Leeds win their battle

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IT IS AMAZING what an injection of money and the arrival of a few big-name players can do for a rugby team's fortunes.

In the case of Leeds of Courage League Four, the transformation has been little short of miraculous. Since selling their ground to a supermarket chain for around pounds 750,000 and acquiring half a dozen new players who are currently waiting in the wings, the club, or rather the present first- team incumbents, have not looked back.

In the third round of the Pilkington Cup, Leeds beat Fylde of League Three, and in yesterday's fourth round they reached a further division up the pecking order to topple Waterloo, who only two seasons ago upset Bath in an early round.

The visitors opened the scoring with a penalty from full-back Chris Thompson and a drop goal by fly-half Biff Hambley. But Leeds then seized the initiative thanks to a try by club captain and flanker Phil Griffin, which was converted by full-back Dan Eddie, who also landed two penalties. Thompson supplied three further penalties for Waterloo, but Leeds' 20-15 victory was sealed by a try from back-row forward Lee Denham which was converted by Eddie.

Joining Leeds in the fifth-round draw on 2 January are Cheshire side Winnington Park who beat visitors Lydney 26-11 in an all-League Five contest. The home side opened the scoring with a try by second-row forward Paul Rees, who was later named man of the match for his dominance of the line- outs. Winnington Park also scored two other tries - through left wing Mark David and flanker Nick Yardley -while Rob Oliver kicked a conversion and three penalties. Lydney's points came courtesy of a try by subsititute wing Ashley James and two penalties from fly-half Robert Mills.

For the other minnows, though, it was generally a case of men against boys. Weston-Super-Mare, also of League Five, put up a brave fight before succumbing 25-9 to League One strugglers West Hartlepool. The visitors scored four tries, two of the pushover variety from Rob Wainwright and one each from Rob Leach and Craig Lee. For Weston, Simon Cattermole slotted his 12th drop goal of the season to equal the club record.

Gloucester put their League One difficulties behind them by hammering Walsall, of League Four, 47-0 at Kingsholm. They ran in a total of eight tries - two each for centre Don Caskie and flanker Peter Glanville. Bristol clocked up seven tries in their 44-7 victory at Reading - two each for England scrum-half Kyran Bracken and wing Ben Breeze, and one apiece for Paul Hull, Alan Sharp and Arwel Thomas. Saracens unveiled their own answer to Jonah Lomu as they proved too strong for visitors Rugby Lions. Kris Chesney, 21, 6ft 6in, 16st 12lb and, not surprisingly perhaps, a chef by trade, crashed through for two tries in their 27-7 success.

In the Heineken League, Llanelli leapfrogged over Neath into second place by scoring seven tries, two of them by Wales wing Wayne Proctor, en route to winning 43-10 at Treorchy.

Leinster won the Irish Inter-Provincial when they beat their main rivals Ulster 31-3 in Dublin. Munster thrashed Connacht 46-11 in the other game in Galway.