FEATHERSTONE coach Jon Sharp expects another stern defensive test in Sunday’s Kingstone Press Championship game against Swinton Lions at Sale (3pm).
Swinton won 8-6 at Dewsbury two weeks ago but they are still looking for their first home win this season after losing 26-23 to London Broncos in their opening game and 35-28 to Bradford Bulls last Sunday.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” said Sharp.
“Swinton can definitely play. They’ve come up against two full-time teams and almost beaten them so it proves they are a good side.
“They are a really good footballing side and they are going to challenge some teams. They were unlucky not to win last weekend.
“We are under no illusions. It’s a big pitch and they have some quick players.
“We know we will need to have a really good attitude, particularly defensively, because they are going to throw plenty at us.”
Rovers snatched a top-four spot last season by winning their final four league games but Sharp is determined they will not leave it so late this time.
They have made the perfect start this year by beating Halifax, Oldham and Batley.
Said Sharp: “We scraped into the top-four last year which was still a fantastic achievement with the injuries we had but if we want to judge ourselves on being a better team than last year then we don’t want to be scraping at the last minute to get in. We need to be in there all year and thankfully we have started that way.
“We are pleased with what we’ve done so far but there are still some standards and consistency we need to attain.
“I think the competition has the ability to come up with shock results every weekend and we fell foul of that on a couple of occasions last year.
“This year we need to be really resolute, determined and professional.
“At the start of the season no one is easy to beat.
“Everyone has fully fit teams coming off the back of a good pre-season and all games generally tend to be tight this time of year so we need to be on our mettle to win.”
Rovers welcomed back Richard Moore and Michael Knowles from injury and Frankie Mariano after suspension for last Sunday’s 32-6 win at Batley.
Scott Turner, who has recovered from a back injury, and Darrell Griffin missed out on selection and Misi Taulapapa, who is awaiting visa clearance, was again unavailable.
Sharp has no plans to rotate players at this stage of the season.
“We want to keep the momentum going. It’s early on in the year and the players don’t need freshening up,” said the Rovers boss who was delighted with his side’s display at Mount Pleasant last Sunday.
“I was really pleased with the result and the performance. It was excellent all round,” he added.
“It was definitely our best display so far this season. We executed the plan really well and we were like a well oiled machine.
“We started off with some adversity but we were strong enough to ride the storm early on.
“A 5-0 penalty count against us put us under a lot of pressure early in the game but we handled it really well.
“We were clinical in attack. We had two plays in their half in the first 15 minutes and scored off the second play.”
“It was always going to be a tough challenge at Batley so to win in the manner we did was particularly pleasing.”
Sharp is pleased with the toughness Featherstone have shown in their first three games and the way the new half-back pairing of Matty Wildie and Anthony Thackeray has shaped up.
“We’ve trained the players hard in the off-season and challenged them and hopefully we’ve toughened them up,” he said.
“We are certainly showing signs we are a strong team and mentally we are strong as well.
“We had a tough game against Oldham and had to battle that out and we came from a couple of points behind at Halifax to win in the last 10 minutes which proves we are a mentally tough team.
“Our half-backs have been great. Wildie, in particular, has been a great bonus for us, playing him in a different position to the one I originally signed him for. He’s just gone out and excelled.”
£500 Rovers lottery winners: V Gathercole (O6944), E Barr (C2449), J Bold (R1876), M Cooper (A2895), B Agnew (Y2274). £5 prizes: N Harper (V2015), J Wyard (V4912), S Hill (V1531).