St Helens face an injury crisis leading up to their Good Friday derby against Wigan. With Paul Newlove and Paul Atcheson already out, the Saints' coach, Ian Millward, fears that he has lost three more first-team regulars as the result of Sunday's bad tempered game against Halifax.
Vila Matautia has broken his arm and will be out for two months, Paul Sculthorpe is absent with a hip injury and Tommy Martyn is unlikely to play because of a hip injury. "It's not ideal timing," Millward said. "I will just have to throw some kids in."
Millward is angry that the Halifax player he blames for Sculthorpe's injury has escaped punishment. Jim Gannon was told yesterday that he has no case to answer over a suspected late tackle.
"I looked at the video replay and he was so late that he wasn't in the frame when Paul got the ball away," he said. "Sonny Nickle got it wrong for us a couple of weeks ago and got suspended. Jim Gannon got it wrong and got away with it. I'm very disappointed with the inconsistency."
Other players cleared of any wrongdoing after being placed on report on Sunday are David Barnhill and Daryl Powell of Leeds and Andrew Gee of Warrington. Leeds are particularly relieved as the Challenge Cup final at Murrayfield looms, as are Bradford, whose prop forward, Brian McDermott, has also been cleared.
The Leeds captain, Iestyn Harris, who will return after a knee injury against Huddersfield-Sheffield on Friday, has called for a Super League franchise in Scotland. Harris, north of the border to promote the sell-out occasion, predicted that Scots would be fired with enthusiasm by the match.
Steve Presley, of Castleford, has been named as the Cup final referee for the first time in his career. Presley, a former professional player with Batley, has beaten the Wembley regulars Stuart Cummings and Russell Smith for the honour. "I am absolutely over the moon," he said. "Ever since I was told that I had been given the game, I have been very emotional."
The Rugby League's director of referees, Greg McCallum, said: "This has been a very difficult decision for me because there were six referees in contention for the appointment. But Steve, who has been a model of consistency since last year, has deserved this appointment."
Steve Ganson, another up-and-coming referee, has been named as the reserve official for the final on 29 April.
Andrew Johns, the Newcastle Knights half-back who is the subject of an ambitious transfer bid by Wakefield Trinity, has been forced out of Australia's Test against New Zealand on Friday with a groin injury. Johns, who had been selected at hooker, has been replaced by Canterbury's Jason Hetherington.
Three British-based players, Bradford's Henry and Robbie Paul and Leeds' Richie Blackmore, have flown out to play for the Kiwis and will miss the Good Friday programme.
Another of Australia's best half-backs, the Northern Eagles' Jason Taylor, has said that he might come to England next year to finish his career with a British club.Reuse content