FEATHERSTONE Rovers coach Daryl Powell will not underestimate Hunslet Hawks in Sunday’s top versus bottom Championship clash at Bigfellas Stadium.
Championship leaders and Northern Rail Cup finalists Rovers, who have won their last nine matches, will be hot favourites to beat strugglers Hunslet.
But Powell believes his side need to heed lessons from earlier this season when a dip in their league form coincided with their Challenge Cup exploits.
Rovers conceded 60 points in successive home matches against Sheffield and Halifax and after that they were given a scare by lowly York when they trailed 14-10 with just 12 minutes left before eventually winning 34-14.
“We turned out pretty flat against York when they were really struggling earlier this season,” said Powell.
“We ended up down at half-time and we had a big fight to get ourselves in front in that game. There are some lessons across the season for us that we need to heed.
“Hunslet will be a bit disappointed with the way things have gone for them this year and I think that makes them dangerous.
“It is for us to be aware of what it’s going to take to win the game and maintain our standards, particularly in defence, and continue to grow our game.
“Hunslet have some quality players and they are capable of winning games at this level.
“Every match we are playing our opponents are raising their levels and looking to knock us off and that won’t be any different this week.
“We’ve only got one game in front of us and that’s Hunslet so it’s really important we get our preparation right and maintain our standards.”
Powell believes it is vital Rovers maintain their form ahead of the Northern Rail Cup final against Halifax on July 29.
And he also knows his side cannot afford to drop any points if they are lift the League Leaders Shield for the third year running.
They are just two points ahead of Halifax and Batley, with Sheffield only a further two points adrift in fourth place. Batley play Sheffield tonight.
“We want to maintain our momentum. It is crucial you feel confident about yourselves and maintain your edge,” he said.
“We are not the finished article and we don’t play perfect rugby league so you are always looking to get better.
“If you drop any points someone will catch you, there’s no doubt about that. We can’t afford to be losing any games.
“There are some lessons to be learned and the players will be aware of that. I don’t think they will need me to ram it down their throats but I will be reminding them about our standards.
“I don’t see any reason to drop our standards because we’ve had a couple of good wins.
“There are also places up for grabs looking towards the Northern Rail Cup final and people need to have that in mind. They are playing for their places week to week.
“We have a strong squad and there’s people coming back in all the time. Tangi Ropati and Jonny Hepworth are both not far away from fitness.”
“We’ve got plenty of depth in our squad and our under 23s have been playing outstandingly well. We are good as we’ve ever been in terms of quality across the club.”
Young trio Jack Bussey, Mufaro Mvududu and Tom Carr will be given their chance in the first-team against Hunslet on Sunday.
Jon Grayshon also returns after missing the Northern Rail Cup semi-final against Leigh because his partner gave birth.
Skipper Dickens, Tim Spears and Matty Dale are set to be rested this weekend.
Powell hopes Samoan centre Tangi Ropati will be back in action this month after being sidelined since April with a broken jaw.
He said: “I need to speak to the physios to see where Tangi is at and exactly when he’s going to be available but hopefully it won’t be too far away.”
The Rovers boss is delighted with the form of the club’s unbeaten reserves who need just one point from their last five games to be certain of clinching top spot for the three-team play-off for the Grand Final.
He said: “I think they have a fantastic opportunity to win the Grand Final and it would crown an outstanding season but, like the first-team, it’s about maintaining standards and consistency.
“They’ve been good at that this year so hopefully they will be able to get the job finished.”