Featherstone Rovers won't take Halifax Panthers lightly insists head coach James Webster

Featherstone Rovers chief James Webster has warned that Halifax Panthers could take inspiration from Hull Kingston Rovers’ shock win over Warrington Wolves in the Super League play-offs last week when the sides do battle this weekend.

By Ben McKenna
Friday, 1st October 2021, 5:00 pm
James Webster. Picture: Dec Hayes Photography.
James Webster. Picture: Dec Hayes Photography.

Featherstone and Halifax lock horns in the semi-finals of the Championship play-offs, aiming for a place in this season’s Million Pound Game.

The Panthers defeated Whitehaven last weekend to advance while Featherstone’s second-place finish earnt them an immediate spot in the semi-finals.

Rovers are strong favourites to win the game, having been victorious in 20 of their 21 league outings and winning the 1895 Cup this term.

However, Webster noted Hull KR’s surprise win over Warrington in the Super League play-offs last week and Featherstone’s run to the Million Pound Game in 2019 as evidence that Saturday’s contest is far from a foregone conclusion.

“Featherstone probably defied everyone in 2019. Batley or Halifax could easily do what Featherstone did in 2019,” said Webster, with Batley Bulldogs taking on Toulouse Olympique in the other semi-final.

“It has been an enjoyable job, I have enjoyed the people I have worked with.

“The local community is at the forefront of this club, the club is at the forefront of the community as well, it works hand in hand together.

“It is a very community-based organisation. I have enjoyed getting to know a lot of rugby-mad people in and around Featherstone.

“We have had some good moments and hopefully there are still some to come.”

He continued: “We have got a tough test this week, I haven’t allowed anything to come into my thought process other than Halifax.

“The Hull KR v Warrington game has been highlighted at our place.

“If you put our team up against Halifax’s on paper, it is pretty similar to tell you the truth.

“Halifax have been an extremely good side and have gone on a long run of winning games. We have to be at our best to win.”

Featherstone claimed an emphatic 54-22 success over the Panthers when the sides met at the beginning of September.

The derby rivals were involved in a much closer contest earlier in the campaign, as Rovers ran out 16-8 winners at the Shay Stadium.

“I don’t take too much notice of the game we played against them a few weeks ago,” added Webster.

“I thought some of our tries were scratchy and lucky, I don’t think the scoreline reflected parts of that game.

“It is going to be a tough encounter and one that is going to be very, very enjoyable to watch.”

Halifax endured a difficult end to their regular season, losing four of their last five games.

They bounced back with last weekend’s win over Whitehaven and Webster was keen to emphasise how knock-out matches play out differently than regular season games.

“Play-off football is different, the energy of the game is different and there is bigger swings of momentum,” he added.

“The ball is in play a lot longer and the referees referee the game differently. It is just such a different occasion. It is one which hopefully will suit us.

“You have got to turn up on the day and get the job done.

“We have given ourselves a chance but when you go through that Halifax side, there is a lot of experience and some big-game players.

“They are a star-studded team for this division and they are hard to beat.”