Rovers coach looks for big improvement at Keighley

Rovers srum-half Gareth Moore will be back after suspension for Sunday's game at Keighley. Picture: Bob Nunn.
Rovers srum-half Gareth Moore will be back after suspension for Sunday's game at Keighley. Picture: Bob Nunn.

Featherstone Rovers coach Andy Hay is looking for a big improvement in attitude from his players in Sunday’s final league match at the season at Keighley Cougars.

Rovers missed a chance to clinch second place in the Kingstone Press Championship and £450,000 prize money when they suffered their first home defeat under Hay against Sheffield Eagles last Sunday.

They remain second but now need to win at Cougar Park because they are just one point ahead of third-placed Doncaster who host Batley Bulldogs in their final league fixture.

Hay was bitterly disappointed with the performance in last weekend’s 40-28 defeat against the Eagles which followed his side’s impressive 20-4 win at Halifax two weeks earlier.

“It was a very poor defensive effort all round,” he said.

“If you turn up with the wrong attitude to play this game you get found out and there were a number of those players on the field on Sunday. They not only let themselves down but let the club down and everyone involved.

“From a personal point of view, it’s not how I expect our teams to turn out. I expect them to be full of enthusiasm, desire and a will to win and we didn’t show that.

“We’ve got it because we proved that in the win at Halifax but you can’t go into games thinking you are a good side because you beat one team by a good score.

“We’ve got to get down to some hard work this week and face some truths and turn out next Sunday with a better attitude.

“Maybe a couple of players thought we had it sewn up and thought it would be an easy game after we performed well against Halifax but if you don’t go out and work hard in every game you get your just deserts. Sheffield came prepared to work hard and got the benefit.”

Rovers were 22-4 down at half-time against Sheffield after having a 6-2 penalty count against them in the first-half.

The penalties swung in their favour in the second period and they narrowed the gap to six points but they were unable to maintain the momentum.

“We had no field position at all in the first-half last Sunday and that again was down to some of our attitude in defence and the way we were working and maybe thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was,” added Hay.

“We managed to get the swing in the second-half in the penalty count which does help massively in any game and we scored some points and got ourselves back in the game but through our defence again we didn’t give ourselves a chance of catching them and taking the lead.

“There were some plus points. It was great to have Tim Spears back. He got through 80 minutes which we didn’t really want to do but he’ll be better for that.

“Luke Teasdale had a great game. He came off the bench and added some real spark for us.

“If you are looking at young kids to do that for you, it’s probably a little bit disappointing for me and the rest of the people watching when your senior players aren’t up to the mark.

“There were a couple who had a dig but overall there wouldn’t be many people proud of their performance on the day.”

There is a lot at stake in Sunday’s final round Championship fixtures in terms of both relegation and play-off places and Hay is expecting a stern test at Keighley who have their lost their last two matches after winning their previous three.

“A big improvement is needed on Sunday in attitude. It’s ours to take and we’ve got to go there and win. If we want to do that, we can’t afford to turn up and not put in the effort,” said Hay.

“It will be a tough on Sunday. Keighley have to get a point to ensure they are safe.

“Keighley are a decent side. They are tough down the middle and have some pace down the edges and they have another Rovers old boy in Tiger Handforth in the halves so we’ve got to keep a close eye on him as well.

“There’s a lot at stake, with both us and Donny chasing second spot.

“The pressure is on the players to turn up and put the last game behind them and prove how they can play because they didn’t prove anything against Sheffield except that they shouldn’t be turning up to a game with that attitude or delivering that standard of rugby league.”

Rovers will have scrum-half Gareth Moore back after suspension on Sunday and Hay hasn’t ruled out other changes.

“Some of the players didn’t perform very well on Sunday and we’ll have to look at them in training. We’ll pick the best team from training this week who can perform for us and get the three points,” he said.

Rovers will check on the fitness of winger Jason Crookes whose try scoring run of seven successive matches ended after he was injured in the early stages last Sunday.

Hay said: “Jason took a heavy knock in the early stages of the game from foul play which put him out of the game for the second-half. He was struggling and couldn’t stand up properly. He tried to tough it out in the first-half but he couldn’t carry on.”

Featherstone will stage their player of the year awards presentation at a curry night in the clubhouse on Wednesday, September 17 (7pm start). Tickets cost £15 and are available by telephoning 01977-702386, e-mailing or visiting the club office.

Five legendary Rovers players are being inducted into the club’s hall of fame on Saturday, October 25. The event will include a three course meal for £20 a head or £180 for a table of 10.

Tickets are available from the main office or by telephoming 01977-702386.