IN TURMOIL a year ago, Featherstone Rovers are now only 80 minutes away from the Betfred Championship Grand Final.
Those will be tough minutes - on the road against Toulouse - but having won in impressive style at Leigh Centurions and York City Knights already during their play-off campaign, Rovers will travel with nothing to fear.
Having finished fifth in the table, they produced an outstanding defensive effort to beat Leigh 34-18 and it was a similar story at Bootham Crescent as Rovers came away with a 30-4 victory which was more hard-fought than the scoreline suggests.
York, promoted from League One last year, have been the surprise package in the Championship, finishing fourth, but Rovers proved too strong on the day.
The hosts were limited to two penalty goals, both in the first half, but that should not detract from a season of huge progress and, under highly-rated coach James Ford, they will be confident of further next year.
Rovers also have a team boss who is making a name for himself. Featherstone needed to bring youngsters in from their partner club Leeds Rhinos to fulfill a Championship Shield final fixture against Leigh at the end of the 2018 and were rocked when coach John Duffy moved on at the start of pre-season.
Appointed as a virtual unknown from second tier rugby in Australia, Ryan Carr arrived just a week before Rovers’ first competitive game, but has developed a spirited team who never say die.
They have the advantage of a dual-registration partnership with Leeds Rhinos, whose young half-back Callum McLelland was man of the match against York.
His club mates Wellington Albert, Ashton Golding and Alex Sutcliife have also impressed this season, but Carr described their latest win as a team effort.
He said: “York is a tough place to go and win, they have been great all year and they are hard to break down.
“We knew we were in for a fight, but we’ve had two tough away games and two wins. We had to stay in the arm wrestle and I am proud of our defence - it was a huge effort to keep York to no tries.”
York went 4-0 ahead through two Connor Robinson penalty goals, but Rovers led 8-4 at the break after Makahesi Makatoa crossed and Dane Chisholm converted, then added a penalty.
McLelland carved out a try for James Harrison soon after half-time and then Brad Day touched down against his former club.
Chisholm converted both and Rovers sealed the win in spectacular style when Jack Johnson gathered Robison’s cross kick and raced the length of the field. Chisholm added the extras and Jack Render completed the scoring with the visitors’ fourth try.
Featherstone Rovers: Rovers: Golding, Johnson, Hardcastle, Sutcliffe, Carey, McLelland, Chisholm, Davies, Jones, Makatoa, Day, Walters, Lockwood. Subs: Cooper, Harrison, Render, Albert.
York City Knights: Marsh, Oakes, Bass, Hey, Whiteley, Harris, Robinson, Stock, Jubb, Teanby, Salter, Scott, Spears. Subs: Ellis, Horne, Dixon, Baldwinson
Referee: Ben Thaler (Wakefield).