Elated Featherstone Rovers' Tom Holmes ready for more "stick" over Castleford connections at Wembley

FEATEHRSTONE Rovers half-back Tom Holmes reckons he will “know every man and his dog” when the club descends on Wembley next month.

Tom Holmes, left, celebrates reaching Wembley after Featherstone Rovers' win over Widnes Vikings. (Dec Hayes Photography)

Yesterday’s dramatic 24-18 win over Widnes Vikings saw Featherstone progress to the 1895 Cup final where they meet Championship rivals York City Knights on July 17.

It is the first time Featherstone have been to Wembley since their famous 1983 Challenge Cup upset over Hull.

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However, neighbours and fierce rivals Castleford Tigers will also be at the iconic venue on the same day as they face St Helens for the Challenge Cup.

That makes the prospect even more exciting for Holmes; the 25-year-old hails from nearby Castleford, started his career there and still lives in the area.

“I do get a lot of stick from Fev fans about that - being from Cas!” he conceded.

“But it is amazing to think Cas and Fev will both be there at Wembley on the same day.

“It’s never happened before and I’ll probably know every man and his dog in the stadium!

Featherstone Rovers celebrate another try against Widnes Vikings (Dec Hayes Photography)

“It’s great for both clubs as both towns are rugby-mad.

“I’m not sure if Cas fans will watch the Fev game but hopefully there’ll be a good contingent down there and it’s a dream come true for me to get there.”

After rejoining them from Huddersfield Giants ahead of this season, Holmes is now in his third spell with Featherstone who today bolstered their squad with the signing of Salford Red Devils’ Australian prop Darcy Lussick on an initial two-week loan.

Holmes was instrumental in the semi-final win over Widnes, creating two tries for Brad Day before helping resilient Rovers dig in with a fine defensive performance in the second period.

A young Tom Holmes makes a break for Castleford Tigers against Huddersfield Giants in 2016. (ALEX WHITEHEAD/SWPIX)

“That was probably the toughest game we’ve had yet,” he conceded, with Featherstone boasting a 100 per cent win record in the Championship as they bid for promotion to Super League in their centenary year.

“It was end to end stuff but I think we needed that; it’s better to win a tight semi-final like that than by winning by 30 points.

“It was a really tough game. Widnes have a lot of experienced Super League players in there and it showed with the way they played.

“It could have gone either way with five minutes to go and it definitely took a lot out of us.”

Tom Holmes scores for Castleford Tigers against Leeds Rhinos at Magic Weekend in Newcastle in 2017 (ALEX WHITEHEAD/SWPIX)

James Webster’s Rovers continue to rack up victories, though, and Holmes added: “We had a decent run in the Challenge Cup, too.

“We played Hull FC (their only defeat) which gave us a chance to live the dream at Wembley.

“Whether it’s a schoolboy final, Challenge Cup final or the 1895 Cup final, to play at Wembley is a dream come true not just for me but all the squad and the whole town.

“It’s crazy to say but I don’t think we’ve even played our best yet.

“We’ve still got quite a lot to give. You can’t argue with what we’ve done so far - seven from seven in the league and getting to the 1895 final as well - so it’s scary to think we’ve still got a lot more to come.

“We’ve still been getting wins when we’ve not been playing our best.

“We’re playing some good rugby but if we stop making errors, silly mistakes and play to structure a little more, we will be really dangerous.”

They will need to find their best if they are to continue their winning form when they host Bradford Bulls on Sunday, a game which has been put back to a 4.30pm kick-off due to England’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.

John Kear’s side are on a seven-match winning run and Holmes conceded: “They have improved and are playing really well.

“Bradford are just behind us in the table and it will be another tough game.

“They have some quality players but we hopefully should have some back ourselves for Sunday.

“We’ve had a few missing recently."

Ex-Manly Sea Eagles forward Lussick, who starred for Toronto Wolfpack and featured in the 2019 Million Pound Game win over Featherstone, comes straight into contention.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Football League has confirmed the 1895 Cup Final will kick-off at 12 noon with the Challenge Cup final following at 3pm.

However, the governing body and the four clubs involved have agreed to delay putting tickets on sale to supporters until there is more clarity regarding Step 4 of the Government roadmap out of Lockdown, and therefore regarding the stadium’s capacity.

Under current regulations, only around 22,000 fans would be allowed in Wembley.

But a Government announcement is scheduled next Monday – seven days ahead of the June 21 date which had been identified as the earliest possible for the fourth and final stage of unlocking.

The RFL’s chief commercial officer Mark Foster said: “We know there will be significant demand for Wembley tickets from each of the four clubs who won Semi Finals at the weekend, and that this delay will be frustrating.

“However, as with other sports preparing to stage major events in the weeks following June 21, we have agreed with the clubs that it is more sensible to wait until we have more information about how many fans will be able to attend.

“We have some breathing space with six weeks until the Final, but we will continue working behind the scenes with Government and Wembley, as we have been doing for some time, to maximise our capacity on July 17 – and to put tickets back on sale as soon as possible.

“We have deliberately held back a good proportion of tickets even for a limited capacity to ensure that supporters of the four clubs involved will be able to attend.”

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