FEATHERSTONE Rovers have the chance to take a huge step towards clinching top spot in the Co-operative Championship when they play Sheffield Eagles at Don Valley Stadium tonight (7.30).
With two games remaining, Rovers are two points clear of closest rivals Halifax and are firmly in the driving seat in their bid to lift the League Leaders’ Shield for the third year running.
Featherstone host Keighley in their final league fixture while Halifax’s last two matches are against Leigh Centurions (away) and Batley (home).
“It’s a critical game in our season, that’s for certain,” said Rovers coach Daryl Powell.
“Sheffield are always a tough team to play against. They’ve been a dangerous team for a number of years and we’ve got to go away and get a result.
“It will be difficult because Sheffield have got pretty smart players particularly key players in the back line who can really hurt you if you don’t get your defence right.
“Defensively we are going to have to be outstanding all across the park.
“Don Valley is a tight pitch and you’ve got to work hard to break down the opposition so I expect it will be a pretty tight game and it will certainly be a tough one. It’s going to be physical.
“Sheffield are near the top of the table and are wanting to cement their place in the play-offs as high as possible.
“From our point of view it’s a great opportunity for us to chalk another one off and give ourselves the best possible chance of finishing top.”
Featherstone have won all their away league matches this season.
Their only two league defeats - against Sheffield and Halifax - were at Bigfellas Stadium and coincided with the club’s Challenge Cup exploits earlier this season
Powell said: “In the last few years we have been outstanding away from home and hopefully we’ll be able to continue that but it’s about getting our performance right.
“Obviously, we don’t want to look too far ahead because it’s a case of piecing it all together and getting one job done at a time but it would be a special achievement to finish top again. To be the most consistent team in the league, like we have been over the last three years, would be outstanding.
“We’ve been consistent again this season and that was one of our goals at the start of the year. It’s credit to all the players and the way they’ve gone about their business this year.”
Powell reported a clean bill of health after Sunday’s 86-12 win against Swinton Lions when Nathan Chappell started in the second row.
“We had a recovery session on Monday night and everyone was all right. I don’t think there will be too many changes to the team, “ he said.
“Nathan Chappell can play on the wing and at centre but ultimately I see him as a back-rower. When he came on against York in the previous game he was in the back row and he was outstanding so I wanted to give him an opportunity to show us what he’s got from the start and he was pretty strong again.”
Jon Hepworth could make his comeback after a back injury in a newly-arranged home friendly against Catalan reserves on Thursday, August 30. He may play in the final league game against Keighley on September 2.
Powell said: “Jon Hepworth s training and he’ll probably play in our friendly match against Catalan reserves. I don’t think he will be available before that.
“I don’t think he’s quite ready to play for the reserves in the Grand Final this Saturday but there is potential he may be available for the Keighley game. Whether we decide to play him in that I don’t know. We’ll wait and see as we go down the track.”
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