Featherstone v Halifax: Rovers aiming to book first quarter-final berth

Jon Sharp.
Jon Sharp.
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FEATHERSTONE ROVERS are aiming to become the first team through to the quarter-finals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup when they play host to Halifax tonight.

The tie kicks-off the sixth round, when last year’s top eight from Super League join the competition.

Jordan Baldwinson.

Jordan Baldwinson.

A third Cup win of the season would see Rovers through to the quarter-finals and, having been drawn at home against one of their Kingstone Press Championship rivals, boss Jon Sharp knows it is a golden opportunity for his men to make some club history, half a century on from one of the club’s greatest triumphs.

Saturday is the 50th anniversary of Rovers’ 17-12 win over Barrow at Wembley and progressing through to the last eight would be a perfect way to mark the occasion, Sharp reckons.

“It is a big game,” the coach said of tonight’s clash. “Being a Featherstone lad I know how highly regarded the Challenge Cup is in the club’s history and we want to go as far as we can.

“We are coming up against a team who are also steeped in Challenge Cup history and that adds to the spectacle.

“There is not much between the teams and when Featherstone play Halifax they are always tight, close affairs.

“I expect this one to be the same and I am sure it is going to be a really good game for the TV viewers.”

Sharp reckons the presence of the live Sky Sports cameras adds some glamour to the tie.

“I get a sense from the players they are looking forward to it,” he added.

“People behind the scenes at the club are excited because it [live television coverage] does not happen very often, so it is exciting times for us.”

Rovers are second in the Championship and locked in a four-way battle with Toulouse Olympique, London Broncos and Halifax – in fifth, just two points behind Featherstone – for places in this season’s middle-eights.

Leaders Hull KR already look assured of a top-four spot and Toulouse have no game this weekend after losing to Batley Bulldogs in the Challenge Cup fourth round, but Sharp insisted that the knockout competition is “not a distraction”.

He stressed: “It has been really good because we haven’t been having a break, we have been playing every week.

“When you are winning and you are fit and healthy and you don’t have injuries you want to keep playing.

“It is helping us with some momentum at the moment. I think we’ve seen that with Toulouse.

“They have only played two games in the last four weeks and they look like they’ve got a bit disjointed and rusty.

“We are enjoying playing and we want to play week-in and week-out.”

Luke Briscoe could return for Rovers tonight after a five-game ban and Kyle Briggs is also in contention for a recall, but dual-registered Leeds Rhinos forward Jordan Baldwinson drops out from the side which won at Rochdale Hornets four days ago.

Featherstone Rovers: from Hardman, Ulugia, Taulapapa, Briscoe, Briggs, Thackeray, Griffin, Carlile, Knowles, Davies, R Moore, Tagg, Cooper, Turner, Wildie, Lockwood, Walton, Hardcastle, Aston.

Halifax: from Barber, Boyle, Butler, Cahalane, Fairbank, Grady, Heaton, Johnston, Kaye, Morris, B Moore, Murrell, Robinson, Saltonstall, Sharp, Tangata, Tyrer, Woodburn-Hall, Worrincy.

Referee: Chris Campbell (Widnes).

Kick-off: Tonight, 8pm.