Rugby League: Rovers set sights on Saints

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The Independent Online
THE second round of the Regal Trophy this weekend presents a mix of well-balanced ties between approximate equals on the one hand and potential upsets on the other.

Post Office Road is always a venue where the mighty can take delivery of bad news and Featherstone quietly fancy their chances against St Helens tomorrow. After a few early wobbles, Rovers have settled to the job of climbing out of the Second Division at the first attempt and their new Australian coach, Steve Martin, believes they are acquiring some defensive steel without sacrificing their attacking flair.

'We have been getting better and playing a top side like St Helens will show us just how much we have improved,' Martin said.

With Alan Hunte suspended and Jonathan Griffiths injured, Saints do not look entirely convincing. At the very least, it is an encounter with the genuine flavour of knockout rugby about it.

The same could be said of Rochdale's trip to Widnes. The First Division side had a hard-fought victory over Wakefield in midweek while the Hornets have been progressing serenely in the Second Division and putting more pressure on the leaders than was expected at the start of the season.

Widnes could be without Paul Moriarty, Richard Eyres, Kurt Sorensen and Stuart Spruce, but, with the half-back combination of Julian O'Neill and Bobby Goulding starting to mesh nicely, should still have too much firepower.

Wigan and Hull KR are in the same division, but, as the 48-18 scoreline at Central Park in the championship last week showed, that is all they have in common.

Wigan play their latest prodigy, Jason Robinson, in what could prove to be his natural position of scrum-half for the first time in a senior match, but will be without Denis Betts and Joe Lydon.

Wayne Jackson replaces the injured Chris Harrison for Rovers, whose coach, George Fairbairn, believes that home advantage gives them a real chance of turning the tables.

Hull versus Halifax is likely to be the closer game on Humberside, however. Just as uncertain is the outcome of today's televised tie between Warrington and Bradford Northern.

Bradford's brief moments of glory in the league are fading into memories now and their coach, Peter Fox, is still without Deryck Fox and Brimah Kebbie at Wilderspool this afternoon. Both are nearly fit again after stomach muscle injuries, but Fox cannot justify risking them. Steve McGowan and David Watson also face fitness tests.

Warrington have Kelly Shelford and Greg Mackey at half-back, with the Welsh scrum-half, Kevin Ellis, on the bench.

Leigh should continue their recent improvement at home to London Crusaders, while Castleford should prove far too strong for Carlisle at Wheldon Road.

Neil Rudd of Nottingham City has received the longest suspension of the season so far after being found guilty on video evidence of a high tackle in the Third Division match against Barrow last month. Rudd has been banned for 10 games as the result of an incident that led to Barrow's Andy Fletcher being carried off unconscious and Nottingham being fined pounds 500 for failing to have a doctor present.

(Photograph omitted)

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