The Bradford Bulls players will be hoping to avoid making history when they go to Hull KR this evening. The Bulls have won just twice since gaining a season's best 40-4 victory over Kingston Rovers at Odsal in April, and a 10th consecutive defeat would represent their worst run since the club was reformed in 1964.
The dismal stretch has seen Bradford slide down the Super League table to 10th place, costing Steve McNamara his job in the process. Lee St Hilaire, the caretaker coach, concedes pressure is mounting for the club to get back to winning ways. "Winning becomes a habit as does losing and we need to break that habit very sharply," said St Hilaire, who will be replaced by Mick Potter at the end of the season.
"The team spirit is good and no one wants to be in the losing streak we are in." A 10th consecutive league defeat would certainly end any lingering hopes of a play-off spot for the Bulls, but Hull KR can nearly secure their top-eight place with a 12th victory of the season. Back to help their cause is Liam Colbon, the former Wigan winger, who suffered a broken jaw in March and a knee injury on the verge of making his comeback.
Tom Briscoe, the England winger for Hull FC, is hoping his side can build on their confidence-boosting derby victory when the leaders Wigan visit the KC Stadium tonight. Briscoe, 20, was the toast of the west side of the city after pulling off a last-ditch, try-saving tackle on Peter Fox, his England teammate, to earn his side a dramatic 20-16 win over arch-rivals Hull KR. That victory kept the Black and Whites in fourth place but, with Leeds Rhinos, the defending champions, breathing down their necks, Briscoe knows there can be no let-up in the closing weeks of the season.
"It's been a great week," said Briscoe, whose tackle on Fox is still the talk of the town. "I've not heard the end of it. I think everybody was on a high." He said Hull cannot suffer a drop in performance "because Wigan are a good side". He added: "Last week's defeat [to Warrington] shows they are not unbeatable. We know they will come out strong after their loss but we've got to come out strong and knock it out of them early.
"We've got to prove that we deserve to be in the top four, too. The two points this week will secure that and show everybody that we deserve to be up there." Tony Smith, the Warrington Wolves coach, is playing down the significance of next month's Challenge Cup semi-final against Catalans Dragons ahead of their league meeting in Perpignan tonight. "I don't it think gives anybody an advantage or a disadvantage," he said. "Each week is different. We will have a good look at each other but there is a lot to play for, for us. We're trying to get some consistency in our form."
While the Wolves will be buoyant after their win over Wigan at the DW Stadium, which enabled them to close the gap on the leaders to just two points, the Dragons remain rooted to the foot of the table after last week's home defeat by the Celtic Crusaders. However, Smith is determined his side will not underestimate Kevin Walters's men, whose injury crisis has shown signs of easing in recent weeks. "They've had a mixed season but they've got some of their best players back at the moment and some of their performances have been better in recent times," he said.
"They've gone through a lean period but it will be tough game for us. We're very wary of them." Today's match has been switched from Stade Gilbert Brutus to the bigger Aime Giral to accommodate the big following from Warrington, who will provide the 100,000th English fan to visit Perpignan since the Catalans entered Super League four years ago. * PA