Salford seek second coming

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The Independent Online
St Helens go into their Silk Cut Challenge Cup quarter-final at Salford today forewarned about the capabilities of the First Division champions, writes Dave Hadfield.

"By beating Wigan, they have proved that they can beat anyone," the Saints coach, Shaun McRae, said. "We have to be on our guard, but they have made the motivation side of things easy for me."

McRae is able to bring back Joey Hayes on the wing after injury, but is still without three forwards - Adam Fogerty, Ian Pickavance and Dean Busby.

That means a start in the front row for the 18-year-old Andy Leatham and a loose forward role for Andy Northey, normally a centre but potentially better suited to the pack, in McRae's view.

The question for Salford, who are aided by Sam Panapa's recovery from the groin injury he suffered in the Wigan match and have Richard Webster on the bench, is whether they can summon up the same inspiration that ended the Cup-holders' eight-year run.

They have been anxious to play down the idea that their performance that day was some sort of magical one-off, stressing instead the extra confidence that they will now have.

Halifax' hopes against Leeds tomorrow have been badly hit by suspensions. Already without Michael Jackson, they were further weakened yesterday when Mike Umaga failed in his appeal against a three-match ban. John Bentley, however, is free to play tomorrow after having his one-match ban quashed.

Leeds are delaying their selection, but Tony Kemp is fit and there is an even-money chance that Kevin Iro will be able to resume in place of Craig Innes, who has decamped to Manly.

Hull go into the all-First Division battle with Widnes boosted by Tevita Vaikona, the Tongan centre who has been a target for Leeds, agreeing a new two-year contract.

Hull's new coach, Phil Sigsworth, has made what he calls "a dream start" with the club, with the prospect of a cup semi-final if they can beat Widnes. "We have to be confident, because we have reserved our best performances for the Boulevard," he said.

The fourth team from the First Division in this weekend's quarter-finals, Wakefield Trinity, have less reason for confidence against Bradford Bulls. Bradford are close to full strength, while Trinity have lost Sonny Whakarau to Keighley and have their French centre, Freddie Banquet, away in Fiji for the World Nines.

All matches in the Nines were washed out by tropical rainstorms yesterday, leaving the Super League organisers trying, on top of all their other headaches, to compress the rest of the tournament into today.