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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 14:35 GMT
Animal magic as Lions face Sharks
by Julian Shea

All roads lead to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium when the quest for Powergen Challenge Cup glory begins this weekend.

But some fans may be surprised to learn that one of those roads originates near Twickenham while another starts close to the Rosyth naval base in Eastern Scotland.

West London Sharks and Fife Lions, who normally play their rugby 600 miles apart, will meet in a preliminary round match on Saturday.

And unfortunately for the Lions, they are the team facing a 1200-mile round trip.

"We're driving down at 8pm on Friday, arriving at our digs at about 5am, then we'll get some sleep, have a late breakfast, warm up and play," said Lions manager Scott McGilvray.

We want to do the best for the club and for rugby league in Scotland
Fife's Scott McGilvray

No doubt it will be a quick shower and bite to eat, too, before the long trek home.

That's because several of Fife's players are in the armed forces and have to be back on duty by 6pm on Sunday.

Fife, who started off life as the Linlithgow Lions, are one of Scotland's leading teams. In fact, they are the Scottish champions.

"Last season we beat Edinburgh Eagles 36-24 in the Grand Final, which was our biggest achievement yet," said McGilvray.

"But this is as big as it gets for us. We want to do the best for the club and for rugby league in Scotland."

The Sharks are also determined to keep up the momentum of last season, their most successful yet.

They reached the National Conference Final, losing 36-28 to Widnes Saints, but their mix of exiled northerners, union converts and Antipodeans earned them the title of Conference team of the year.

The Sharks, descendants of the 1980s club Fulham, have existed for five years and are based at the home of union outfit Grasshoppers RFC.

In fact, many of their players play both union and league, and some of them have bags of talent.

"Clae Morgan was in last year's Conference team of the year while Mark Barnes, who is mainly involved as a coach, played some games for Parramatta a few years ago," said prop Steve Colloby.

Fortunately for Fife, one player who turned out for the Sharks last summer is not available this time.

"Our captain said his cousin was coming down but didn't say who he was until he turned up," says Colloby. "It was Trevor Leota of Wasps."

Trevor Leota
Fife won't have to face the bulldozing Leota this weekend
There are several similarities between Cup debutants West London and Fife.

Both are based at union clubs, have policemen and sets of brothers in their ranks, reached their respective Grand Finals last season, and are even sponsored by the same bar chain.

"We think we may have found our sister club," says McGilvray. "Maybe this could be a basis for future touring or an annual game."

Rugby league history is full of rivalries - Saints v Wigan, Leeds v Bradford, Hull v Hull KR etc.

Could West London v Fife join that list? Only time will tell, but this could be start of a beautiful relationship.

West London Sharks versus Fife Lions, Saturday 15 January at Grasshoppers RFC

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