HUNSLET ARE facing three virtual semi-finals, before a real one.
The south Leeds side are second in the Kingstone Press League One Shield table, one point behind London Skolars and with a similar advantage over North Wales Crusaders.
Coach Gary Thornton’s team play host to bottom club South Wales Ironmen tomorrow (3pm) and travel to second-bottom Hemel Stags a week later before completing the league campaign against London at South Leeds Stadium.
The leading two teams after the seven extra fixtures will meet in the Shield final, with the top side having home advantage.
“We have to be mentally prepared for these next three games,” Thornton said. “If we win them we are in a final – and we will have home advantage.
“That is the expectation. We have certainly got to win our home games and we will be disappointed if we don’t do that.”
South Wales have lost 16 of their 19 league or Shield games this year, with two wins and a draw.
“We have been pretty good against the lower teams at home, but we have struggled sometimes away,” Thornton admitted.
“Against Gloucester a couple of weeks ago we were pretty good for 30 minutes, but we haven’t put an 80-minute performance together. That is what we are looking for, more consistency through the game.”
Thornton has used the Shield to have a look at his entire squad, but said he will be fielding a “reasonably strong” team tomorrow and is now planning for what could be two crucial meetings with Skolars.
We have been pretty good against the lower teams at home, but we have struggled sometimes awayHunslet coach Gary Thornton.
“There will probably be a couple of changes, but not too many,” he confirmed. “We are pretty close to knowing what our strongest 17 is.
“The next two games will be geared towards the London game at home – and if we win that we will probably finish with London at home again the next week in the final.
“We have got to be respectful towards South Wales and Hemel, but we have got London in our sights.”
Meanwhile, businessman Steve Parkin, whose company Clipper are among Hunslet’s sponsors, is understood to be considering increasing his backing of the club.