Featherstone Lions, aiming to win promotion for a third successive season, host Milford Marlins in the National Conference League Division One play-0ff semi-finals on Saturday (2.30pm).
Depleted Lions staged a magnificent fightback from 30-6 down early in the second-half to win 35-30 at relegated Millom in their final league match but they were pipped for third place in the table by Skirlaugh who host Normanton Knights in the other play-off semi.
Lions finished level on points with Skirlaugh who had a better points difference of just two.
Danny Glassell inspired Featherstone’s recovery after they looked dead and buried when they trailed 24-0 at half-time.
Lions, lacking at least seven regulars, showed tremendous character against their Cumbrian opponents.
Adam Hepworth and Davi Garahan both got off their sick beds to play.
Gaz Gale, three-try Josh Hardcastle, Adam Curtis and Jordy Gamble all worked tirelessly while teenager Liam Kay’s excellent goalkicking was a also a key factor as he landed six goals including a drop goal.
Featherstone were 24 points behind before they opened their account shortly before the break when Kay’s long pass put in Garahan at the corner and Kay kicked a touchline goal.
Milford scored a converted try early in the second period but Lions dominated the rest of the game with Danny Glassell and Dean Gamble setting a magnificent lead.
Hardcastle went over wide out and Hepworth, despite not being full fit, brushed aside three men to send in George Nuttall.
With Adam Curtis and Jordy Gamble making strong runs, Featherstone’s domination continued.
Danny Glassell picked up a loose ball inches from his own line and raced almost the length of the field before parting to Gale who went over for a converted try to cut the gap to six points.
Minutes later, Glassell did almost the same again as he sent Hardcastle racing away to score to put Lions level
Excellent defensive work by Dean Gamble, Curtis and Nuttall foiled Millom before Hardcastle fended off four defenders to score a great try to put the visitors ahead for the first time.
Further Lions pressure saw Kay land a 40 yard drop goal to edge them further in front.
They then had an effort controversally ruled out by a touch judge for a forward pass after Glassell raced 50 yards and fed Gale who had a clear run to the line.
That decision cost Lions third place in the table and a home derby game against Normanton in the play-offs.
Lions team manager Keith Bell was full of praise for all Featherstone’s players after they defied the odds to pull off a remarkable fightback which should put them in good heart for this weekend’s game.