Rovers coach looks for improvement

ANDY Kain missed Friday's game at York with a calf injury.
ANDY Kain missed Friday's game at York with a calf injury.

COACH Daryl Powell believes Featherstone must improve if they are to repeat last season’s exploits when they won the Championship Grand Final and lifted the League Leaders’ Shield.

Friday’s 40-12 win at York kept Rovers on course to finish top of the table for a third successive season. With three games left, they are two points clear of closest rivals Halifax.

Rovers play Swinton at Bigfellas Stadium on Sunday and then visit Sheffield before hosting Keighley in their final league match.

Powell was pleased his side bounced back from their Northern Rail Cup final defeat against Halifax to run in seven tries at York but he wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“If we want to be successful this year we’ve got to improve and play better than we have done in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“It’s in our hands. Obviously, we have three games left and we need to finish the job in terms of the league campaign and it will be a significant achievement if we can do that.

“But I think we’ll need to improve because we have a few tough games coming up. Swinton are pretty smart with the ball and then we play Sheffield away - that’s always a difficult game - and we finish with Keighley at home.

“We’ve got to make sure our commitment levels are where they need to be. We know we are a tough side to beat if we play right on top of our game, it’s just about being there every week.

“Swinton played well against us at their place and they nearly beat Halifax. It will be tough for us on Sunday and if we go into it thinking it is going to be anything other than that then we’ll get undone. There will be no complacency in our game on Sunday.

“Swinton certainly challenge you when they’ve got the ball and it’s going to be important we improve defensively.”

Powell will be checking on the fitness of stand-off Andy Kain who was a late withdrawal against York because of a calf injury.

Kain was replaced by Kyle Briggs who made his comeback after a shoulder operation following a run-out with the reserves the previous evening.

Tangi Ropati also made his comeback at York, scoring two tries in his first senior appearance for three months after being sidelined with a broken jaw.

“I was delighted to see both Tangi and Kyle back in the team,” said Powell.

“Obviously, Tangi has had a bad injury this season. He’s had a couple of games in the reserves and he looked pretty good against York. I thought he looked sharp and finished a couple of tries pretty smartly. At times it looked like he’d never been away, particularly with the ball in the hand.

“Kyle played 20 minutes in the reserves just to get some time in and see where he was at and make sure the shoulder was okay. He came through that all right and then obviously he played 80 minutes on Friday.”

“It is always interesting when you’ve been out of the team for a while but I thought Kyle handled it easily and he did some pretty tidy things. He got Tangi in for his two tries with smart passes and generally had a solid game.

“I just think it was great for him to get out there and get back in the team. We need him to be honest.

“Andy Kain pulled out against York late on the day and we’ve been short of options with Jonny Hepworth missing and with Andy Ellis going back to Wakefield so it’s just come at the right time with Kyle being back.

“Andy Kain hurt his calf and it just really tightened up on the day of the game but I’m hoping he will be back this weekend.”

Jonny Hepworth is also set to return this month after missing the last seven matches with a back injury.

Powell said: “We’ve got Hepworth potentially coming back in a couple of weeks so we’ll have more options which is going to be important for us particuarly after losing Ellis back to Wakefield which made life difficult for us.

“I think Hepworth will play in the Reserves Grand Final on August 18 but we are not certain on that. We are checking on his progress. He’s had an injection in his back and everything seems to be fine.”

The Rovers boss was pleased with Nathan Chappell’s two-try display at York.

It took his tally to 10 tries in just five appearances this season.

“Nathan is quick and aggressive and defends well. He hits good lines and he can finish,” said Powell.

“The key for him now is to put some consistency behind his game and play well from week to week which he hasn’t been able to do really while he’s been here so this is a great opportunity for him I think.”

Powell is looking to strengthen his squad for next season.

“We are looking round at different players and there will be some new faces but not too many more - we are not too far off,” he added.