THE Redcliffe Pepsi Dolphins look like missing the semi finals for the first time since 1993 after Saturday?s 16 point loss to the Burleigh Bears.
TONY Rea will be searching for his team?s third win on the spin when they run out at Knowsley Road on Friday night against St Helens. London backed up a good home win over Wigan Warriors a fortnight ago (22-20) with another solid win on Sunday against Widnes (24-38)
WORLD Club Champions Bradford Bulls have received a big boost ahead of tomorrow night?s important Tetley?s Super League showdown with Wigan Warriors, with the news that Wigan born Scrum Half, Paul Deacon, has signed a new three year contract with the club and will remain at Odsal until the end of the 2007 season
IN Bulls Eye this week, Brian Noble and Jamie Peacock look ahead to Friday's Round 23 Tetley's Super League game when Wigan Warriors hit town in one of the games of the season1
WIGAN today completed the signing of several of their players who would have been out of contract at the end of the season.
THE National Rugby League announced today it had ruled out expanding the competition in 2006 but pledged to revisit the issue next season with a view towards adding new teams in 2007.
A dominant second half performance has helped the Storm to a comprehensive 36-18 win over the Canberra Raiders at Canberra Stadium today and cemented Melbourne in the NRL?s top eight.
THE Sydney Roosters have comprehensively outplayed the Panthers, winning 44-12 at Aussie Stadium tonight.
THE Newcastle Knights's 2004 season is all but over following a comprehensive 48-10 drubbing at the hands of the Manly Sea Eagles today.
IN front of a 50,000 strong crowd at Suncorp Stadium, the Bulldogs have put on one of the performances of the year the defeat the Brisbane Broncos by 44 to 18.
THE Parramatta Eels have put a big dent into the hopes of the Sharks finals aspirations, convincingly defeating the Cronulla side by 44-22.
AT a cold and windy WIN Stadium, the St George Illawarra Dragons have come away 28-10 victors over the New Zealand Warriors tonight.
THE North Queensland Cowboys have beaten the South Sydney Rabbitohs 36-22 in an unconvincing performance at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
N an historic evening at Coychurch Road, Welsh and British Total RL.com Rugby League Conference Champions, Bridgend Blue Bulls, were beaten for the first time in their 28 game history by a well-drilled West London Sharks side.
"We knew the winning run had to end sometime," commented one of the many Bridgend fans, "It was just a shock to see it happen here tonight. I'd have preferred it to have been against another Welsh side."
Bridgend, with just one change from the side that beat Aberavon last week, started the stronger of the two sides but the tough Sharks defence stopped them from crossing the line on a handful of occasions in the opening ten minutes. In fact, it had to be a Jon Williams penalty that put them ahead, following a foul on Kevin Ellis.
However, they grounded only two minutes later. Following a fantastic mazy run from Craig Fox, Grant David was kept out. But from his play-the-ball, he set up Fox to score.
West London hit back almost immediately. Following a penalty for offside, captain Alex Sanerive just forced the ball under the sticks.
They almost took the lead in the 20th minute. Following a set of nice passes down the forward line, Paul Richards dived to ground the ball but was pushed into touch before the ball hit the ground.
Similarly Gareth David could have extended Bridgend's lead on the half-hour, dropping the ball when tackled right by the line but the Bulls did score five minutes later through another mazy run from Fox.
Bridgend went into half-time with a slender 14-12 lead following a incident-packed last two minutes. After Trevor Leota's try was ruled out for an infringement, Bridgend could have scored, but Devereux's pass to Bateman was intercepted. From the next tackle, Lawrence Ross ran half the length of the field to score under the posts.
For a few of the Bridgend players, it was their second game in the space of five hours as the town's two Union sides had faced off against each other in a friendly match earlier that day. In fact, Grant Epton made history by being the first ever Bridgend player to score tries for his home club in two different rugby codes in the same day when he increased the Blue Bulls lead after only five minutes of the second period, grounding in the corner after being set-up by David.
West London soon hit back. Will Amor looked to have scored in the 55th minute but was held up after crossing the line. However, Dan Wright forced the ball home from the next tackle, Andre Wilson's conversion levelling the scores. Then then took the lead from the first time just two minutes later. Following a 40-metre run from Simon Clare, Phil Astbury scored under the sticks.
The quality of the sides started to show in their defensive skills, one of the main reason why they had only amassed one defeat between them this season before this match. The frustration and intensity of the tie had also started to show. Following David's earlier sinbinning, both teams finished the game with 12 men as Mark Barnes and Craig Fox were both yellow-carded after a 75th minute fight.
Bridgend chose to run in the penalty following this incident and almost scored on the fifth tackle but Kevin Ellis' grubber kick went just too far for any Bulls' player to latch onto.
Sharks completed an historic win in the last minute as Clae Morgan forced the ball under the posts. Wilson's conversion making the final score 30-18 and a shock win for the Londoners.
West London captain and man-of-the-match, Alex Sanerive is confident that his side can now win the Harry Jepson Trophy for the first time. He comments, "You can tell these guys are the champions. But they tired a bit in the second half and we were able to take advantage. I'm pleased that we have Ipswich in the semis as they beat us in last year's quarter-finals. But we're a better stronger team this year and we're out for revenge."
Cardiff Demons are now left as Wales' sole representatives in the Rugby League Conference play-offs. They face St Albans Centurions in the Shield Semi-Finals next Sunday.
BLUE BULLS: Marc Davies, Grant Epton, Carle Ellis, Allan Bateman, Gareth David, Jon Williams, Kevin Ellis, Jon Purnell, Craig Fox, Matthew Wareham, Karl Hocking, John Devereux, Marcus Sainsbury. Subs (all used): Paul Morgan, Gareth Bartlett, Nathan Strong, Geraint Lewis.
Tries: Fox (13, 35), Epton (45). Goals: Williams 3/4
SHARKS: Andre Wilson, Phil Astbury, Pat Wadwell, Clae Morgan, Dan Coffey, Mark Barnes, Dan Wright, Alex Sanerive, Simon Clare, Dan Oliver, Nathan Bennet, Ben Hinze, Trevor Leota. Subs (all used): Lawrence Ross, Will Amor, Gav Gordon, Paul Richards.
Tries: Sanerive (15), Ross (39), Wright (56), Astbury (58), Morgan (79). Goals: Wilson 5/5
GAMESTAR: A try that topped off a captain's performance from Alex Sanerive.
GAMEBREAKER: Clae Morgan's last minute try for the Sharks that put score out of the champions' reach. Before that it was always anyone's game.
Men of the Match: Blue Bulls: Craig Fox. Sharks: Alex Sanerive.
Referee: Andy Lindley.
CARDIFF Demons waltzed into the semi-finals of the Total RL.com National Rugby League Conference Shield with an impressive 46-6 win over Telford Raiders writes Ian Golden.