Powell: Experience can be vital in final

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COACH Daryl Powell believes Featherstone’s big-match experience will be invaluable in Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup final against Halifax at Bloomfield Road, Blackpool (3pm).

It will be Featherstone’s first NRC final appearance but they have played in the last two Championship Grand Finals and in numerous other important games over the last few seasons.

“It’s crucial that we use the experience we have built up in big games. You use that to your advantage and you don’t get flustered as much,” said Powell (pictured).

“We didn’t have a lot of experience initially and we lost a couple of big games, probably because of that lack of experience.

“If the match goes against you at some point, you hang on in there and you re-focus your game.

“You are not going to be on top form for 80 minutes of a final. You have to ride the storm at times and I think we’ve learned that over the last few years.”

Halifax 20-16 lost to Leigh in year’s NRC final after beating Rovers 31-30 in extra time in the semis.

Rovers are top of the Championship, two points ahead of second-placed Halifax. The teams have been involved in a series of exciting clashes in recent seasons and Powell expects another open game on Sunday against opponents he believes are stronger than they were 12 months ago.

“Generally the games between the two teams have been pretty open with plenty of exciting rugby league, “ he said.

“Whether you’ve been on the winning side or the losing side, there have been some really special games between the teams.

“It is never great to lose big games in the manner you do at times but we’ve just got to make sure we are spot on and not worry about what has gone in the past too much.

“I think Halifax are a fair bit tougher than last season and they’ve got some players who give them a bit more than they had last year.

“They are a dangerous team. They have a couple of smart half backs who, when they are song, will put you under pressure.

“They’ve good players all over the field and we know they are a good side but it’s just about us and we will focus on ourselves and be effective in applying our game.

“We obviously want to come out on top on Sunday but finals are tough games and you’ve got to earn the right to win it.

“Halifax will come feeling like they can knock us off and we’ve got to have confidence in ourselves. We’ve got to be tough and aggressive and be the best team on the day. If we do that, it will be good enough.

“We’ve certainly shown we are a good side and we need to be exactly that this weekend.

“We just need to be effective and work hard for each other in the team which I am pretty convinced our guys will do. That’s got to be our focus this week.”

Rovers, who have been boosted by news that hooker Ben Kaye has agreed a new two-year contract, have sold more than 2,000 tickets for Sunday’s match.

Powell hopes the fans “have a fantastic day and we can get the result we need and they deserve.”

The Rovers boss will be checking on the fitness of Matty Dale (calf) and James Lockwood (ankle) who were injured in last Sunday’s 31-28 win against Batley.

Jon Hepworth (back injury) will not play on Sunday and the final has come too soon for Samoan international Tangi Ropati who started his comeback in last Thursday’s reserves match at Oldham after being out for three months with a broken jaw.

Powell, said: “I think I’m pretty much nailed on what the team is going to be on Sunday.

“As long as everyone is fit and Matty Dale and James Lockwood come through then I pretty much know who is going to be out there.

“Tangi Ropati is not ready yet and Jon Hepworth will have an injection in his back on Friday which will settle down the problem which keeps reoccurring. It’s making life difficult for him but hopefully that will do the job and he will be back before the end of the season - that’s the plan.”

Rovers lost hooker on-loan hooker Andy Ellis back to his parent club Wakefield last week. Ellis was recalled after Pail Aiton sustained a broken jaw.

Said Powell: “That’s the difficulty if you have loan players and that’s why we don’t have too many to be honest.

“Moving forward you need to be able to rely on your own players. It’s no fault of Wakefield’s that one of their players has got his jaw broken but it makes life difficult for a coach when you don’t know whether a player is going to be here or not.”

Powell was pleased Featherstone overcame Batley last Sunday when his side were below their best.

“Obviously, Batley are a decent team who have been going pretty well for most the season and it was a crucial win for us,” he said.

“It was a game I always thought we’d done enough to win. We worked hard for our tries and gave points away and that made it a little bit difficult for us.

“We had to scrap a lot bit at times and we had a few tries disallowed in the second-half and probably our kicking game wasn’t exactly where we wanted it to be but we were good enough to win.

“You are not going to be spot on every week and Batley came at us with a plan and got stuck into us.

“With us giving them points, we gave them an opportunity and we were just good enough to hold them out.

“I think we’ve just got to put last Sunday behind us a move on and come up with our best work for this Sunday. We’ve been going pretty well and we are not going to get hung up by one performance.”