Hull KR head to Catalans Dragons for play-off tie with the pressure off - Gareth Ellis

We certainly have some intriguing Betfred Super League semi-finals this week and, if Hull KR perform like they did on Friday night, I’d find it difficult actually betting against them also winning at League Leaders Catalans Dragons for a place at Old Trafford.

GRAND FINAL BID: The pressure is off Tony Smith coach and his Hull Kingston Rovers side against Catalans Dragons. Picture: Paul Currie/

Obviously, it will be a tough task - Rovers finished sixth and we know how many injuries they have - but the pressure is all on the French club.

Catalans have finished top for the first time and just need to win one more game, on their home ground in Perpignan, to reach a maiden Grand Final.

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They will be expected to do that. The pressure is now on.

For KR, though, the pressure is all off.

This is not me talking out of turn but they have over-achieved; they could have been relegated last year and playing in a different division.

They were superb winning 19-0 at Warrington Wolves in Friday’s elimination play-off.

They played well and defended well. They went into opposition territory against the favourites - Warrington with all their stars - but showed such great spirit.

BATTLING DISPLAY: Hull Kingston Rovers' Jordan Abdull and Jimmy Keinhorst celebrate their victory at Warrington. Picture: Paul Currie/

The ability to scramble back and just fight for each other was obvious to see.

You could see the Hull KR players celebrating all the little wins. That was the difference; they wanted it more.

It’s an old cliché but it was probably the case in both play-offs as Leeds Rhinos were similar when winning 8-0 at Wigan Warriors the night before.

The two teams who progressed were the two teams who wanted to battle that little bit harder.

KEY MAN: Sam Tomkins faces a race to be fit for this week's play-off clash. Picture: Ed Sykes/

Sometimes, you could make that decision to not bother, or give up or think ‘we’ll get it back later’ but they both played in the moment and knew every opportunity counted.

Fighting tooth and nail to come out on every one of those battles was key.

In terms of KR, credit to their head coach Tony Smith.

I know how good Tony is having been coached by him and the influence he had on me.

I’m sure that’s one of the big things at Hull KR at the moment; him having the time to change things around and get the people in they need.

I spoke to Danny McGuire a couple of weeks ago and he said it took a bit of time to get the team to click and get the right people who wanted to be there and all wanted to be on the same path.

Ultimately, it came to a head in what we’ve just seen on Friday; a star-studded Wolves side losing against a team that was prepared to dig in a little bit harder.

If KR go with that attitude at Catalans on Thursday, I do find it hard to bet against them even though you’d expect Catalans to be the team - in any other scenario - to reach the final.

But the way Rovers are playing, in both attack and defence on Friday, they could throw up a surprise. A lot will depend on whether Sam Tomkins is fit after coming off injured against Wigan just over a week ago.

You’d think he’d play unless it’s really serious and then it’s one of those tough decisions; do you put the team first by saying I can get through the game and be influential or do you put the team first by saying I could be detrimental to the team’s performance if I do play.

If there’s any chance of Sam playing, I think he will.

He epitomises that combative competitive nature that’s required to play the game in the first place but he’s got the skill and guile on top of that.

One of the big reasons, I think, Catalans have done so well is that he’s the constant who has performed well through the season.

He’ll be massive for them either way: a plus if plays, a loss if he doesn’t.

Saints were really impressive in their last outing and just listening to Alex Walmsley in his man-of-the-match interview when they beat Leeds the other week impressed me.

After that terrific display, he just said ‘That’s what I’m there to do: that’s my job. For me to be effective, and for us to be effective, that’s what I have to do: run for 200m and carry people on my back.’ That’s a champion team. Everyone knows their role and not just being happy to do their job but just doing it very, very well and having an impact on the game.

It would be very hard to back against St Helens particularly when we’re in this play-off knockout style.

But given the way Leeds played, and how dogged they were, they’d like to think they could sharpen their attack up a little. That could potentially be the difference for them - if they are still prepared to defend the way they did at Wigan.