Youngsters set to retain places in Rovers team

Rovers winger Kyran Johnson in action in Sunday's win against Whitehaven. P:icture: Carol Austerberry.
Rovers winger Kyran Johnson in action in Sunday's win against Whitehaven. P:icture: Carol Austerberry.

Youngsters Kyran Johnson and Bradley Knowles-Tagg will keep their places in Featherstone’s team for Sunday’s Championship Shield match at Doncaster (2pm).

Coach Jon Sharp was delighted with the performances of both players in Sunday’s 42-30 win against Whitehaven and he hopes to field an unchanged line-up at the Keepmoat Stadium.

Winger Johnson scored a try on only his third senior appearance and winger/centre Knowles-Tagg impressed from the bench on his first-team debut.

“I don’t want to change the team. I think they’ve earned the right to go round again. If everyone is fit we’ll put out the same side,” said Sharp.

“I was chuffed to bits with the youngsters.

“One of the highlights of last Sunday’s game for me was the that I tried two new young blokes in there and they both played really well.

“Johnson was really good. He showed lots of good decision making and maturity in his performance.

“Knowles was really aggressive and tackled well and ran well.

“He has a bit of an old-style tackling technique. We’ve got a kid actually bending his back and trying to hit people hard which is a bit unusual in this day and age with the technique most youngsters use.

“Johnson and Knowles will keep their places because of the way they played last Sunday and that’s the way it has to be. We have to have competition for places.

“The team that performs will get selected. I’m not bothered about names or reputations. If someone does a good job they’ll keep their place.

“Some of the changes we made paid off last Sunday and the reaction from blokes coming in was really great.”

Featherstone are already guaranteed a place in the Shield semi-finals but Sharp says they will not be easing off against bottom team Doncaster.

“We need to start stringing a run of victories together,” he added.

“It’s now all about momentum and building on what we’ve done the week before. We are trying to get some consistency. It’s something that has not been achieved all year.

“We just want to kick out some really good performances and keep improving. We’ll be trying to pick the same side as well and get them used to playing together in combinations.”

Sharp was pleased with the performances half-backs Gareth Moore and Paul Cooke and prop Jack Bussey against Whitehaven as Rovers avenged an earlier 29-0 home defeat against the Cumbrians.

“I thought Cooke wasn’t particularly good in the previous match but he made amends with his game last Sunday,” said Sharp.

“He was clinical in some of his play particularly his kicking game in the first-half.

“He built pressure and turned the screw on the opposition.

“You could see the energy ebbing out of Whitehaven with every set we had at them.

“Moore hadn’t been selected for two games and he came back in and took his opportunity.

“He certainly showed plenty of enthusiasm and determination. It was the best I’ve seen him play.

“I was was really pleased with both half-backs.

“I thought Jack Bussey looked really good at prop and caused them lots of problems.

“He’s got good feet and some skill in him and he’s a really good attacking threat.

“I wanted to see him around the middle because naturally he’s an aggressive player and he’s got plenty of punch.”

Sharp was pleased with last Sunday’s improved display after the defeat against the same opponents three weeks earlier but he admitted Whitehaven’s late scoring burst - the Cumbrians scored three converted tries in the last eight minutes - took the gloss of his side’s win.

“We were a mile off when we played Whitehaven last time,” he said.

“The attitude coming into last Sunday’s game was excellent. We had two weeks of practice that was geared around being a little bit fitter, a bit tougher and more attacking with the ball and I thought those three facets came out in the game.

“We worked hard for two weeks and I think we saw a much improved team.

“It was a team that looked like they knew what they were doing and worked hard for each other.

“I thought we played really well with the ball. I thought our execution was great.

“We had a 55 per cent completition rate the last time we played Whitehaven and it was up to 71 per cent so that was an improvement.

“We scored some great tries and kicked the ball really well.

“We defended extremely well for over 50 minutes to keep them to one score and then we conceded some freakish tries late on.

“Not conceding late points is something we are trying to work towards improving and that’s why we were disappointed afterwards in the dressing room because we failed to play for the full 80 minutes.

“The players were disapppointed with the points they conceded in the second-half. For me, that’s manna from heaven because I want a team that’s got a great attitude.”

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