Rugby League: Murray relishes Rhinos' tough challenge

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The Independent Online
THE LEEDS Rhinos coach, Graham Murray, is unfazed by his side's daunting four-match run-in to the end of the Super League season that precedes the play-offs for the teams that finish in the top five positions.

Leeds, who moved up to third after their midweek win over Salford, have upcoming games against Wigan, Bradford and London after tomorrow night's difficult trip to the Thunderdome to take on Gateshead.

"My experience of finals football is that they are very tough games," Murray said. "So it helps if you go into those games on the back of some tough [league] games."

St Helens, five points behind leaders Bradford but with a game in hand, are likely to be without their awesome centre pairing of Kevin Iro (dead leg) and Paul Newlove (thumb), plus the forward Vila Matautia (suspension) for the visit to Salford. Stand-off Tommy Martyn could return after a finger injury, and Tim Jonkers and Anthony Stewart, fit again after a shoulder injury, are added to the squad. Saints are still awaiting a work permit for the Australian forward Des Clark, signed recently from Halifax.

Bradford, who go to Saints in the final round of the league campaign, are still without Stuart Spruce (shoulder) and the Australian forward David Boyle, who is suspended, for the visit of Sheffield. But the likely return after injury of the influential midfield organiser Steve McNamara, whose tactical kicking was sorely missed in last weekend's defeat at Wigan, should revive the Bulls.

Sheffield's injury problems increased when Rod Doyle broke his collar- bone in last Sunday's defeat at Salford.

Huddersfield's hopes of reversing an eight-match losing sequence that has left them favourites for the bottom spot are hindered by injuries for the visit to The Stoop. Dean Lawford, Dave Boughton, Paul Reilly and Ryan Hudson are all major doubts. Tulsen Tollett and John Timu return to the London squad after injury.

Just five points separate the top six sides in the Northern Ford Premiership with two games to go before the play-offs. The leaders, Leigh, face a difficult trip to Keighley while second-placed Dewsbury take on Doncaster.