Rovers coach: Leigh game just what we need

Jon Sharp: "Leigh lost at Toulouse so there will be two motivated teams on Sunday after bad results that didn't go their way."
Jon Sharp: "Leigh lost at Toulouse so there will be two motivated teams on Sunday after bad results that didn't go their way."

Coach Jon Sharp believes Sunday’s home game against big-spenders Leigh Centurions is an ideal fixture for Featherstone after their Challenge Cup exit at Batley Bulldogs.

The Centurions, who are hot favourites to finish top of the Championship, will also look to bounce back from a Challenge Cup defeat after being pipped 10-8 at Toulouse.

“Sunday’s game is just what we need to get back off the canvas, dust ourselves down and pit our wits and skills against the best team in the competition,” said Sharp.

“It’s the game we need because we want to get back out and play and test ourselves.

“Leigh lost at Toulouse so there will be two motivated teams on Sunday after bad results that didn’t go their way.”

Sharp expects a huge test against a side whose line-up is set include ex-Rovers players Greg Worthington, Richard Whiting and Reni Maitua.

“I’ll be looking for a response,” said the Rovers boss.

“We have spoken about the discipline and players have got to be committed to that as well. We can’t afford to give away penalties against such a good footballing side as Leigh.

“The Centurions are a fantastic outfit and I think they’d manage in Super League. If they were promoted, I think the would have the ability to stay in Super League.

“They have some stars of the game in Gareth Hock who is a super player and Mickey Higham who is still very good.”

Sharp was disappointed with Featherstone’s display at Batley last Saturday but he felt there was mitigation with injuries to Scott Turner, Danny Craven and Colton Roche disrupting an already badly depleted team that lacked a recognised hooker.

“It was disappointing. We have high expectations and we let ourselves down,” said Sharp.

“We let Batley out of their half on four occasions by conceding cheap penalties.

“We weren’t threatening with the ball but there’s some mitigation in there as well.

“We were playing without a recognised nine and playing with third and fourth choice half backs and then we lose players as well so we have to put it into context.

“Batley played well - I’m not taking anything away from them - but we had a second-rower playing at nine, a young kid playing in the halves and then we lose a recognised ball player, a winger and a front rower so it was just too big a hurdle to climb.”

Sharp felt the turning point came in the 50th minute when Jon Davies was penalised for a challenge on Batley full-back Dave Scott who lost the ball near his own try line as he collected a high kick.

“We started the second-half really well,” said Sharp.

“I thought there was a crucial decision by the referee with Jonny Davies and his tackle on the full-back.

“The full-back spills the ball and Andy Bostock scores and it would have been 12-4 to us and I think that would have been enough knowing how well we can defend. I thought that was the turning point of the game.”

Sharp was pleased with Anthony Thackeray’s display at hooker after he made his comeback from the bench.

“Thackeray sparked as up at nine,” he said.

“I liked some of the stuff he did there. I thought he looked like a decent option.

“If Andy Ellis is missing at any time, I wouldn’t hesitate to put Thackeray back in there.”

Meanwhile, Rovers will pay tribute on Sunday to the club’s record points scorer Steve Quinn who recently died.

From 12.30pm, the Cappers Bar will show a re-run of the 1983 Challenge Cup final against Hull in which Quinn kicked the winning goal in Featherstone’s famous Wembley victory. Rovers hope many of Quinn’s former teammates will attend.

At the request of Quinn’s family, there will be a minute’s applause before Sunday’s game with the Rovers and Leigh players joined by Quinn’s former colleagues on the pitch.

Featherstone’s Kingstone Press Championship game at Whitehaven, which was postponed in February because the Recreation Ground pitch was unfit, has been re-arranged for Saturday, May 7 (6.30pm kick-off).

Rovers boss Sharp said: “Instead of travelling up there for a midweek game, it is a positive for us that it is now a weekend fixture. It gives us a bit more time prepare.”

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