Rovers give Hull chance to be doubly optimistic

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The Independent Online

The city of Kingston upon Hull, in danger of having no top-flight club a few years ago, is within two matches of having two in Super League.

The season might have ended disappointingly for Hull FC when they missed out on the play-offs, but Hull Kingston Rovers have timed their run perfectly in National League One.

After a poor start to the season, Rovers gathered momentum to finish fourth in the table, and last Sunday beat the side above them, Rochdale Hornets, to reach today's final eliminator against Leigh.

The prize is a place in the Grand Final against Salford next Sunday and, beyond that, the prospect of promotion to Super League. A return to the top division had looked unlikely since Rovers fell from grace, but there is a feeling in east Hull once more that it is just about possible.

Their coach, Steve Linnane, has put together a side who are well equipped to take on the best in their division, with the New Zealanders Paul Mansson and Latham Tawhai proven match-winners.

Paul Parker and Craig Poucher, both signed from Hull in the close-season, provide penetration in the centres, while the addition of the overseas recruits Anthony Seibold and Makali Aizue has strengthened a pack which already boasted the Welsh international Dean Busby and the old-fashioned front-row skills of Jon Aston.

Despite their defeat by Salford last week, Leigh still deserve to be favourites today, although they must hope that the return from France of their director of rugby, Alex Murphy, has a calming effect.

Last week at The Willows, they had two players sent off and another sin-binned, and they still nearly won. Their biggest problem, should they come through safely today, is that they are likely to have Paul Rowley and Ricky Bibey suspended for the Grand Final - something that would inevitably improve Salford's chances of returning to Super League at the first attempt.

It is also a last chance in National League Two for Chorley and Keighley. Chorley have improved dramatic-allyunder Darren Abram, who is being mentioned in connection with other jobs, but they lost to Sheffield Eagles last week and now have to beat the Cougars to qualify for another shot at them in the double-header at Widnes the following weekend.

With stalwarts Mark Aston and Dale Laughton due to retire when their season ends, the Eagles remain the clear favourites for promotion, but Chorley beat them twice in the regular season and will relish another opportunity, if they can first get past Keighley.