Warrington coach slates schedule

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Warrington's Australian coach, Brian Johnson, has criticised the side's punishing start to the season, which he says has virtually ended their chances of lifting the Stones Centenary Championship.

Johnson's side play their fifth game in 15 days tomorrow when they face last season's grand slam winners, Wigan, at Central Park. "It's ridiculous that Warrington should be the only club to be asked to fulfil this kind of programme. And it's hardly the best kind of preparation for playing Wigan at Central Park," said Johnson, whose side were beaten 40-6 at Leeds on Wednesday.

"I'm angry that this should have happened to us and it virtually writes us out of the Centenary Championship before the end of the first month. Some of the players haven't had enough rest to shake off the bumps and bruises they are accumulating."

Sheffield Eagles have signed Featherstone's French international winger, Frederic Banquet, and have taken the St Helens full-back David Lyon on loan.

Banquet has moved to the Don Valley Stadium on a contract for the centenary season. His long-term future in the British game is not yet certain because of national service commitments in France.

Lyon was made available because he does not want to become a full-time professional. Both players are expected to make their debuts for Sheffield in tomorrow's championship match against Castleford.

n Malcolm Reilly's Newcastle Knights advanced to the second stage of the Winfield Cup play-offs with a convincing 20-10 victory over North Sydney in the opening elimination final yesterday. Newcastle now advance to the second week of the finals to meet the loser of tomorrow's game between Manly and Cronulla.

Reilly, the former Great Britain coach in his first season in Australia, admitted the win, Newcastle's second in seven weeks, provided an important boost in confidence. "We're not looking at the Grand Final yet, we're just going to keep it simple and look at our game next week. It's a matter of survival first for us," Reilly said.