Featherstone coach Andy Hay knows a good start will be crucial in Sunday’s “massive game” at Halifax which could decide who finishes second in the Kingstone Press Championship.
Halifax snatched second spot with Sunday’s 20-17 win at North Wales Crusaders. With three games left, they are one point ahead of Rovers who lost 48-18 at table-toppers Leigh Centurions on Friday after being 20-0 down after 20 minutes.
There’s a lot at stake on Sunday because the prize money this season for finishing second is £450,000 but the pay-out drops dramatically to £200,000 for the third and fourth placed teams.
Leigh scooped £500,000 by clinching top spot last weekend.
“There are some individual things we need to fix up this week and a good start is also really important,” said Hay.
“We need to be smarter at the start of matches and control field position and control the ball.
“Halifax have some good players and they’ve got some consistency. They’ve been performing very well over the last eight to 10 weeks.
“They have smart half-backs, speed out wide and some big forwards so it’s going to be a similar test for us to Leigh.
“There’s no doubt it’s a massive game on Sunday, but it’s just not on this fixture.
“We’ve also got Sheffield at home and Keighley away the week after that and they’ll both be tough as well.
“We’ve three league games left and this Sunday is the first in the series. It’s in our own hands really and we’ve got to get over Sunday’s hurdle first.”
Hay is confident Rovers can bounce back from their first defeat in five matches at Leigh Sports Village when they suffered another injury blow with the loss of forward Matty Dale (knee), who is set to miss the rest of the season.
“We were hoping we could get something out of the Leigh game but obviously we didn’t so now Halifax becomes a really big match for both teams,” he added.
“Most of the players will just want to jump back into playing again. They were disappointed with the Leigh match, not with their effort, but with some of the smartness.
“There was a great crowd at Leigh and hopefully there will be another one at Halifax and we will fare a little bit better this time.
“We had fantastic support, as always, at Leigh even though a Friday night kick off didn’t help.
“I think it will be a bit easier for our supporters to travel over on Sunday and it will be great to have some Fev fans there shouting us home.”