Rugby League: Lenient ban clears Laughton for Tri-Series

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THE SHEFFIELD EAGLES prop Dale Laughton has been suspended for two matches, a sentence which will still allow him to play in the Tri- Series in Australia and New Zealand this autumn.

Laughton was sent off for butting Huddersfield's Gene Ngamu at the end of the first half last Saturday. Earlier this season, he was banned for two matches after being dismissed for committing a similar offence against Wakefield Trinity.

The Test forward will now miss Sheffield's final Super League match, at Hull on Sunday, plus Great Britain's warm-up against the Burleigh Bears before the triangular tournament in October. The League has already clarified the status of that game with the Australian Rugby League, which has agreed that it will count against his ban.

The lenient sentence was explained last night as being in recognition of "severe provocation". A Rugby League spokesman said Laughton had been grabbed by the testicles and also subjected to verbal abuse. Laughton, who played in all three Tests against New Zealand last October, has also been given credit for a good disciplinary record before his first sending- off of the season.

Gateshead's former Australian Test hooker, Kerrod Walters, has rejected the club's terms for next season and is now likely to return home. Walters, the club's first captain, left for the first time when his wife was injured in a road accident in mid-season and could not reclaim his place in the starting line-up on his return. He has proved sufficiently influential as a bench player, however, for the Thunder to try to re-sign him. Gateshead will now hold talks with Mick Jenkins, the hooker they signed from Workington to replace Walters, about a new contract for next season.

Hull's final Super League match, at home to Sheffield on Sunday, has been put back to 7.30pm, the same time as their relegation rivals, Huddersfield, play Castleford. If Hull win and Huddersfield lose, Hull will stay up on points difference.

The London Broncos have a crisis in the half-backs for their final match, at Leeds on Friday night, with Karle Hammond, Shaun Edwards and Glen Air all unlikely to play.

There are famous names in the squad announced by the holders, Australia, for Student Rugby League World Cup next month, which is sponsored by The Independent. The back-row forward, Dean Bosnich, is the cousin of the Manchester United goalkeeper, while Andrew Carige is the brother of the Salford winger, Paul.