Rovers changes on the cards for Swinton clash

Rovers coach John Bastian: "We have to be more intense and play for far longer periods whether it's with the ball or without the ball."
Rovers coach John Bastian: "We have to be more intense and play for far longer periods whether it's with the ball or without the ball."

Featherstone coach John Bastian is set to make changes to his line-up for Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship clash against Swinton Lions at Bigfellas Stadium.

Bastian has rotated players in recent games but other changes could now be made in the wake of last Sunday’s 22-16 loss at Doncaster.

Rovers slipped to third in the table with their second defeat in five games and Bastian is looking for a big improvement this weekend.

“There is a strong chance there will be some changes this week,” he said.

“If players don’t perform to a level I expect them to and certainly what I think they should expect themselves to then I’ll make changes. We may rotate one or two but there might be some changes as well.”

Bastian is expecting a tough challenge against Swinton who, along with bottom side Rochdale, achieved their first league win last weekend.

Swinton, who have a dual registration arrangement with Warrington Wolves, got off the mark by beating Barrow 44-26.

“It will be difficult this Sunday,” added Bastian.

“Swinton have a fair few boys I am familiar with from Warrington that have been playing for them. They add some quality to the Swinton side and we can expect another tough game.

“It is a very competitive league this year.

“I had a funny feeling that Rochdale would get their first win soon and they got a good result against Batley last weekend. I think you will see more of that this year with teams getting turned over.”

The Rovers boss is looking for improvement in both attack and defence on Sunday.

“We need to control the ball better especially coming out of our own end,” he said.

“While we still want to be skilful, we need to get to the back end of sets and we need to get to some good kicks and put some pressure on the opposition in their own half.

“Defensively, our contact has got to be a lot more physical than it has been.

“We were way off in that area at the weekend and I thought Doncaster made good yardage on us and created some easy off-loads as well.

“We’d previously been very strong in defence. We’ve worked on some new things in defence and it worked particularly well for us.

“Just over the last week or so – and certainly last Sunday – we dropped off and that’s a concern.

“I want to know why we dropped off in that area because we’ve certainly practised a lot with our contact last week, but there were some poor signs last Sunday of easy yardage for Doncaster and that’s not good enough for us.”

Rovers came through last weekend’s game without any new injuries.

Bastian will check on Andy Ellis and Colton Roche who both missed the Doncaster match because of a virus.

“Andy and Colton were both pretty poorly,” he said.

“We left them out for the right reasons so that they can get fitter quicker. It would have wrong to have them training in and around the boys and they needed to recover.”

Bastian refused to blame not having a game the previous weekend for his side’s disappointing performance at Doncaster.

“I think that would be a poor excuse if I am honest. I’m not the sort of bloke that looks for excuses. I look for answers but certainly not excuses,” he said.

“Even though we had a week off, we still worked hard and we still prepared well but we lacked the intensity and physicality in the game at Doncaster.

“There were too many silly penalties and a couple of silly things creeping into our game that we are going to get rid of.

“You’ve got to compliment Doncaster. I thought they worked really hard as a team and played some good rugby and credit to Paul Cooke and his staff. They certainly put in a hard day’s work against us and probably over the 80 minutes they edged the game.

“From our perspective, I thought we started very slowly. I thought our contact wasn’t particularly good, our line speed was poor and I thought physically we didn’t dominate them. Those were all things we had talked about as a group and practised but we certainly didn’t implement them in the first-half. We got a lifeline from an opportunist try by Ian Hardman from a nice chip over from Gaz Moore. We got back into at 12-6 and I thought we started the second-half a lot better.

“For 25 minutes, I thought we pretty much had control of the game and we got 16-14 in front. We then coughed up a couple of errors and gave away a silly penalty and Paul Cooke managed to squeeze over on our right hand side and that was probably the game more or less gone then.

“It was a little bit of a game of two halves but we’ve got to learn and we’ve got to learn quickly that we can’t just play for 25 or 30 minute bursts in games. We have to be more intense and play for far longer periods whether it’s with the ball or without the ball. That’s something that as a group we will be addressing this week.”

Bastian was pleased with the performance of Featherstone under 20s who made a successful start to their Championship season by running in seven tries against Halifax at Big Fellas Stadium on Friday.

Rovers won 38-10 after leading 22-4 at half-time.

“They played some good rugby league and a nice brand of football,” he said.

“One of the things we all talk about is allowing these players to be creative as well as having lots of energy in defence and they are certainly doing that. They are playing some good rugby and I enjoyed watching them on Friday.”

Featherstone’s try scorers were Lewis Price, Joe Fox, James Glover, Gavin Bennion, Luke Teasdale, Luke Cooper and Jack Ormondroyd. James Glover kicked five goals.

Rovers under 20s visit Oldham on Saturday.