Bell gives Leeds a boost

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Rugby League

Leeds 34 Paris St-Germain 12

The Leeds coach, Dean Bell, responded to his club's crisis of confidence by dusting off his boots and coming out of retirement to lead them to a victory yesterday that removed any lingering fear of relegation from Headingley.

Bell, now aged 34, played his first game for almost 12 months and, while his considerable presence was not enough to turn them into an impressive side, they at least showed more solidity than has been the case for most of this woeful season. "We are a desperate team and we've got to do what we've got to do to survive," said Bell of his decision to play, which he succeeded in keeping from even his players until shortly before the match.

"It's not something I wanted to do and it's very unlikely that it will happen again, but I'm not completely ruling it out," he said.

It was not a bad match in which to choose to make an unexpected comeback, because Paris St-Germain showed little of the recent improved form that has seen them beat London and only lose to Wigan on goal-kicks.

They made too many unforced handling mistakes to be in with a real chance and what hope they did have largely disappeared when their new signing, Justin Bryant, was sent off within four minutes of coming on to make his debut as a substitute. Bryant seemed to have been harshly treated for a shoulder charge on Nick Shaw as the Leeds hooker chased his own kick, but Paris could only blame themselves for already being in arrears by that stage.

Graham Holroyd had scored Leeds' first eight points, with two kicks and a try from a simple run-around move with Tony Kemp. Immediately after that, the Paris full-back, Dion Bird, knocked on from the kick-off and, from the scrum, Kemp put Leeds further ahead.

There were some signs of life when Bird made up for that mistake by pursuing Patrick Entat's kick, but Bryant's dismissal and a second try for Holroyd, who finished with 22 points, restored Leeds's lead before half-time.

The consigning of David Hulme to the sin bin, for holding down in the tackle, helped Paris cling to Leeds's coat-tails. Vea Bloomfield charged through to score when Adrian Morley was penalised for a late challenge, but Danny Smith missed the second of his kicks from directly in front of the posts and the opportunity to exert any pressure on Leeds was gone.

A solo foray from Shaw brought Leeds a try to consolidate their win and Bell gave his return the perfect punchline with a touchdown seven minutes from time, drawing a tribute from his opposite number, the Paris coach, John Kear.

"He certainly lifted their enthusiasm greatly," Kear said. "I just hope now that he picks himself to play against Workington."

Leeds: St Hilaire; Golden, Bell, Iro, Hassan; Kemp, Holroyd; Mercer, Shaw, McDermott, Newton, Morley, Hulme. Substitutes used: Hughes, Field, Fozzard, Tuitulotu.

Paris St-Germain: Bird; Banquet, Vergniol, Chamorin, Wilson; Devecchi, Entat; Cabestany, Wulf, Sands, Parry, Smith, Pech. Substitutes used: Bloomfield, Bomati, Bryant, Griffiths.

Referee: C Morris (Huddersfield).

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