Rugby League: Bulls are seeking rapid revenge

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The Independent Online
RECORDS COULD be at risk tonight, as well as agitated local pride, when Bradford and Leeds lock horns for the second time in five days.

It is remarkable how often fixture lists plant a league match between two sides immediately before or after a Cup encounter. The way that Leeds came from behind to beat their nearest and bitterest rivals in their semi- final on Sunday has only sharpened the appetite for this rapid opportunity for redress.

Bradford describe demand for the game at Odsal as "unprecedented". As last season's equivalent fixture, in freezing weather quite different from that expected tonight, attracted the Bulls' record Super League crowd of 19,188, this game must put both that figure and the best-ever crowd in Super League - 20,429 for Wigan versus St Helens three years ago - in serious danger.

Even more to the point for Bradford is how they respond to the disappointment of defeat. Their coach, Matthew Elliott, says that the R-word has not been mentioned, but that may be because the desire for revenge after a blow like that is automatic and needs no spelling out.

"We understand why we didn't win. It is all about the usual reasons," said Elliott. "We are two very evenly matched teams and we lost concentration at crucial times."

Elliott could still be without Bernard Dwyer and expects to lose Michael Withers and Stuart Fielden from his semi-final line-up, but has Nathan McAvoy available. Not surprisingly, he will not finalise his decision on any other changes until shortly before the match.

Leeds' Graham Murray is slightly less circumspect. He may rest Darren Fleary and has already ruled out Richie Blackmore and Daryl Powell, whose important stand-off role is likely to be to filled by moving Iestyn Harris and playing Marcus St Hilaire at full-back.

Although Leeds again showed their phenomenal resilience at Huddersfield, this is a dangerous game for them. Defeat, following their loss to Wigan two weeks ago, could see them four points off the pace at this early stage of the season.

Under a system involving a top-five play-off, that would not be disastrous, but it would mean that preparations for Wembley could be clouded by concern over their Super League position.

The Salford coach, Andy Gregory, still facing an internal disciplinary inquiry, has dropped his experienced scrum-half, Martin Crompton, for tomorrow's visit of Warrington.

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