Sharlston Rovers out to retain BARLA National Cup against Queens

HOLDERS Sharlston Rovers travel to Fylde on Saturday looking to be crowned BARLA National Cup winners for the second consecutive year.

The Weeland Road club will take on Pennine League foes Queens at Fylde RUFC's Woodlands Memorials Ground in what's set to be a scintillating seaside clash (kick-off 3pm).

Rovers lifted amateur rugby league's most prestigious prize last year thanks to victory over Fryston Warriors at the same ground.

It was the club's first National Cup final, and after waiting years to book their place in the showpiece event they've now done it twice on the spin - the proverbial London bus springs to mind.

Some say the true test of a champion is to retain their title and Sharlston will get their chance to do just that this weekend - and put to bed an unusually disappointing Pennine League campaign, which saw them finish fifth.

Head coach Gordy Long is confident his men can finish the season on a high but knows a tough test lies in wait.

"We're really buzzing for it, everyone at the club is excited about it," he said.

"The lads are up for it and we're confident that we can return home champions again."

He continued: "I think Queens are a little bit over-confident. They beat us twice recently in the league. You can't take anything from those matches.

"We rested a lot of players because the league had gone and we put some kids in there, it's going to be a different squad we field this weekend.

"But they're a strong side, they have good players all over the park and both clubs know each other well so it should be an entertaining game."

Sharlston's last competitive match was at Queens, where the lost 38-10. They also fell to an 18-8 defeat against the Leeds club two weeks before that. But those defeats aren't a concern for Long.

If anything, it's Queens who'll be out for revenge after Rovers beat them in the semi-final of last season's competition - and in dramatic fashion.

A last-gasp touchline conversion sparked dramatic scenes at Weeland Road as Rovers progressed to the final of the National Cup for the very first time at the expense of Queens - who were then the holders.

Another come-from-behind victory put Sharlston into this season's final when they beat Bank Quay Bulls 36-32. Rovers also swept aside Upton, Wigan St Cuthberts and Fryston en-route to Fylde.

Queens booked their final place thanks to wins over Birstall Victoria, Methley Royals, Queensbury and Siddal.

Rovers held their final training session on Thursday night and will be without Sean Emblem with a facial injury. Greg Wilby is away on holiday.

See this week's Wakefield Express for all the latest sports news from around the disrict.