FEATHERSTONE coach Daryl Powell wants an “80-minute performance” from his side in tonight’s play-off clash against Leigh Centurions at Big Fellas Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).
Powell (pictured) expects a tough challenge from in-form Leigh who finished runners-up to Rovers in the Co-operative Championship for the second successive season.
The winners of tonight’s game go straight through to the Grand Final at Warrington on September 30. The losers get a second chance in a home match against Halifax or Sheffield next week.
For the last two seasons, defending champions Rovers have reached the Grand Final at the first attempt by winning the qualifying semi-final. They beat Halifax 46-16 two years ago and Leigh 35-20 last season.
“We need to get the job done and without doubt it would be great if we could do it at the first attempt,” said Powell.
“The last couple of years we’ve got it done straight away and got through to the Grand Final and we’ll certainly be looking to do that again. It’s a big challenge for us and a big game. We are looking forward to it.”
Featherstone have beaten the Centurions three times this season and trounced them 54-16 in the Northern Rail Cup in July but Powell expects a stern test tonight.
“Obviously, we’ve played well against Leigh this season a few times but they’ve also been depleted on a few occasions,” he said
“We’ve had a couple of decent tussles with them this year and I think their coach Paul Rowley has done a magnificent job.
“Leigh have been playing well recently and are probably the form team in the competition so it is going to be a tough game for us.
“We are going to need to start really well and I don’t think there’s any doubt we will need to play right at the top of our game.
“It’s a one-off match and it’s about being right on top our game and having a play-off mentality and getting over the top of them early.
“Physically, I think it’s going to be pretty tough. They have been good in the middle of the field for a few years now and we need to get on top there. If we can do that we are confident we’ve got the half-backs and outside backs to take advantage.
“We’ve had a lot of experience of these type of matches in the last three years. We have a team full of players who are experienced in play-off situations and one-off games so that should really help us but you’ve got to bring it all to the party on the night.
“If we can do that we can be confident but we will certainly not be going into it believing that anything less than our best will be good enough.
“I don’t think we will get away from them. I think it’s going to tight and it’s going to need an 80-minute performance from us.”
Powell is happy with Featherstone’s form going into the play-offs.
“Last time out against Keighley we were pretty good, although of course we are looking to improve. We’ve got plenty of players who are on form and we are feeling pretty confident about ourselves,” he added.
“We’ve worked hard over the last week or so since we played Keighley and we are ready for it. I think the players look fresh and sharp and ready to play.
Rovers are set to be at full-strength tonight, with winger Tommy Saxton and skipper Stuart Dickens both available. Saxton missed the last game against Keighley with a back injury and Dickens sustained head and neck injuries in that match.
“I think Tommy will be okay. He’s trained all this week and I don’t think there’s going to be any issues with him. I think he will be available and he will take his place on the wing,” said Powell.
“I think Stuart will be all right. He’s not trained too much over the last week. He’s done the fitness stuff but stayed out of contact and he will be available.”
With new stands set to be built, tonight could be the last time the Railway End terrace will be used at a first-team match. At 7pm, the club will take photographs of spectators on the terrace. The photos will later be signed by players and the club will sell them as mementos.
Admission tonight is £15 adults, £9 concessions and £3 juniors. Season tickets are not valid for the game.