Deacon delivers decisive blows

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John Harvey's premonition that Bradford would be too big and too good for his improving Salford side proved all too accurate at The Willows last night. Without doing a great deal clearly wrong, the Reds were swept aside by a Bradford team for whom several fringe candidates threatened to make Matthew Elliott's selection difficult for Murrayfield in less than two weeks' time.

Paul Deacon, in his first game of the season, was one of the stars of this nine-try extravaganza. Apart from kicking eight goals, he linked expertly with a back line in which Tevita Vaikona also underlined his credentials.

Salford played outstandingly well in the first quarter, defending staunchly when Bradford piled on the pressure, using the ball when they had it and even taking a bizarre lead through a rare drop goal from Martin Offiah, of all people.

There was a large measure of luck in the way Bradford took the lead, Jason Webber almost intercepting from Robbie Paul but the ball looping up instead for David Boyle. The Bulls do not need much to set them on their way. After Jason Nicol's tackle had stopped Vaikona touching down, they kept nagging away at Salford, with Brad Mackay eventually sliding between Brad Hepi and Darren Brown for their second try.

Bradford are an unforgiving bunch. Immediately after Nick Pinkney had ruined one of Salford's best attacks by giving the ball away, they were hit on the counter attack, two former Salford players combining with Scott Naylor sending in Nathan McAvoy. Even with Boyle in the sin-bin for holding down, Bradford now looked a class apart, Naylor scoring one of his own from Robbie Paul's long pass before half-time.

Bradford brought Henry Paul on in place of his brother for the second period and, eight minutes after his arrival, he took the ball direct from a scrum to slice effortlessly through the Salford defence. On the hour, Naylor, thoroughly enjoying his return to The Willows, broke through to set up Stuart Spruce.

Michael Withers then crossed twice within three minutes as Salford's attempts at damage limitation failed. Brian McDermott took Vaikona's reverse pass to bring up the half century and Bradford's resounding victory to take them back to the top of Super League was only marred by his being placed on report for a late challenge on Craig Murdock.

Salford City Reds: Broadbent; Pinkney, Webber, Nicol, Offiah; Brown, Duffy; Southern, Alker, Baynes, J Smith, Hepi, Wainwright. Substitutes used: Makin, Tassell, Faimalo, Murdock.

Bradford Bulls: Spruce; McAvoy, Naylor, Withers, Vaikona; R Paul, Deacon; Fielden, Lowes, McDermott, Forshaw, Boyle, Mackay. Substitutes used: Peacock, Radford, H Paul, H Smith.

Referee: S Cummings (Widnes).