St Ives Roosters chief Paul Ashbridge wants his players to rise to the challenge of retaining their East Premier Division play-offs crown.
The defending champions entertain St Albans Centurions in a semi-final showdown at the St Ivo Outdoor Centre tomorrow (Saturday, 2.30pm).
It is a clash of the second and third-placed finishers in the regular season with Roosters being pipped to top spot by a Bedford Tigers side who now face North Herts Crusaders in the last four.
The play-off Grand Final – when the title and a place in the Challenge Cup is up for grabs – takes place the following Saturday with the highest-placed team involved having home advantage.
Ashbridge said: “The first goal was to secure a top-two finish and ensure we had home advantage in the semi-final.
“We’ve done that and now the challenge is to go on to retain our title. As far as I’m aware, no team has managed back-to-back Grand Final victories and we would love to be the first.”
Roosters suffered 52-32 home defeat at the hands of St Albans when they met in the regular season, but they had earlier won the reverse fixture 30-28.
They completed their league programme on a losing note when going down 34-22 to North Herts Crusaders on Saturday.
Lewis Hall put Roosters ahead with the opening try before a Chris Sykes score restored their advantage, but they found themselves 16 points adrift early in the second half.
They responded well with Stefan Gallucci going over before Sam Redhead touched down for two tries to reduce the arrears to just two points.
But they couldn’t complete the comeback and two late tries from North Herts secured their victory.
Ashbridge added: “It was disappointing to finish the league fixtures in the way we did, but we knew we were set to finish second regardless of this result and I think a few players were a bit too relaxed.
“The idea was to go into the play-offs with a bit on momentum, but that hasn’t happened. We know what we need to do though.”
Josh Dear and Mike Wright are both unavailable for the semi-final.