FORMER York Knights head coach James Ford has seen his promotion bid with Featherstone Rovers fall at the first hurdle in the Play-offs.

Featherstone raced towards the Betfred Championship League Leaders' Shield at a canter, beating York three times along the way, but came unstuck to a resurgent London Broncos at the Millennium Stadium in the Play-off Semi Final last night.

Mike Eccles' side will now travel to face fancied Toulouse Olympique in the Million Pound Game.

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It's a bitter blow to Featherstone's Super League bid, with many perceiving this year as the club's best chance at promotion to the top flight before a new IMG grading criteria is introduced for 2024.

Clubs will now be judged on their facilities, catchment area, fanbase and social media profile, among others, not just on their on-field performance.

And Featherstone had gone all out to achieve just that, with a playing budget that dwarfs that of the Knights'.

Ford, who left York to become assistant coach at Wakefield Trinity ahead of the 2023 campaign, joined Featherstone in a newly-created Director of Rugby role in May.

He was then appointed to the top job at the beginning of August following the shock sacking of Sean Long.

The match was Rovers' first since the culmination of the Championship season two weeks ago, their first-placed position guaranteeing them a place in the Semi Finals. The Broncos earned theirs with a 42-0 demolition of hosts Sheffield Eagles in the Eliminators last weekend.

London made a dream start in West Yorkshire, Alex Walker's fifth-minute try setting the tone for a half in which they just edged 18-12, despite Joey Leilua and Chris Hankinson fighting back for the hosts.

Though Featherstone ensured that they finished with a final flurry, with three quick-fire Broncos tries after the interval, it was all a little too much, too late.

York Press: Featherstone triumphed in all three of their matches against York in 2023.Featherstone triumphed in all three of their matches against York in 2023. (Image: Craig Hawkhead)

The hosts had the weight of expectation upon their shoulders, with London the firm underdogs, but Ford conceded that his side had not been good enough to seal their place in the Million Pound Game.

"We weren't good enough, were we?" he told Viaplay Sports.

"Giving penalties away on play five, clusters of penalties and making really basic errors.

"Congratulations to London, Mike Eccles has done a tremendous job there and good luck to them next week.

"There are no issues from us or me, we weren't good enough.

"I can't comment on previous seasons, we came into the game today with a good week of prep and clarity on what's coming and how we were set out to play. We just didn't play well.

"We had them on the ropes, 18-12 down with two or three 20 traps and physically getting on top of them, then to come up with a play five penalty.

"It was the right call, I'm certainly not singling anybody out, but congratulations to London."