HUNSLET HAWKS will be laying it all on the line when they visit York City Knights for tomorrow’s Kingstone Press Championship One semi-final (3pm).
A place in the Grand Final, a week tomorrow at Headingley Carnegie, is the prize for the winners, but the beaten side’s season will be over – and that means coach Barry Eaton’s team will be giving the game everything they’ve got.
York pipped Hunslet to top spot in the table and won all three meetings between the teams in the regular season, 28-26 and 20-18 at South Leeds Stadium and 40-0 on their own turf, but suffered a shock home loss to Oldham in last Sunday’s qualifying semi-final.
Hawks’ play-off campaign also began with a home defeat by Oldham, but they bounced back to thrash Gateshead 50-6 last weekend.
“We’ve had three tough games against them,” Eaton recalled. “There was a freakish result in one and we lost the others by two points and they could have gone either way.
“There’ll be a lot of little battles going on – at half-back, hooker, in the front-row and so on. It still comes down to which team performs on the day, but winning those battles individually will go a long way to deciding who wins the game.”
Victory tomorrow would see Hawks return to Headingley, where they beat Dewsbury Rams – who had Eaton at half-back – in the 1999 second tier Grand Final.
“It would be massive,” Eaton said of the possibility of reaching the title decider. “It has been a tough, challenging and interesting season.
“We have lost three or four key players for the rest of the year due to injury, our half-backs James Coyle and Danny Grimshaw and Luke Stenchion who has been outstanding in the front-row, but that’s what we have a squad for. We played well enough last week and hopefully we can do the same again.”
FEATHERSTONE ROVERS are the underdogs going into tomorrow’s qualifying semi-final at home to Sheffield Eagles (6.30pm), coach Andy Hay reckons.
Rovers finished second in the Kingstone Press Championship table, three points and seven places clear of Sheffield, but Hay said: “They are going into it as favourites.
“We are at home, but they are our bogey team.
“They have won the Grand Final for the last two years and they were probably in the best form of everyone going into the play-offs.
“It’s not usual for a team to come to Featherstone and be the favourites so it is going to be a different experience, but we played them a few weeks ago and they beat us.
“Not everybody played at their best in that game and those who didn’t want to make up for it.”
A win would see Rovers through to their fourth Grand Final in five seasons.
“That has been overshadowed a bit by the importance of finishing in the top-two this year,” Hay said.
“But it would be massive. Not playing last weekend gave us chance to look at that and refocus on the importance of getting to the Grand Final.
“It has been a traumatic season, but if we could finish it at the Grand Final that would be great recognition and reward.”
COACH GLENN Morrison believes Dewsbury Rams are on a roll which could take them all the way to the Grand Final.
Rams finished sixth in the Kingstone Press Championship and have recorded play-off wins over seventh-placed Workington Town and Halifax, who were third, but face their toughest challenge tomorrow away to league leaders Leigh Centurions (3pm).
The winners will go through to the title decider at Headingley Carnegie a week tomorrow and Morrison said: “There’s no pressure on us.
“We are going in as underdogs and they have only lost one game all year, so we know it is going to be tough.
“But we are going in on the back of two really good finals wins.
“They have had a good win themselves, but they had last week off and hopefully the momentum we’ve got will give us an edge.”
Rams lost twice to Leigh in the regular season, but Morrison added: “At our house we were winning until we got a man sent-off and that cost us.
“At their ground we got back to 22-22 and we were on top of them, but we dropped the kick-off and they scored.
“We know we’ve got to be on our game for 80 minutes to give ourselves a chance, but we’ve done that the last two weeks and hopefully there’s two more performances like that in us.”