish top if they avoid a heavy defeat at Widnes but Powell believes it is important his team end the regular season with a win.
Victory at Widnes would give Featherstone the satisfaction of knowing they finished above Leigh regardless of the three-point deduction the Centurions received for breaching salary cap rules.
“There are several reasons why we want to win Sunday’s game,” said Powell.
“We want to finish the season off well. It will have been a superb league campaign if we beat Widnes on Sunday.
“And it also means we win the league competition by right. That is something that is important to us and it is one of the motivations. The players brought that up last week. It’s important we win the Leaders’ Shield but it’s also important how we win it as well.”
Rovers are aiming to complete a league double over Widnes who were trounced 56-16 at Bigfellas Stadium two weeks ago.
The Vikings announced last week they are releasing 13 players at the end of this season as they continue preparations for their return to Super League next year.
Powell said: “There’s all sorts going on at Widnes at the moment with players being released. It’s difficult to see what their motivation is at the moment but obviously as a group of players they’ll have some motivation and it will be their pride as much as anything else.
“We are just focusing on ourselves. We don’t know what sort of team Widnes will be putting out. We had a good look at Widnes two weeks ago so we know a fair bit about them and it’s fresh in our memories how they play.”
Powell will be checking on the fitness of Matty Dale, Tony Tonks, Ben Kaye and Jon Hepworth who were all injured in last Sunday’s 34-12 win at Sheffield Eagles.
He said: “Matty Dale is the most serious. I think he’s got a break in one of his fingers and two of the fingers were dislocated so they didn’t look too nice. He’ll be sore and I’m not sure whether he will be available this week. We should have more indication after he has seen a specialist.
“Tony Tonks got a knock on his arm. It doesn’t look as though he will be too bad but we will have to check on him throughout the week.
“Ben Kaye could not go back on because he got a knock to his head and Jon Hepworth also got a knock to his head late on so he wasn’t feeling too good after the game.”
Powell was pleased with Featherstone’s second-half display against Sheffield.
Trailing 12-6 at the interval, they scored 28 unanswered second-half points, with Andy Kain bagging two tries on his return after missing four matches with a groin injury.
“We were a bit scratchy in the first-half and not quite where we needed to be but it’s about winning games when you are not going too well and I thought we did that pretty well in the second-half,” said Powell.
“To be 12-6 down at half-time and then to be as clinical as we were and as tough as we were defensively to keep them scoreless was a pretty big effort.
“It was a really good effort to stabilise after half-time. We had a couple of players who were key to turning the game round but the team effort was really good.
“It was good to have Andy Kain back out there. He creates a spark in our game that someone with his pace can and he scored a couple of quality tries from kicks. There was a bit of good fortune with the bounce but he had to put himself in the right place. He certainly raised the tempo of our game.
“Tommy Saxton was superb. I thought he was the best player on the field by a fair distance in the second-half. I thought Sheffield handled him quite well in the first-half but then he stepped up quite a few notches and he was excellent. His off-loads are good in terms of getting the ball out of contact and that gave us opportunties and we took some of them.”
Powell is happy with his side’s form ahead of the play-offs.
He said: “Sheffield always challenge us. They are a difficult team to beat especially on their own ground.
“We had to work hard to win last Sunday’s match and the previous week we had two games in a week. We were superb against Widnes and then we had to dig deep to win against Dewsbury so we’ve had to dig deep on two occasions to win games and for me that’s going to be a vital quality going into the play-offs against Leigh who are going to be a tough side to beat. They’ve been really consitent themselves this year. “I think it’s bringing out good qualities in us that we are going to need in the play off series.”
The bar in the Rovers clubhouse will be open this evening from 7pm when the Dewsbury Rams-Leigh Centurions game will be shown live on the big screen. There will be reduced prices on drinks.
Rovers are staging an end of regular season celebration in the clubhouse after Sunday’s match against Widnes Vikings.
The clubhouse will be open from around 6pm for fans to join with the players, coaching staff and club officials in celebrating a successful league campaign.
Latest £500 winners in the Rovers lottery are H Bedford (K2978), M Stanyon (F5954), R Walton (N4885), K Perry (A6247), P Sayer (G4274). Travellers Rest meal voucher P Gooding (W1845).