Johnson pays the price for humbling

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Warrington's record 80-0 defeat at St Helens has cost the game's longest- serving coach his job. Brian Johnson offered his resignation the morning after the Knowsley Road humiliation and it was accepted.

"I knew even before the match was over what I had to do," said Johnson, Warrington's coach since 1988 and 11 years at the club in all.

"I think the scoreline was an aberration and I believe that Warrington will do well in the Super League. But I don't think the backlash would have left me in any position to do my job. I can understand why the fans would want someone to blame and there has to be a sacrifice."

The Australian's assistant, Clive Griffiths, who is also the Welsh coach, has been appointed until the end of the season. "Clive is a very good coach who has the respect of the players and I'm sure he'll do a very good job," Johnson said.

Ironically, Griffiths' first game in command tomorrow is back at St Helens, who were yesterday fined pounds 10,000, half of it suspended until the end of the year, for fielding a weakened side against Wigan on Boxing Day.

The question of who Saints will meet in the Regal Trophy final will be settled today, when Leeds have to leap a psychological barrier if they are to beat Wigan when it matters.

Leeds have shown both this season and last that they are capable of the occasional inspired performance against the game's dominant side. There were signs when Leeds won 23-11 at Headingley in November that they had finally got their attitude right. Unlike some previous false dawns, it was not followed by laps of honour and premature celebrations.

That was progress, but the way they lost form completely not long afterwards was the proof that old frailties remain. Their coach, Dean Bell, has been much happier with the solid workmanship of their recent displays.

"We have started to turn in the sort of very enthusiastic and determined performance that I require regularly," he said.

Garry Schofield is playing his best rugby for years since returning from a hamstring injury. "It is nice to be appreciated for who you are and what you can do. I didn't always feel that that was the case in the last few years," Schofield said.

With Kevin Iro still injured and Carl Hall cup-tied, Francis Cummins comes in at centre. Tony Kemp is still ruled out, so George Mann continues at stand-off.

Wigan have Neil Cowie suspended but Kevin Skerrett fit to resume at prop.

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