LHF Healthplan National League One Grand Final

6th October 2006

Hull KR v Widnes Vikings

Hull KR Head Coach Justin Morgan is preparing his team for the most important game in their recent history - the LHF Healthplan National League One Grand Final against Widnes Vikings.

And the 31-year-old Australian is fully aware of the rewards for the winners of Sunday’s clash.

“It’s life changing,” he said. “You’ve got the financial side of things for the players – you go from a £400,000 salary cap to £1.6 million – and the career side too. You’re on the biggest stage on this side of the world and that reflects on the club.”

Like his Widnes Vikings counterpart Steve McCormack, Morgan will become the youngest coach in engage Super League should he steer his troops to one more win in 2006.

“The hardest part is the waiting,” said Morgan. “But the work’s been done. I’ve told the players to have faith. When they’re under pressure on Sunday, they’ve to think back about what they’ve achieved so far.

“Hull is a true Rugby League town. It’s one of the things that reminds me of home. The sports pages are filled with Rugby League and people are talking about the game.

“We sat down at the start of the year and said clearly that we wanted to win the Grand Final. The burning desire that has been at Hull KR for many years can now finally be achieved.”

Widnes boss McCormack is making his third consecutive LHF League One Grand Final appearance after steering Whitehaven to the showpiece in 2004 and 2005.

“I’m delighted to get there again,” said McCormack. “To be involved in two previous Grand Finals was a privilege but they count for nothing now.

“We’ve started to hit form at the right time in the competition and I honestly don’t think there’s a lot between these two sides.

“We had a bit of an inconsistent start but, as we’ve started to pick up, the crowd has really got behind us and backed us. They’re desperate for Super League just like the Hull KR fans. There’ll be a very passionate backing for both teams.”

Oliver Wilkes, Mick Nanyn, Mick Cassidy and Terry O’Connor are all fit following recent injury concerns.

Cassidy and O’Connor lead a formidable pack that includes former Great Britain prop Barrie McDermott and ex-Wigan hooker Mark Smith.

But McCormack insists that experience will count for little in the cauldron of Sunday’s Grand Final.

He said: “Previous experience and results don’t count for anything. Come kick off time on Sunday it’s all down to those 80 minutes and not what’s happened previously.”

LHF Healthplan National League Two Play-Off Final

Sheffield Eagles v Swinton Lions

Buoyant Lions’ coach Paul Kidd is hoping for one last roar from his troops after their shock play-off success.

Lions have won successive away games at Featherstone and Celtic Crusaders to earn the right to face Sheffield Eagles in the LHF Healthplan National League Two Play Off Final.

“I’ll be urging the players to make sure they don’t come up with any regrets,” said Kidd.

He added: “You’ve got to enjoy occasions like that and I’ve no right to say to the players that they couldn’t enjoy themselves. But we started focusing from Monday morning.

“Going to the golden point doesn’t help and I’m sure Gary Wilkinson was happy with the outcome, but this is a massive game and there won’t be any problems with the players getting up for it.”

Eagles’ boss Gary Wilkinson admits he was happy to see the Lions extended into overtime in Bridgend last Sunday.

“The good thing from our point of view is that they’re most probably smashed to bits from Sunday so that might just be a factor.

“But they’ll be battle-hardened, while we’ve played just one game in a month. There’s two ways to look at it – either you get a rest, or you don’t get the chance to keep the momentum going.”

Eagles lost a tense 2003 LHF League Two Grand Final to Keighley Cougars by just two points and Wilkinson believes the club is now ready to mount a serious challenge in LHF League One.

“If you speak to Mark Aston who was the Eagles coach at the time, he felt that the club was ready for the step up in 2003,” said Wilkinson. “Going via the play-offs means that some of the better players might be signed up elsewhere already, while the fact that we’re on SKY gives the club an awful lot of prestige.

“We’ve got a side in place now that’s capable of making an impression in LHF League One and, with a couple of other players that we’re hoping to talk to if we win, we are confident of going OK.”

LHF Healthplan National League Three Grand Final

Bramley Buffaloes v Hemel Stags

Stags’ boss Troy Perkins believes Sunday’s LHF League Three Grand Final will showcase the cream of the crop.

Perkins said: “Bramley and we have been the best two teams all season and now it’s down to an 80-minute battle. Whoever has got the most desire and makes the fewest mistakes will win it.”

Perkins admits his squad will be making a trip into the unknown when they run out at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium.

He said: “We’ve got one or two players with Grand Final experience but it’s new to the rest of them. It’ll be a massive change for them, going from playing at a local ground to Halliwell Jones Stadium. But we’ve got to take that out of the equation.

“Everyone’s going to be nervous but we’ve got to keep the guys calm. If anything, it will work in their favour. They were defeated last year and, hopefully, that will be playing at the back of their minds. We’re the underdogs but we’ve definitely got the team to do it.

“We had a confidence boost last week with a good win against Warrington and there’s no reason why we can’t maintain that winning run.”

Bramley coach Paul Cook, who twice played at Wembley with Bradford Bulls in 1996 and 1997, is confident his side can handle the challenges that lie ahead.

Cook said: “I’ve only been coaching for five years and this is the first Final I’ve been involved in – it means everything to me as a coach.

“We’ve worked hard since January and now it all boils down to Sunday. I’ll prepare my players to the best of their ability and if they play to that standard then the result should take care of itself.”

But Cook is not discounting the threat from the Stags.

He added: “Hemel won 11 in a row at the start of the season and were the only side to beat us at home this year. They started very well.

“They’re a great technical side, they do the little things right around the ruck and they’ve got a strong kicking game. It should be a great match, but I do believe that if we prepare right and the players prepare right, then the result should take care of itself.”

LHF HEALTHPLAN NATIONAL LEAGUE ONE GRAND FINAL

HULL KINGSTON ROVERS  v WIDNES VIKINGS

At Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington

Sunday, October 8 (6pm)

PLAY-OFF PLACES

                                            P          W         D         L          F          A          Pts

1. Hull Kingston Rovers        18        16        0          2          705      338      32

2. Widnes Vikings                18        14        0          4          729      449      28

3. Leigh Centurions              18        13        0          5          549      334      26

4. Whitehaven                      18        12        1          5          516      408      25

5. Rochdale Hornets             18          8        0          10        462      435      16

6. Batley Bulldogs                 18          8        0          10        393      467      16

Hull Kingston Rovers and Widnes Vikings began the season as joint second favourites at 2-1 to finish at the top. Leigh Centurions were 13-8 favourites. (William Hill odds)

Route to the final

Hull K.R. beat Widnes Vikings (H) 29-22

Widnes beat Whitehaven (H) 24-20

Hull Kingston Rovers have never been in the engage Super League. The last time they were in the top division was in 1993-94 when they were relegated after finishing 15th in a 16-club Stones Bitter Championship.

Widnes Vikings were in the engage Super League from 2002 to 2005 inclusive. They were promoted after beating Oldham 24-14 in the 2001 Grand Final at Rochdale.

MARK SMITH of Widnes Vikings has scored tries in five successive matches as follows: 1 – 3 – 2 – 1 - 1. The hooker has totalled 26 tries playing in all 30 of Widnes’s matches this season.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS THIS SEASON

National League One

Widnes 28 v Hull KR 42

Hull KR 49 v Widnes 24

Play-off

Hull KR 29 v Widnes 22

These are the only meetings since 2001 when Widnes won 28-0 at home in the Northern Ford Premiership.

GRAND FINAL RESULTS

1998     Wakefield T. (1)       24  v  Featherstone R. (4)    22          At Huddersfield; 8,224

1999     Hunslet H. (2)           12  v  Dewsbury R. (1)        11          At Leeds; 5,783

2000     Dewsbury R. (1)       13  v  Leigh C. (4)               12          At Bury; 8,487

2001     Widnes V. (2)           24  v  Oldham (4)                14          At Rochdale; 8,974

2002     Huddersfield G. (1)   38  v  Leigh C. (2)               16          At Widnes; 9,051

2003     Salford C.R. (1)         31  v  Leigh C. (2)              14          At Widnes; 9,186

2004     Leigh C. (1)               32  v  Whitehaven (2)          16*       At Widnes; 11,005

2005     Castleford T. (2)        36  v  Whitehaven (1)           8          At Widnes; 13,300     
( ) Final League positions      
* After extra time. 16-16 at end of normal time.

INDIVIDUAL FINAL RECORDS
Most tries in a final: No player has scored more than two tries

Most goals in a final: 8 (Inc. 2 dg) by Neil Turley (Leigh C.) v Whitehaven … 2004

Most points in a final: 18 (1t, 6g, 2dg) by Neil Turley (Leigh C.) v Whitehaven … 2004

Most final appearances: 5 by Sean Richardson (Wakefield 1998 won); (Dewsbury 1999 lost, 2000 won); (Widnes 2001 won); Leigh (2003 lost)

Most final wins: 3 by Sean Richardson as above

TOM BERGIN TROPHY for man of the match

1998    Richard Chapman (Featherstone R.)* v Wakefield T.           Hooker

1999    Latham Tawhai (Hunslet H.) v Dewsbury R.                          Scrum half

2000    Mick Higham (Leigh C.)* v Dewsbury R.                                Hooker

2001    Phil Cantillon (Widnes V.) v Oldham                                      Hooker

2002    Chris Thorman (Huddersfield G.) v Leigh C.                          Scrum half

2003    Gavin Clinch (Salford C.R.) v Leigh C.                                   Scrum half

2004    Neil Turley (Leigh C.) v Whitehaven                                       Full back

2005    Brad Davis (Castleford T.) v Whitehaven                               Stand off

* Losing team

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LHF HEALTHPLAN NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO PLAY-OFF FINAL

SHEFFIELD EAGLES v SWINTON LIONS
At Halliwell Jones Stadium, Warrington

Sunday, October 8 (3.45)

NATIONAL LEAGUE TWO

PLAY-OFF PLACES

                                               P          W         D         L          F          A          Pts

1. Dewsbury Rams                 22        19        0          3          693      354      38

2. Sheffield Eagles                  22        18        0          4          808      390      36

3. Celtic Crusaders                 22        14        1          7          730      387      29

4. Featherstone Rovers           22        14        1          7          596      504      29

5. Swinton Lions                     22        13        1          8          641      475      27

6. Barrow Raiders                   22        12        0          10        599      481      24

7. Gateshead Thunder             22        11        0          11        547      540      22

Route to the final
Sheffield beat Celtic Crusaders (H) 26-16
Swinton beat Barrow Raiders (H) 26-20; Featherstone Rovers (A) 27-14; Celtic Crusaders (A) 27-26

Dewsbury Rams have already been promoted as league leaders

PREVIOUS MEETINGS THIS SEASON

Powergen Challenge Cup

Swinton 42 v Sheffield 18       R3

National League Two

Swinton 14 v Sheffield 24

Sheffield 18 v Swinton 14

Leading Scorers

COMBINED NATIONAL LEAGUES (All matches)

Tries

Tony Duggan (Celtic)                         37

Mick Nanyn (Widnes)                        30

Byron Ford (Hull KR)                        30

James Nixon (Barrow)                       28

Wayne McHugh (Featherstone)          27

Ben Cockayne (Hull KR)                    27

Mark Smith (Widnes)                          26

Lee Greenwood (Leigh)                      25

Craig Calvert (Whitehaven)                 25

Andy Saywell (Swinton)                      25

Goals

Mick Nanyn (Widnes)                         134

Graham Holroyd (Doncaster)              120 (2)

Carl Rudd (Whitehaven)                     120

Stuart Dickens (Featherstone)            113

Darren Holt (Barrow)                        108 (5)

Gareth Morton (Hull KR)                    93

Damien Quinn (Celtic)                         85

Barry Eaton (Keighley)                        85

Damien Couturier (Hull KR)                83

Francis Maloney (Dewsbury)              82 (2)

 ( ) Drop goals included in total

Points

Mick Nanyn (Widnes)                         388

Graham Holroyd (Doncaster)              274

Stuart Dickens (Featherstone)             266

Carl Rudd (Whitehaven)                     260

Gareth Morton (Hull KR)                    246

Damien Quinn (Celtic)                         242

Darren Holt (Barrow)                          227

Wade Liddell (Gateshead)                  212

Jonny Woodcock (Sheffield)               210

Damien Couturier (Hull KR)                202