Rugby League: Leeds' slim title chance kept alive

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Leeds 28 Oldham 26

The Stones Bitter Championship will at least limp into the last week of the season, Leeds retaining their technical chance of taking the prize thanks to a late rescue act from their captain, Garry Schofield.

Schofield came up with the try nine minutes from time that brought Leeds back into contention after playing for most of the second half with 12 men. Schofield, kicking in the absence of any more recognised marksman, then put them level with a conversion and completed the salvage operation with a last-minute penalty.

Wigan will win the title unless they lose their three remaining matches, at home to Bradford on Tuesday, away at Sheffield on Friday week and ending with one at home to Leeds, by inconceivable margins. Their reward will be the winner-takes-all cheque of pounds 75,000 and the Championship Trophy for keeps.

There are acceptable and unacceptable ways of bowing to the inevitable, however, and for Leeds to have lost as they threatened to do last night would have stuck in the throats of even the most long-suffering supporters in the game.

They started well enough, building a quick 12-0 lead with tries by Nick Fozzard and the recalled Alan Tait and despite some alarming defensive frailties were ahead by a relatively solid 20-12 at half-time.

But once their prop, Harvey Howard, was sent off for a high tackle on David Bradbury in the 47th minute - harshly, it seemed in the context of a match where worse went unpunished - they did their best to press the self-destruct button.

They proceeded to fall apart in a manner not solely attributable to being a man short and, in the space of four minutes, Afi Leuila and Wally Gibson both scored Oldham tries, converted via the woodwork by Francis Maloney, to give the visitors a four-point lead going into the last 10 minutes.

Leeds' handling had been woeful, but almost out of desperation they conjured something coherent for Schofield to start and finish the move for his try.

With their regular kicker, Graham Holroyd, having being substituted, Scofield had little choice but to take a potentially tricky conversion himself. It sailed over without faltering, as did the last penalty of a foul-strewn game and Wigan must wait a little longer.

Leeds: Tait; Fallon, Innes, Hall, Golden; Schofield, Holroyd (Handley, 65); Howard, Shaw, Fozzard (McDermott, 55), Mann, Field (Schultz, 69), Morley (Lowes, 31).

Oldham: Atcheson; Belle (Abram, 77), Topping, Leuila, Gibson; Maloney, Crompton; Richards (Norman, h-t), Burns, Temu, Lord (McKinney, 70), Gildart (Crook, 61), Bradbury.

Referee: K Kirkpatrick (Warrington).

n The titles were decided in the other two divisions last night, with Widnes losing at Whitehaven to give Salford the First Division Championship and Hull Kingston Rovers winning at Bramley to earn the Second Division title.

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