Barrow Raiders are ready to play without fear against in-form Featherstone Rovers in the 1895 Cup semi-finals, says front-rower Ellis Gillam. 

With the Raiders just 80 minutes away from a place in the final at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Sunday’s clash with the current Betfred Championship leaders promises to be one of huge excitement and magnitude.

The sides last met on Good Friday, with Rovers running out 58-6 winners at the Millennium Stadium. However, Gillam insists the prospect of cup rugby means his side can go into the game with renewed belief following their hard-fought defeat against York City Knights on Monday night. 

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“We don’t have to worry about teams jumping above us in the table, points difference or anything like that. It’s all about those 80 minutes,” he said. “Win or lose, as long as we give it our all, we can’t have any complaints. 

“We’re 80 minutes from a cup final, so we need to go out there with a positive attitude and give 100%. It’s a tough task in front of us, but it’s something that the whole town will buy into. 

“Our fans will get down to the stadium on Sunday and be just as excited as us. Regardless of who we’re playing and what’s in front of us, we’re within 80 minutes of a chance of playing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. 

Ellis Gillam in action against York City Knights.

“It’s a free hit to go and play some nice rugby and have belief in ourselves, like we did at the start of the season.”

Monday’s defeat to the Knights came despite a spirited display on home soil, with Anton Iaria, Luke Cresswell and Gary Wheeler all crossing for the Raiders.

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Gillam – an ever-present for Paul Crarey in league and cup in 2022 – says his side know what they need to work on ahead of another challenging test at the Matt Johnson Prestige Stadium. 

Reflecting on Monday’s result, the 24-year-old said: “There was a sense of disappointment more than anything else. There was a lot of effort from the lads in lots of good areas, but those silly 1% decisions let us down. 

“Their defence was outstanding; they kept up out for about six sets on their line, and we just need to just be more clinical in and around their 20. 

“Those small fixes will help us with the bigger picture, so we just need to get them right. We more than belong [at this level], and I think we’ve surprised a lot of teams. 

“I know we’re not in a good run of form at the moment, but the performances are showing that we are able to hold our own, and that’s shown by us being in the play-off places at the moment.

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On a personal level, Gillam admits he has enjoyed performing for his hometown club since moving to the Raiders in the off-season from fellow Cumbrian side Whitehaven. 

He has bagged one try in 13 appearances this term and says he is embracing the challenge of playing in the front-row after a change of position ahead of the 2022 campaign. 

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at the club. I’m taking things step-by-step and trying to improve my game each time,” he added.

“I played back-row last year and have been moved to the middles in 2022, so I’m just testing myself against others who have been doing it for years.

“Obviously, you want more out of yourself every game, and I just want to be the best that I can be.”

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