Strong finish earns Featherstone Rovers home Shield final

John Davies, who marked his 200th career game with a try for Featherstone Rovers.
John Davies, who marked his 200th career game with a try for Featherstone Rovers.

Featherstone Rovers secured home advantage for the Betfred Championship Shield final when they produced a strong finish to win 34-18 at Swinton Lions.

John Duffy’s men trailed 16-12 at the break and looked in danger of defeat when locked at 18-18 with Misi Taulapapa sent to the sin-bin, but scored three tries in the last 12 minutes to seal victory.

Celebrations at the success were made sweeter when news came through that Rovers’ final opponents, Leigh Centurions, had lost 30-16 to Batley Bulldogs to fall four points behind Fev with just one game left in the Shield league games.

Featherstone managed to maintain their unbeaten record in the Shield despite their injury woes continuing as they were only able to field three substitutes at Swinton.

They made a good start with back rower John Davies going over for his 50th career try in his 200th career game to open the scoring after 10 minutes. Ian Hardman added the conversion.

But back came the Lions after Davies was yellow carded for a high tackle on Rob Fairclough.

With their extra man Swinton took full advantage as their back rower Andy Thornley forced his way over for an unconverted try four minutes later.

The next set brought more joy for the hosts as Ryan Gray raced over for another try that was not converted.

Swinton’s purple patch continued with Craig Mullen scoring their third try in five minutes and with Jack Hansen adding the goal they led 14-6.

Rovers regathered themselves when back to their full number and were back on attack to reduce their arrears when Misi Taulapapa crossed the line and Hardman tagged on the extras.

They were unable to add further to their points tally in the opening half, while Fairclough kicked a penalty to take Swinton out to 16-12 at the break.

Rovers started the second half strongly as they exerted pressure and forced a goal-line drop-out.

Lions survived and it was their turn to make the visitors drop-out twice as they had to defend kicks by Gabriel Fell and Rhodri Lloyd.

Fairclough was successful with a penalty to make it 18-12 and Rovers knew they were in a battle against opponents desperate for the points to avoid possible relegation.

They responded well, however, with half-back Anthony Thackeray coming up with a fine piece of play, dancing his way over and doing well to ground the ball over the line. With Hardman converting the scores were level.

Solid defence held them out further until Taulapapa was sin-binned along with Swinton’s Fairclough.

With 12 minutes left it was still all to play for before Fev nudged ahead as hooker Danny Maskill showed determination to get the ball down over the line and Hardman goaled.

Rovers finally showed their superiority to go further in front with Thackeray sending Connor Farrell over for a try converted by Hardman.

The visitors then put the seal on victory with another try when centre Josh Hardcastle went over.

Scorers - Swinton: Tries Thornley, Gray, Mullen; goals Hansen, Fairclough 2. Featherstone: Tries Davies, Taulapapa, Thackeray, Maskill, Farrell, Hardcastle; goals Hardman 5.

Swinton Lions: Fell; Butt, Lloyd, Mullen, Gray; Fairclough, J Hansen; Austin, Waterworth, Hall, Thornley, Shelford, H Hansen. Subs: Worrall, Jones, Ganson, Billsborough.

Featherstone Rovers: Hardman; Whylie, Taulapapa, Hardcastle, Robinson; Thackeray, Wildie; Cooper, Maskill, Brooks, Farrell, Davies, Lockwood. Subs: Carlile, Tagg, Ridyard.

Referee: Tom Grant.

Half-time: 16-12.

Attendance: 606.