DEWSBURY Rams go into what coach Warren Jowitt describes as ‘our cup final’ when they meet Hunslet Hawks in a vital Co-operative Championship relegation game at Tetley’s Stadium on Sunday (3pm).
The teams share the same number of league points, one adrift of York, who have a tough task at Leigh on Sunday, and the feeling is the losers of the crunch clash will be odds on to go down, even with two more matches remaining.
Jowitt added: “This game is absolutely massive, it is the biggest of the season and for some of our players it will be the biggest game of their careers because there is so much at stake.
“We can’t afford any mistakes, we let York off the hook here and that proved costly so we can’t do that again.”
The good news for Dewsbury is that full-back Jamie Craven, who came off with badly bruised ribs after 29 minutes in Toulouse last Saturday, has recovered and Jowitt said he would play this weekend.
The coach remarked: “Jamie was given a hospital pass, took a heavy knock and had to come off. It was a pity because he was having an outstanding game but we couldn’t put him back on because he was so sore and we didn’t know the extent of the damage.”
The Rams had to re-shuffle with Austin Buchanan moving from the wing to full-back, where he hasn’t played since May last year.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact Hunslet have so many players with strong Dewsbury connections, having either played for the Rams, or who have developed in the local amateur game. Danny Ratcliffe, player-coach Paul March, Luke Haigh, Joe Helme, John Oakes and Rob Kelly are all familiar names to local suppporters.
Another is likely to be missing as David March has had problems with a back injury and again seems set to miss out after being absent last Sunday.
Jowitt is looking for another big effort from the Dewsbury pack, who performed so well in the welcome win over Barrow, and again did a sound job in Toulouse.
He stressed: “The forwards were outstanding in France and dominated the game and Steve Crossley was one of those to again impress.
“The problem was our half-backs had an off day. Nine times out of ten when the backs don’t play well it’s because the forwards haven’t done their job. This time the forwards stood up to be counted but the half-backs were out of touch.
“You can compensate if one of them doesn’t play well but if it’s both you have a problem. Hopefully it was just one bad day at the office for them and it will be put right on Sunday.
“The conditions were strange. It was very hot and sticky in the first half and the second was a monsoon. There were a couple of inches of water on the pitch at the end.
“I won’t be making many changes for Hunslet because we have to try and maintain the cohesion. We don’t want to upset the balance of the team at this stage. Liam Welham came off the bench. He didn’t get any chances but he did well enough with the ball and I was happy with him.”
The Rams will need their forwards to again stand out as one of the other key battles will be at scrum-half where Dominic Brambani is up against a wily and experienced operator in Paul March and this should be a rare duel.
Hunslet have an easier remaining programme than Dewsbury with home games against Halifax and Barrow, while the Rams take on the top two, Featherstone Rovers away and Leigh at home. York’s other fixtures are Halifax at home and at Sheffield. It promises to be a tense finale.