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Will Leeds Underestimate the Frenchies?
Posted by southstander on May 06 2005 - 10:26:17


By and Matthew Horton

Listen very carefully....I will say this only once!

Tonight sees Leeds welcome a French side to Headingley for only the seventh time in our long and illustrious history. The magic of the Challenge Cup brings SM Pia, from a suburb of Perpignan in the south of France to the Headquarters of Rugby League.

Most pundits are expecting the Rhinos to rattle in a cricket score, but Tony Smith is far more cautious and intends to go with a strong seventeen to avoid any potential of a cup upset.

With Marcus Bai returning home to attend to a seriously ill family member, Lee Smith will grasp his full debut with both hands as he gets a start on the wing. Walker misses out with a sternum injury, not sustained I should add playing 'Booby-Trap' on wednesday night, and McKenna therefore starts in the centres.

Murrell gets a place in the named eighteen, but is the most likely to miss out on final selection as Botham and Scruton continue to impress with limited game time. With Burrow and captain Kev at half backs, Senior, Calderwood, Mathers and Smith will be looking to 'fill their boots' against this unknown opposition.

The "Flying Donkeys" arrive at Headingley with victories over London Skolars and Keighley Cougars behind them and become only the third French club side to play at headquarters. Pia are currently third in the Elite 1 league behind Toulouse and UTC and last won the French Championship for the only time in their history in 1995.

The Donkeys will be led by international scrum half Maxime Grésèque, once of Featherstone, and also have Australians Dean Bosnich and Brett O'Farrel in their ranks. Papuan Tom O'Reilly who has had spells at Sheffield, Oldham, Bramley and Warrington should also feature tonight.

SM Pia's last 6 results;

Lost 18-44 to Union Treiziste Catalan
Lost 16-28 to St Gaudens
Won 56-26 v Keighley Cougars
Won 50-18 v Carcassonne
Won 61-24 v Villeneuve
Lost 20-42 v Limoux

We shouldn't forget that these boys rattled in 56 points against Keighley and 58 against the London Skolars, so they certainly know their way to the try line if we give them the chance. Whilst we are all expecting a comfortable win, Pia at the top of their game against the Rhinos side that played so poorly against Wakefield would give the smallest chance of an upset. Having said that, I think that we'll be coasting by half-time, and it should be a easy run-out for the lads. Prediction
Rhinos 72 12 SM Pia

I understand that ticket sales have not being going so well, so the packed stadium of recent weeks is unlikely to be repeated for this un-glamorous cup tie. The usual hardcore will be there, but many casual supporters will be saving their pennies for an expected trip to the Millennium Stadium later in the year. Just to add to Pia's misery, the rain is forcast to start falling around six o'clock and continue for the duration of the game. Not nice!

Hopefully we'll see as many of you down there as possible to get behind the lads and create a bit of atmosphere, you never know, we might see some records tumble!

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