IT WASN’T the prize they wanted this year, but Featherstone Rovers finished the season on a high by demolishing London Broncos 36-4 to win the Kingstone Press Championship Shield.
A poor start cost Rovers a top-four place in the Championship and the chance to test themselves against Super League opposition in the Qualifiers.
But their form in the Shield has given boss Jon Sharp something to build on next year.
Sharp, who took over from Andy Hay midway through the year, has taken the opportunity to introduce several young players and they have given a good account of themselves.
Yesterday’s win, at Widnes, was Rovers’ eighth victory in nine games since the end of the Championship season and they totally dominated against a poor Broncos outfit.
London – relegated from Super League last year – went into the game with high hopes following their semi-final victory at Dewsbury – the only team to beat Rovers in the Shield – but they were never really in a disappointingly one-sided encounter.
Rovers ran in six tries and had one hand on the trophy by half-time, when they led 16-0.
The tone for the afternoon was set when London dropped the kick-off.
London had a brief flurry of pressure, during which Glenn Riley crossed, only for Iliess Macani’s pass to be ruled forward and Rhys Williams had a touchdown ruled out for a foot in touch.
But Featherstone did most of the pressing.
They went ahead after 10 minutes, through Matt James. He forced his way over from close range after Gareth Moore had gone close.
Paul Sykes landed the first of his five conversions and Ben Blackmore increased Rovers’ lead six minutes later, getting over at the corner from Moore’s high pass.
Four minutes before the break Moore was again the creator, with a precise cross-kick which picked out an unmarked Sykes, one of six ex-London players in Rovers’ side.
An error by Blackmore, who dropped a kick on his own line, gifted Williams a try seven minutes into the second half to get London off the mark.
But Sykes landed a penalty conversion and James bagged his second touchdown from Andy Ellis’ good work out of acting-half.
Ian Hardman summed up Rovers’ defensive resilience by making a magnificent tackle to deny Sean Morris what looked a certain try and then he crossed himself moments later.
Moore, who was named man of the match went over from long range in the next set, Sykes’ conversion completing the scoring with 10 minutes left.
There was a worrying moment late on when Moore needed lengthy treatment, but he recovered suffiently to walk off the field.
Featherstone Rovers: Hardman, Blackmore, Sykes, Minns, Sharp, Milner, Moore, Baldwinson, Ellis, James, Spears, Snitch, Bussey. Subs Foster, Tagg, Coventry, Ormondroyd.
London Broncos: Morris, Williams, Hellewell, Keswxssswar, macani, Barthau, Keyes, Riley, Cunningham, Thackray, Harrison, Garside, Davis. Subs Henderson, Wallace, Everett, Walker.
Referee: Chris Campbell.