Rugby League: Strike-hit Rovers are locked out

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The Independent Online
Leigh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31

Hull KR. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

HULL KINGSTON ROVERS slipped to the bottom of the First Division yesterday, but no blame attaches to the rag-bag of reserves and youngsters who gave their all at Leigh.

With 15 members of their first- team squad on strike, Rovers fielded a team including several players from their academy side and even two sons of directors.

They performed better than could reasonably have been expected, but a match that could yet decide who drops into the Second Division was effectively decided earlier in the weekend when talks between club and players over bonus payments broke down.

A highly condensed summary of the argument is that players who are turning out for match payments only have rejected an offer of a bonus at the end of the season if Rovers stay up.

They say they were promised a share of the proceeds from the sale of Graeme Hallas to Halifax earlier this season, which the club says its bank manager will not allow them to pay.

The arrival of the New Zealander Dean Clark this week on a three-year contract, paid for by two local businessmen, was a catalyst if not a cause.

It was Clark's two tries that kept Rovers in touch during a first half in which they matched Leigh in every department. They had come close to a couple of tries before Leigh, behind them on points-difference at the start of the game, built up an eight-point lead.

Clark's first try came from good handling by Jamie Leighton and Andy Gotts and he put Rovers into the lead by diving on to a kick from the tireless Gary Chatfield for his second.

But Tim Street barged over from short range to put Leigh level before the break. After the interval, Rovers' pack tired and, without a forward on the bench to relieve them, Leigh capitalised with 19 points in 22 minutes. Even then, Rovers had the determination to hit back with late tries from David Liddiard and Leighton.

'It was an excellent performance that bore out the stand we have taken,' the Rovers' chairman, Phil Lowe, whose son Andy played at prop, said. 'Our offer is still on the table.'

The coach, George Fairbairn, was also full of praise for the side's willingness to work overtime. 'I'm staying right out of the politics,' he said. He knows that the sort of side he will have at his disposal against Warrington next week is out of his hands.

Leigh: Tanner; Ledger, D Ruane, Mahon (Robinshaw, 64), Hill; Martin, Donohue; Costello (Elias, 62), A Ruane, Street (Costello, 73), Elias (Collier, 52), Baldwin, Pendlebury.

Hull Kingston Rovers: Liddiard; Barkworth, McKeough, Wardrobe, Sodje; Clark (Lowe, 66); Chatfield, Jackson, Chamberlain, Lowe (Brown, 51), Gotts (Hardy, 73), Hardy (Robson, 62), Leighton.

Referee: C Steele (Barrow).