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Sheens: Spine of the team coming together

Head coach Tim Sheens says he’d like to settle on a regular combination in his spine of the team for the Super 8’s Qualifiers – but admits injuries to several players have hampered plans to date.

Conceding his team looked a bit “clunky” on occasions in Sunday’s victory over Halifax, Sheens continued to explore options in finding a regular half back partner for Jamie Ellis, with reigning Young Player of the Year Matty Marsh handed a first run out of the season at stand-off following his return from injury, whilst new recruit Chris Atkin made an impact in the same position after coming off the bench in the second half.

With regular full back Adam Quinlan also out injured, Kieren Moss was restored to the position and went on to bag two tries, with Sheens telling a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to find a settled combination.

“The spine players, your 9, 7, 6 and 1, are really important and if you can have them playing together right throughout a series like this you are a much better side. At the moment, we’re limping a little bit with only two of those players available until we can get Adam Quinlan back and decide who will be Jamie’s partner in the halves.

“I’ve seen a bit in the papers about the halves but there’s not much we can do about injuries and Jordan Abdull’s injury meant we lost our number one combination there. It is a bit of an issue and I’ve experimented with a few options.

“We brought Chris Atkin in late due to circumstances and Matty Marsh wasn’t available until recently through injury. I needed to have a look at those guys to give them some game time and see what they could do. I thought Marshy did some reasonable work last week and Atkin was much better in game two than he was in game one for us so we’re gradually getting there.

“I’m not being too critical of the half backs. I said last week that our last tackle options needed to be better and that’s an area for us to work on, but the half backs probably won the game for us late on by forcing repeat sets and building pressure, so we’d like more of the same with that.

“We controlled possession and territory pretty well but your spine players will make mistakes just like any other player. When they touch the ball as often as they do, they’re going to do some good things and also take some wrong options as well. It’s just a balancing act of trying to do more good than bad and make the right decisions as often as possible.

“We’ll have to do that against Leigh on Saturday, for sure. I’d say that on the face of it they’re a physically bigger and stronger side than us, so we’re not going to beat them by playing one-up rugby. We need to challenge their defence but it’s about recognising the difference between throwing a pass and throwing a risky pass.”

As for this weekend’s opponents, Sheens is expecting to face a different Leigh side to the one which his team beat earlier this season in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup.

“This is a different competition and both teams have moved a long way since then. We’ve both recruited new players and Leigh had some injuries that day as well, so there’ll be some different faces. Mickey Higham for example didn’t play last time, but he’s their captain and an influential player for them. If you look at their win against Featherstone at the weekend, he was instrumental in a few of their tries.

“All we can take from that game against Leigh earlier in the season and the one against Salford is that we can compete at this level. Going into those games, we thought we could, now we’ve got some runs on the board in being able to do it, but it’s a completely different scenario this weekend.

“We’re expecting Leigh to be big and be physical. We’ve played against big teams in the Championship this season, but Leigh will be fitter as you’d expect from a Super League team.

“We’re expecting it to be a very tough game, I hope there’s not much between the sides and it could well be a game that’s won in the dying minutes by the team that wants it most.”

Meanwhile, Sheens also said that several members of his first team squad would be given until later this week before a decision is made on their availability for Saturday’s match.

“Thomas Minns is recovering from his dead leg but it’ll be Friday before we can make a decision either way. Big Mose Masoe is training but it’ll be tomorrow before we get the results of his scans. It’s a good sign that he’s trained though, so there’s every chance he’ll play if we get the all-clear.

“Chris Clarkson, James Greenwood and Adam Quinlan will all be given until Friday as well but they’re in contention and we’ll finalise the side over the next 48 hours. We’re not going to push anybody too quickly if it means they have a setback and we then lose them for the series, but everybody wants to play in this game.”

Photo: Sheens: Spine of the team coming together