Newlove adds power to run-in

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The Independent Online
St Helens have two of the more important contributors to their success this season available again on the home straight that leads to the Stones Super League title.

Chris Joynt, the back-row forward who it was feared was likely to miss the rest of the campaign, has been passed fit after ankle-ligament trouble and is likely to be in the starting line-up against Sheffield Eagles this evening.

Equally good news is that Paul Newlove, who rested his sore foot on the substitutes' bench during last week's victory in Paris, will also resume. Add those two to the mix, and the Saints look instantly more convincing and less likely to slip up on the final sprint to the finishing line.

The return of the duo is also welcome news for the Great Britain coach, Phil Larder, who regards both players as central to his plans on the tour of the southern hemisphere which starts next month.

But the Saints' coach, Shaun McRae, still sounds a warning about Newlove. "He really needs a few weeks' rest, which I would like to think Great Britain would be able to give him during the early weeks of the tour," he said. "They could get away with just playing him in the Test matches."

McRae has given his players a relaxing week after their month on the road, with four away games all successfully negotiated.

"There certainly won't be any problem with motivation," he said. "If anything, we need to relax a bit more, because there have been games when we have been pushing just a little too hard."

Saints are one of only two sides to beat Sheffield at "home" - the game was played in Cardiff - this season, although the Eagles' away form is nothing like as impressive.

"I'd certainly rather be playing them at home," McRae says. "But I've always said that just playing at Knowsley Road doesn't guarantee us two points."

For all that, it is hard to imagine Saints slipping up now. They have done the hard work and just need to finish the job, today and next week against Warrington, to bring the championship to the town for the first time since 1975. Other issues which will move closer to resolution today are relegation to the First Division, which will be the inevitable fate of Workington Town if they lose at Leeds this afternoon, and promotion from the Second, which should be virtually tied up by Swinton, if they beat South Wales.

That will mark a big turn-around in the fortunes of Swinton, a once-powerful club which has seemed on an endless downward spiral in recent years.

Forced to sell their Station Road ground and move to the largely indifferent, football- orientated town of Bury, Swinton have had to work hard to establish themselves, but gates have gone up to a gratifying extent this season thanks to some entertaining rugby from the likes of the Tongan Willie Wolfgramm, and Mark Riley, who broke the club record with six tries in the 90-0 thrashing of Prescot last week.

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