Rugby League: Murray welcomes 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."

Ryan Sheridan, Anthony Farrell and Marcus St Hilaire could all return after injury, while Gateshead, just outside the top five after two successive defeats, are likely to name an unchanged side.

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 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 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) for the visit of Sheffield and the Australian forward David Boyle who is suspended. But the likely return after injury of influential midfield organiser Steve McNamara, whose tactical kicking was sorely missed in last weekend's defeat at Wigan, their first reversal in 10 games, should revive the Bulls.

Sheffield's injury problems increased when Rod Doyle broke his collar- bone in last Sunday's defeat at Salford. "We're facing Bradford at the worst time, just as they're coming off a defeat," said the Sheffield coach, John Kear. "But we need to look ourselves in the face and produce a much better performance."

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 a run of seven successive wins to bottom club Doncaster.

The former pace-setters Hull KR will hope to reverse a dramatic slump of four straight defeats against Rochdale before their visit to sixth- placed Featherstone next Sunday.

The Rugby League Conference Grand Final takes place at the New River Stadium, Tottenham, this afternoon when Crawley Jets, the holders, take on Chester Wolves.

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