Rugby League: Halifax extend a helping hand: Progress uncertain for Pilgrim

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The Independent Online
HALIFAX are to throw a lifeline to Steve Pilgrim following Leeds' decision not to offer him a contract. Pilgrim, the Wasps and England B full- back, was told yesterday that the club for which he had played a series of trials would not be signing him.

The player, banned from rugby union for a year after his first appearance in Leeds' reserve side, has now opened talks with Halifax, who are willing to give him a chance to show that he can be a success in league.

Pilgrim played his only first team game for Leeds at Widnes on Wednesday, and his performance was described by the club's coach, Doug Laughton, as 'sound'. Yesterday, however, Laughton said: 'The decision is no. He is not a bad full-back by any means, but it is unlikely that he could displace Alan Tait.'

At Halifax, Pilgrim could have a better chance of mounting a challenge to the two players used regularly at full-back this season, David Cooper and Warren Wilson.

'I haven't seen him play, but I have made various inquiries,' Malcolm Reilly, the Halifax coach, said. 'If he is willing to come and have a run out with us, we will have a look at him.'

It is a monument to the immediate impact of rugby league's much-criticised restructuring exercise that one has to look right down into the depths of the Third Division for matches with much significance tomorrow.

With Wigan and St Helens out of action and no promotion or relegation issues to be resolved, the sides with something significant at stake are those five which could finish in the bottom three and be cast out of the league.

Bottom-placed Nottingham are likely to have their flickering hope of escape extinguished by Whitehaven, but the other four clubs involved have everything to play for as they meet each other.

Blackpool Gladiators, on eight points with four games to play, go to Barrow, also with eight points but with only two matches left. Barrow won 46-25 at Blackpool earlier this season and, if they have not got any stronger, Blackpool have probably deteriorated sufficiently to make it a good bet for the home side.

Chorley's visit to Highfield is far harder to predict. These are the two clubs which seem to have the will to survive and would be most people's choice as the more deserving cases, but, with two meetings between now and the end of the season, one will probably decide the other's fate.

Highfield's 80-8 defeat by Keighley in midweek suggested that the players have hardly been galvanised by the danger in which they find themselves. Chorley, with six points against Highfield's four, could take a step away from the brink tomorrow, although all the threatened clubs - apart from a still confident Barrow - are pledged to fight on in the courts as well as on the field.

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