St Helens lose key man for Wigan Warriors derby as three players suspended by RFL

Aaron Bower
James Bell St Helens Alamy

St Helens look set to be without James Bell for this Friday’s derby with Wigan Warriors after the Scotland international was issued with a one-match suspension.

Bell is one of three players to receive bans following the eight Challenge Cup ties that took place over the weekend, following an incident in the Saints‘ victory against Leeds Rhinos on Friday.

He was cited with a Grade B Dangerous Contact charge and due to his previous record, has been issued with a punishment at the higher end of the grading, resulting in a one-match suspension for the forward.

Bell’s charge was described in the minutes issued by the Match Review Panel as: “Defender uses any part of their body forcefully to twist, bend or otherwise apply pressure to the limb or limbs of an opposing player in a way that involves an unacceptable risk of injury to that player.”

The Saints have the right to appeal that suspension, potentially freeing him to feature on Good Friday. But if he is absent, it would be a significant blow for Paul Wellens’ side given the form Bell has been in during the early part of this season.

Featherstone’s Brad Day has also been banned for one match, following a Grade C Head Contact charge during their defeat to Leigh Leopards at the weekend. Sheffield’s Izaac Farrell is the other player to be banned, also for one game, following a Grade C Dangerous Throw charge against Wigan Warriors.

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Day and Farrell have until next week to potentially appeal their bans, with any hearing taking place on April 2: meaning they are free to feature for their clubs this weekend regardless of that decision.

But Bell’s ban would kick in this weekend, ruling him out of one of the most eagerly-anticipated derbies in years. Castleford duo Paul McShane and Alex Mellor were both charged with Grade B Dangerous Contact following their win at Batley, but were fined £250 rather than being suspended due to being at the lower end of the grading.

Wigan’s Adam Keighran also received the same punishment, a £250 fine, for a Grade B Head Contact charge. Salford’s Cade Cust was also fined £250 for a Grade B Dangerous Contact charge.

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