Rugby League: Clinch takes a grip on Leeds

Halifax 42 Leeds 0
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The Independent Online
HALIFAX EXTRACTED all the psychological edge they could for next week's play-off clash as Gavin Clinch punished Leeds for fielding a below strength side.

Leeds chose to leave several first team regulars, including potential match winners Iestyn Harris and Adrian Morley, on the sidelines. That handed the initiative to Halifax, who had, in Clinch, the man to take full advantage.

He played less than half the game, but still scored 22 points, from three tries and five goals, and would surely have put the Super League record in serious jeopardy if he had stayed on.

His first try was the result of his own clever kick-ahead, his second capitalised on slick handling from Paul Rowley, Karl Harrison and Chris Chester and his third showed his eye for a gap near the line.

It was a virtuoso performance interrupted only by Gary Mercer's try, set up by Chester's educated inside pass to Daio Powell.

Halifax showed that there is more than one way of resting players with a match in prospect. They chose to let a number of their key figures do their damage and then come off for a breather. The entire front row were brought off the field as a unit and, when Clinch suffered a minor head wound, there were no qualms about withdrawing him from the action as well.

Without his influence, the match lost much of its focus and some scrappy play by both sides culminated in Kelvin Skerrett and Anthony Farrell, continuing their private battle from the game at Headingley earlier in the season, going to the sin-bin.

Halfax drew further encouragement, however, when Martin Moana, back after a fractured arm, marked his return with a fine try. Not so welcome was the sight of Des Clark being stretchered off after catching a stray knee when he dropped onto a kick through. He could be ruled out by concussion next week, but Halifax gave themselves a further boost with tries from Moana and David Bouveng.

"We took the view that it was important to maintain continuity and went about it in a business-like fashion," said their coach, John Pendlebury. "But it's going to be a totally different game next week."

His Leeds counterpart, Graham Murray, admitted that he had always intended to leave our Morley and Harris and consoled himself with a single thought. "Next week means a lot more than this match," he said.

Halifax: Gibson; Tuilagi, Powell, Bloem, Bouveng; Chester, Clinch; Harrison, Rowley, Skerrett, Marshall, Gillespie, Mercer. Substitutes used: Pearson, Clark, Moana, Hall.

Leeds: St Hilaire; Sterling, Blackmore, Cummins, Golden; Kemp, Sheridan; Massela, Lawford, McDermott, Farrell, Hay, Glanville. Substitutes used: Fleary, Powell, Holroyd, Rivett.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).

The Bradford Bulls prop, Harvey Howard, fears that he has broken his jaw in the incident that saw David Bradbury sent off during Bradford's 40-18 victory over Salford Reds at Odsal. Howard stayed on the field to score a spectacular indiviual try, but the player, on loan from Western Suburbs, in Australia, will be ruled out of next week's play-off match against St Helens if his diagnosis is correct.

Andy Farrell fell short of setting a Super League points record as Wigan ended their regular League programme with a 34-20 win at Warrington. Farrell, needing 10 points to beat Bobbie Goulding's mark of 257, was only able to kick three of his six attempts at goal.