National League Play-Offs

Previews for this weekend's National League One and Two Play-Offs.... the winner of each play-off series will be considered for promotion for next season.

National League One

Hull KR and Widnes finished the season first and second respectively, have earnt the week off and will meet in a major semi-final next weekend.

Leigh Centurions v Batley Bulldogs
(Sunday - 3rd place v 6th place, loser eliminated)

Leigh Head Coach Tony Benson has his sights firmly focused on a Grand Final flourish.

The Leigh boss has guided his troops to a third place finish in LHF Healthplan League One and is now gearing up for a tense Elimination Play-Off with Batley.

Benson said: ?We set a goal for ourselves on Tuesday, and that was to win our last game in this play-off series. This is a huge game at the start of that path.

?You use the last few weeks of the season to get some confidence and momentum going and I think we?ve done that pretty well. We?re in good shape and we?re looking forward to some good vocal backing from our fans.?

Benson is unlikely to make any changes to the team that thrashed York last weekend while Bulldogs? coach Gary Thornton is also able to avoid wholesale changes.

Thornton said: ?We are delighted at reaching the top six, but we?re disappointed with last week?s performance against Rochdale ? we didn?t really perform.

?I don?t think there?s any pressure on us. No one expected us to be here, so we?re fairly relaxed about things.

?Also nobody expects us to go any further in the play offs so we want to prove people wrong. I?ve got a lot of faith in this group of players and I think there?s still more to come from them. Now we can kick on and show people what we?re all about. The boys are relishing the challenge.?

Whitehaven v Rochdale Hornets
(Sunday - 4th place v 5th place, loser eliminated)

Whitehaven boss Dave Rotheram believes this year?s past encounters between Whitehaven and Rochdale count for nothing ahead of Sunday?s battle in the LHF Healthplan League One Elimination play-off.

Rotheram said: ?All that is irrelevant at this stage. We?ve finished nine points in front of them in the league, so over the year we?re a better team on paper ? but these games are not played on paper.

?We want to get off to a good start. We?ve had a good week?s preparation and we?re ready for the game now.

?We?ll get the crowd behind us and that?s very important. Hopefully, a lot of people will turn up and really get behind the boys.?

Hornets? coach Darren Abram has got his eyes on a bumper prize fund if he can steer his troops to Grand Final glory.

Abram said: ?That ?100,000 (available to the winners of the Grand Final who do not qualify for promotion to Super League) is like winning the national lottery.

?But Whitehaven were my dark horses to win the title at the start of the season. They?ve got four good players that I?ve coached in the past so I know what they?re capable of.

?They?ve got quick wingers, experienced centres, toughness and go-forward up front. They?re a good team and going up to Cumbria is always difficult so we?ve got to get that into our heads early in the week.

?It?s men against men and its do or die. There?s a lot of do in our side and, if we focus, we should be all right.

?We?ve achieved a lot to finish fifth, the best of the rest behind Whitehaven and the three full-time teams. It?s been an excellent season for us. We?re not here to make up the numbers.?

National League Two

Dewsbury Rams finished the season in first place and are automatically promoted. Sheffield and Celtic Crusaders finished in second and third place respectively, have earnt this week off and will meet in a major semi-final next weekend.

Featherstone Rovers v Gateshead Thunder
(Sunday - 3rd place v 6th place, loser eliminated)

Rovers? coach David Hobbs believes the side that reacts best under pressure will emerge victors in Sunday?s clash at Lionheart Stadium

Hobbs said: ?It?s definitely a case of who makes the least mistakes, and who handles the pressure the best.

?We feel ready for this knock-out part of the year and it should be a big advantage of us being at home.

?We?ve held every side out at Lionheart Stadium and we intend to keep that going for another week.?

Thunder boss Dean Thomas is expecting an intimidating atmosphere but has set his players the challenge of defusing the home supporters? enthusiasm.

Thomas said: ?Going to Featherstone is a bit of a challenge for us. They?ve got a very vocal support and that gives their team an extra lift. We want to silence them with a professional, solid performance.

?All the players and fans know that?s it the end of the season for those who lose. Players will have heightened anxiety and it comes down to how the players control that to get the best out of themselves.?

Swinton Lions v Barrow Raiders
(Sunday - 4th place v 5th place, loser eliminated)

Lions? coach Paul Kidd wants his side to kick on from their 32-24 win at Gateshead last week as they look to keep their season alive in the LHF Healthplan League Two Elimination play off.

Kidd said: ?Its two sides that have been getting a bit of form over the last few weeks so it should be a good contest.

?In effect, both of us have got four cup finals left. Both sides will be confident going into this game and equally confident of going a long way.?

Barrow boss Paul Crarey insists his side are major underdogs on Sunday ? a tag he is happy with.

He said: ?There?s no pressure on us at all. It?s an achievement for us to even reach the play offs.

?Our form is really good at the moment, so if we?re relaxed rather than tense we?ll do OK. If we win, we win; if we lose we?ve had a great season.

?When we play to our strengths I don?t think there?s a better team for exciting football.

?But they?ve got quality players and a quality coach who I?ve got a lot of time for ? it?s just a shame one of the two teams has to go out on Sunday.

?We had 350 fans travel to Blackpool last week, which was absolutely magnificent. We want to put in a performance for them. It will be a cracking game.?

Source: www.therfl.co.uk

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