HULL KR head coach Tim Sheens has reiterated his belief that defence is key ahead of tomorrow’s crucial Qualifiers game.
Granted, it has got to the stage of the season where every fixture is ‘crucial’ for the East Yorkshire club as they strive to secure promotion from the Championship.~
Beating Super League side Leigh Centurions 20-16 a week ago has clearly put them in a position of strength as they seek a third win from three Qualifiers outings when Championship rivals London Broncos arrive at Craven Park tomorrow.
However, if they fail tomorrow, all that hard work will be immediately undone.
Full-time London, who finished second behind Rovers, saw their own hopes of making a push for Super League hampered by a disappointing 32-32 draw at home to part-timers Featherstone Rovers last Sunday.
That makes them desperate, though, and Sheens admitted: “The start is always important. We want to again defend our line strongly and give ourselves a chance to compete well.
“These semi-final type, must-win games are all about completion and field position, defending your goal-line well. People don’t want to hear about that sort of thing – they want to see you score 40 plus points – but at the end of the day it’s about having 40 not scored against you.
“I give all credit to (assistant) James Webster and his defensive preparations last week to shut down their key players, and the attitude of the boys obviously.
“We came from behind twice to get the win too.”
Sheens is happy with how his squad is dealing with the pressure of being the favourite to earn a Super League spot.
“The strain on the guys comes both ways, physically and mentally,” said the former Australia chief.
“The pressure being mounted on the club to be a success and get out of this division is something that is out there.
“Relieving that pressure is something we’re working on well.
“It’s on everyone; the expectation on Super League sides to stay up and pressure on us to go up.
“I know in our division the expectation is to work hard to go up. (But) I’m not looking at any other games.
“I’m not concerned about looking at anyone else apart from London; my team won’t be looking elsewhere and neither will I.
“Both clubs have worked hard for this moment in time and this opportunity. Finishing first or second wasn’t an issue to any great degree, it’s where you finish after a hard season.
“To determine whether it’s been a successful season or a disappointing one hangs on the next four games.”
Centre Liam Salter replaces Thomas Minns (dead leg) in the KR side while there will be a reserves tie against St Helens (kick-off 12.30pm) before tomorrow’s Qualifiers contest.
The likes of Ben Cockayne, Graeme Horne, Zach Dockar-Clay, Mitch Clark and Jack Logan, the young centre on loan from Hull FC, are all set to feature, illustrating the strength in depth of Sheens’s squad at this critical stage of the year.