Captain’s Knock

Date published: Friday, September 20, 2013

ROCHDALE played the dreadful conditions better than us when they won 23-22 at Whitebank in last Sunday’s semi-final qualifier and as captain, kicker and midfield pivot I’ll shoulder a lot of the blame for that.

I hold my hand up. Paul Crook gave me a lesson in how to handle play-off rugby and how to utilise the kick in torrential rain.

We learned a few lessons from that game, but we can’t dwell on it too much because it’s gone now and we’ve got to be firmly focused on another tough challenge against London Skolars.

Form goes out of the window in play-off rugby — that’s why there are so many upsets — and its a case of whoever turns up on the day, as we found to our cost last week.

We took a lot of positives, though, from playing as poorly as we did in many respects, yet still ending up losing by only one point.

I don’t like looking for excuses, but it didn’t help us to have four weeks between matches. If we do make it to the final we’ll be much better prepared on the back of two tough games.

‘Lippy’ (Richard Lepori) will be back for the London game after his man-of-the-match performance for Italy against Serbia and that will be a massive boost for us.

We all felt for Tom Whitehead last week because he was unlucky to break his hand early in the game and he had to play through the pain barrier until half-time when he was taken off, causing the whole side to be shuffled about.

Any full-back would have found it tough going in those conditions and with Crook in such deadly form with the boot, but Tom had the added problem of coping with his smashed-up hand as well.

‘Lippy’ is more than just a good player; he’s a character as well and he’s lifted everybody in training this week as we prepared for this most important game of the season so far.

Tom apart, everybody is fit so there will be more selection headaches for the boss. Who’d be a coach ?

Whatever Scott comes up with, fans can rest assured that the 17 players on duty will give everything they’ve got to give, as they have done all season.

Talking of fans, they can give us a huge lift if they turn up in numbers and produce an intimidating atmosphere in which we can show up well in the final game of the season on home soil.

We won’t need motivating for this one . . . we’ve never any trouble in playing with our hearts, but now we’re at the cut-and-thrust end of the season we’ve got to use our heads a bit more than we did in the last game.