ALL THE pressure will be on Bradford Bulls in tomorrow’s winner-takes-all showdown, according to Featherstone Rovers coach Jon Sharp.
The battle for the final place in the First Utility Qualifiers has gone down to the wire, with the victors of tomorrow’s final round battle at Big Fellas Stadium (3pm) set to clinch fourth place in the Kingstone Championship.
Bulls are currently fourth, ahead of fifth-placed Rovers on points difference.
A draw would be enough for Bradford and could also see Rovers sneak into the Qualifiers, if rivals Batley Bulldogs and Halifax both lose.
Rovers have already come through must-win games at Batley and Halifax – who were both above them in the table – and Sharp is confident they can handle what he admits is an “enormous” occasion.
“We have been playing trapdoor football for the last two weeks and this is no different,” said Sharp, who has described tomorrow’s game as a “Grand Final”.
“We are ready for it, but we are massive underdogs and the pressure is on Bradford, not on us.
“They are the full-time team and in the past they have been the benchmark for Super League.
“They are expected to be back in Super League, so the onus is on them.”
The Qualifiers will see the Championship’s top-four take on Super League’s bottom quartet of Huddersfield Giants, Hull KR, Salford Red Devils and Leeds Rhinos.
Rovers have been hit by money problems this season, which have allegedly led to delays in players being paid and Sharp said: “The financial rewards would be outstanding for the club.
“It is well documented the financial issues we’ve had and even Sunday’s game is a big financial boost for us with the magnitude of the attendance we potentially could get.
“That is a big lift and to make the top-four would be enormous for the club – it would give us a massive financial leg up.”
Whatever happens tomorrow, Sharp believes his side have made progress this year.
They finished fifth – six points outside a place in the Qualifiers – at the end of the 2015 regular season and went on to win the Championship Shield, for the bottom-eight sides.
“The season has been a success,” Sharp reflected. “It doesn’t just hinge on where we finish. We have had the financial problems and a raft of injuries and we’ve managed to keep our focus as a playing group and that itself is a massive achievement.”
Bulls were runners-up in last year’s Championship table and got as far as the million pound game before their hopes of a quick return to Super League were dashed by defeat at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. Their form has been mixed this year, with seven losses and two draws from their 22 league games, but coach Rohan Smith – who took over midway through the campaign – is excited about tomorrow’s challenge.
“Sunday’s game is the type of game we play for and why this sport is so exciting,” he said.
“I’m buzzing, I can’t wait for it and it is what professional sport is all about. You get involved for these occasions. If you’re a Bradford fan and you’re ever going to go to a game, Sunday is the one.”