Rugby League: Halifax get by with help from Leeds old boys

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JOHN BENTLEY is eager to get at his old club, Leeds, tonight, but it is a sign of Halifax's current strength that he is not sure of a place in their starting line-up.

Bentley, who injured a knee in his first game back from rugby union, made a successful return last week, scoring a try after coming on as a substitute.

But his coach, John Pendlebury, has Fereti Tuilagi fit again, along with last week's two starting wingers, Jamie Bloem and Daio Powell. "It's a good problem to have," said Pendlebury, who will not name his team until today.

Bentley is one of three ex-Leeds players in the squad. Damian Gibson and Gary Mercer both scored tries for Leeds against Halifax last season, but go into this evening's meeting between second and third in Super League as major contributors to their new side's winning run.

Although Leeds have no reason to be unhappy with their restructuring, the decision to release the pair has helped Halifax immeasurably. Gibson, a full-back for Leeds, has shone at centre this season, while Mercer, 32 next week, is playing some of the best rugby of his long career in the second row.

Leeds, bidding to recover from their first Super League defeat of the season at Hull, expect to have Brad Godden and Tony Kemp fit to return, but there is a doubt over Adrian Morley. "We have to pick ourselves up, just like any other loss, for the next week," sthe Leeds coach, Graham Murray, said. "We can't let one loss upset a run that has produced a good quality of football."

Halifax's next home game, against the London Broncos, has been switched from next Friday to the following evening to avoid a clash with England's World Cup match against Colombia.

Mark Perrett, their second row forward who was named in Wales' squad this week, faces an extended lay-off after a recurrence of a shoulder injury.

Salford have had bad news about Martin Crompton's back injury, which is now expected to keep him out of action until August.

James Lowes, the Bradford and Great Britain hooker, has been suspended for two matches for verbally abusing the referee, Stuart Cummings, during the defeat by Wigan.

A meeting of Super League coaches has expressed concern about inconsistent refereeing around the play-the-ball and about the performance of the director of referees, Geoff Berry.