Leigh Centurions are ready for their Cooperative Championship Qualifying semi final clash with Featherstone Rovers this Thursday night, kick off 7.30pm.
The televised game is set to be a cracker as the Centurions head to Featherstone’s home ground in a bid to reach the Championship Grand Final at the first attempt.
That would mean that there are no more games at the Leigh Sports Village this season, but Coach Ian Millward thinks the fans would not mind that.
“Its all about winning when you can,” he says. “And we are heading to Featherstone determined to book our Grand Final place at the first attempt and take our winning momentum to the Halliwell Jones Stadium.
“Obviously we get a second chance, and that is something we played all season to give ourselves by finishing in the top two. But we want to make that Grand Final and Thursday night is our opportunity to achieve that goal.”
With home advantage through finishing as League Leaders, Featherstone will start favourites, but Leigh drew 28-28 at the Big Fellas Stadium earlier this season and saw off the Rovers challenge 36-10 in the home fixture.
Both sides have been red hot as the season draws to a close, but Centurions Robbie Hunter-Paul is certainly looking forward to the fixture.
“Places like Featherstone are what make Rugby League special,” he said. “The people, the place itself have an affect on you, which never leaves you.
“On the field you are intimidated, and for a start there is that slope. But you are close to the fans and you can almost touch their passion and emotion. They have been the team to beat for two years now.
“Heading to Rovers to face up to the most consistent team in the competition, and in that environment, will provide us with all the motivation we’ll need.”
Featherstone were pipped in last year’s thrilling Grand Final in extra time after the game had been delayed because of a fire in the stand during the game. That defeat will have given the side plenty of motivation to face a Leigh side that may find it is without any of its dual registered players as Matty Blythe has been featuring in the Warrington team and Tom Armstrong scored a hat trick of tries for St Helens last week, whilst Rhys Evans is injured.
Never-the-less the Centurions are well equipped to take on Rovers and beat them on their own ground. Golden point will be played if the scores are tied at the end of 80 minutes, and although the winners will go straight into the Grand Final, the losers will get another chance with a home tie against either Sheffield or Halifax the following week.
Leigh have it all to do but Millward thinks their travelling army of fans could give them an edge.
“It will be an intense atmosphere at a packed ground,” he warns. “But our travelling support has been phenomenal all season, and they can make it like a home tie for us. We have a big job to do, and nobody is under any illusions as to the enormity of the task we face. But if we play to our capabilities we can achieve our goal. It’s all about us!”
Meanwhile Leigh have sought applications from potential head coaches for the 2012 season, with an open deadline currently keeping their options available.
And Leigh’s U23s side moved on in the play-offs with a sensational 19-18 win at Featherstone thanks to a Golden Point drop goal from Scott O’Brien. Now they meet either Oldham or Widnes in the next round.