Narrow defeats gain points in new format

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Clubs outside Super League will be rewarded for honourable defeat under a new points system this season. Under the new format, games in National Leagues 1 and 2 and the group stages of the Northern Rail Cup will have three points awarded for a win, two for a draw and one for a defeat by 12 points or less. Sides losing by 13 points or more will continue to get nothing.

The change is the code's first departure from the straightforward formula of two points for a win and one for a draw.

"We believe this is a progressive move that will generate increased levels of competition and interest," the Rugby League's operations director, Nigel Wood, said. "It will encourage an exciting, attacking brand of rugby league for spectators to enjoy."

The system will debut in the opening round of the Northern Rail Cup next month, with the National leagues kicking off on Good Friday, 6 April. The League is still waiting to confirm a new sponsor for that competition, although it is in negotiations with British Eurosport to screen one match a week, live on Thursday nights.

Celtic Crusaders, the new Welsh club who narrowly failed to reach the NL2 Grand Final in their first season, have announced 11 new signings for 2007.

They are headed by the former Wigan and Harlequins hooker Neil Budworth, and two second-rowers with extensive experience in Australia's NRL, Terry Martin from Canberra and Cronulla's Darren Mapp. The Crusaders have made no secret of their Super League ambitions.

Huddersfield have denied any intention of signing the former St Helens winger Darren Albert, despite allegations from Cronulla that he has walked out on them to join the Giants.