FEATHERSTONE ROVERS coach Jon Sharp is relishing tomorrow night’s Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarterfinal against Super League partner club Leeds Rhinos at Headingley Carnegie (8pm kick-off).
It will be Featherstone’s first appearance in the competition’s last eight since 1997 when they lost 32-12 at Leeds.
“We are all excited and looking forward to it,” said Sharp.
“It’s different and it’s invigorating. It’s going to be a challenge and it will give us a good feel for where we are at.
“We are under no pressure whatsoever. All the pressure is on Leeds - they are expected to win, not us. That will help us relax and play and enjoy it.”
Tomorrow’s game will be televised live on Sky TV. It will be the second of the quarterfinals with Salford hosting Wakefield tonight (Thursday), Wigan visiting Warrington on Saturday and Castleford travelling to Hull FC on Sunday.
“It will be a great experience for our players at Headingley,” added Sharp.
“We have a great relationship with Leeds. The coaching staff, the players, the owners and the chief executives all have good, healthy relationships with one another and that adds to it.
“It’s going to be fun night and I think it’s going to be a good night for rugby league. Hopefully, we can play our part.
“I’m not into making predictions but we’ll give it our best and see what happens. If it’s not good enough we can’t deny we’ve had a really good go at them.”
Sharp was pleased with Featherstone’s second-half show in last Sunday’s 36-12 win at Bradford.
“We started slowly. It was was probably down to the tough game we played the previous week against Hull KR. I think there was some residue left in there - we just didn’t get out of the blocks,” said Sharp.
“We had a frank discussion at half-time and I thought in the second-half we looked like the Featherstone Rovers we’ve been used to seeing this year. We were really dominant and played some really good stuff.
“To win the second-half 26-0 was obviously a good response from the players.”
The Rovers boss praised substitute Kyle Briggs’s display after he replaced half-back Anthony Thackeray in the 27th minute.
Said Sharp: “I just had a feeling things weren’t quite right in the first-half and I made some changes I wouldn’t normally do particularly in the halves.
“I gave Briggs an earlier opportunity than I expected and I thought he took it with both hands.
“It was his best display this season. He played really well.
“He has been working hard and improving his fitness and I thought he played with some enthusiasm as well. He worked well off the back of some really good work from Griffin, Ormondroyd and Mariano.
“I thought those three had a big influence on getting us forward in the second-half.”
With six matches left in the regular season, Featherstone remain three points clear of fifth-placed Halifax and just one point behind both Toulouse and London.
Hull KR have a five point lead at the top and look assured of a top-four spot.
“We knew we needed to win at Bradford and we can’t afford to drop any points,” said Sharp.
“We’ve been here before. We timed it perfectly last year and this year we are probably in a better position than last season. We just intend to keep focusing on ourselves and not worry about how other teams are doing.
“I think Hull KR are home and hosed. It’s down to Toulouse, London, ourselves and Halifax for the last three places in the top four.”
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