Northern Rail Cup Final Preview

Leigh assistant coach Paul Rowley insists that Sunday’s Northern Rail Cup final can give the Centurions a massive boost after a turbulent few weeks.

Rowley said: “There are uncertain times at the club, but this game can lift us financially as well as bringing back to the club both optimism and a feel-good factor.

“If you win, it’s also a tick in the box on any Super League licence bid, which is a long-term goal for us. It’s a fantastic day for everyone.”

Long-term injury absentees Ricky Bibey (ankle) and Mick Govin (shoulder) are missing for Leigh, but the Centurions will have an otherwise full strength squad to pick from.

Rowley added: “The Northern Rail Cup final is a brilliant event. It’s a good day out for everybody in an affordable location, and the rugby on offer is more often than not absolutely top class.

“I don’t think any other rugby league event replicates the atmosphere and carnival feel of the Northern Rail Cup final.”

Leigh are currently joint top of the Co-operative Championship, having recorded 12 wins for their 14 league fixtures this term.

Halifax are seventh, with only six wins out of a possible 14, but Rowley says the Centurions will not be underestimating their opponents.

He said: “They’ve got a little bit more structure these days, but they’re still a very dangerous side in attack. You never know what they’re going to do, and they’ve got some real weapons in Sean Penkywicz, Rob Worrincy, Paul White and Sam Barlow.

“It’s about handling the occasion, and we’ve got some experience within our squad. Thankfully even the lads who haven’t been to finals are pretty cool customers – we don’t have a lot of nervous characters.

“The bookies have made us favourites, but Halifax have also been in a lot of finals in recent years and I just see two very evenly matched sides. It’s set up for a classic.”

Halifax coach Matt Calland has major doubts over the fitness of a number of his first-choice players.

Lee Paterson (knee), Ryan Fieldhouse (ankle), Rob Worrincy (groin), Steve Bannister (dead leg), Jacob Fairbank (dead leg) and Michael Ostick (knee) are all being monitored in the build up to Sunday’s clash.

But Calland is determined to enjoy the occasion despite those problems.

He said: “I can’t wait to arrive in Blackpool because we had unfinished business in the Northern Rail Cup after the way we lost to Widnes and Hunslet in recent seasons.

“We’ve really targeted this competition from the very first day of this season, and I just can’t wait for the final.”

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