Bradford seek sprinkle of Cardiff magic dust
Saturday 03 May 2008
One near certainty about the Millennium Magic Weekend of Super League games in Cardiff is that Bradford and Leeds will not quite be able to replicate the drama and controversy of last year.
A combination of the Rhinos' opportunism and a refereeing fiasco saw Leeds steal the game in the last minute, but the Bradford coach, Steve McNamara, and his side have long since stopped brooding over it.
"Last year's gone and although that drama will be remembered for many years, it's this year that matters," he said.
Not surprisingly, Steve Ganson and Ashley Klein who were largely responsible for last year's injustice are being kept well away from the rematch this time. Richard Silverwood will referee, with Phil Bentham in the video booth.
But the scorer of the crucial try, Jordan Tansey, is in the Leeds squad, along with the French loan signing, Eric Anselm, and Ryan Hall, who is preferred to Lee Smith.
Bradford are without Ben Jeffries with a hamstring strain, which gives Iestyn Harris a chance to start at what was once his adopted home. He needs two tries for a career total of 150 for his various clubs, or two points for his 300 for the Bulls and it would be appropriate if he reached one or more of those milestones at the Millennium Stadium.
Castleford are bringing Dwain Chambers to Cardiff, but only to watch the second game on the bill against Wakefield, who have Matty Dale, on loan from Hull, in line for his debut.
The honour of kicking off the whole thing goes to Huddersfield and Warrington, who are without the suspended Jon Clarke.
The Rugby League is confident of improving on last year's encouraging attendance figures and breaking the 70,000 barrier.
Not too many of those will be there primarily to watch tomorrow's first game, between the Catalan Dragons and Harlequins, but with the French side second in Super League it is a significant contest.
Hull versus Hull KR is not a fixture that needs a great deal of hyping up, but Rovers' success in signing Michael Dobson – a previous target for Hull – this week, will add an extra edge. Hull will be without their full-back, Motu Tony, with a long-term knee injury, but have Matt Sing back after a broken hand.
Top of the bill this year are St Helens and Wigan, who agreed this week to release Trent Barrett from the final year of his contract at the end of this season. The more immediate question is how much of a contribution he will be fit enough to make to this game after recent knee surgery.
Wigan are already without Gareth Hock, serving a one-match suspension, and need Barrett to demonstrate his continuing commitment.
Wigan have been told that they must release their scrum-half, Thomas Leuluai, for next Friday's trans-Tasman Test, as must Leeds with Brent Webb.
Both clubs are "disappointed" with the International Federation's ruling that Test commitments must take priority over club duties.
* A club record crowd of 6,152 saw the Celtic Crusaders underline their Super League ambitions by beating Featherstone 28-18 at Bridgend last night. Tries at the end of each half from the Welsh international winger, Anthony Blackwood, made the difference for the Crusaders, who have applied for one of the Super League licences to be allocated in July.
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