Salford 26 Leeds 30: Webb sparkles as Leeds repel late Salford assault

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The Independent Online

Leeds held off a late charge from Salford to get their Super League campaign off to a winning, if sometimes unconvincing start yesterday.

The New Zealand full-back Brent Webb began his Super League career with two tries for the visitors, and it was only Leeds' sharper finishing that saw them home in a game that was interrupted by too many mistakes and penalties.

"We didn't have too much ball, but we made the most of our chances," said the Leeds coach, Tony Smith, who promised that there is plenty more to come from Webb, who tormented Great Britain in last year's Tri-Nations tournament.

"Believe it or not, he's a bit disappointed," Smith said. "He knows he's got a lot more to come and that's the standard he sets himself."

Webb scored with his first touch for Leeds in a pre-season friendly against Huddersfield. It took him two touches in his first competitive game before he capitalised on approach work by Matt Diskin and Rob Burrow, so he is clearly losing some of his potency.

Within six minutes, Leeds were 10 points ahead after Gareth Ellis was stopped just short. Danny McGuire completed the job from dummy-half.

Salford were the surprise team of last season and they showed that they have possibilities this time round by the way they reacted to that dreadful start.

John Wilshere's try and Luke Robinson's goal brought them back to 10-6, only for a disastrous couple of minutes before half-time to undermine their efforts. First, Burrow ducked under some ineffectual tackling to score and then, after David Hodgson had put his kick-off dead on the full, Webb got his second try from Clinton Toopi's pass.

Again Salford looked to be out of it, but Wilshere's second try and a try from Aaron Moule after Keith Senior had been sent to the sin-bin brought them right back into contention.

Jordan Tansey's try stretched the Rhinos' lead again, but late efforts from Gareth Haggerty and Moule made for a tense finish.

"We've played one of the big boys and taken them right down to the wire," said the Salford coach, Karl Harrison, who identified Webb as one of his side's major problems. "He's a truly world-class player and he is very difficult to handle," he said.

There will be a few more echoing those sentiments before the season is over, one suspects.

Salford: Hodgson; Halliwell, McGuiness, Moule, Wilshere; Dorn, Robinson; Coley, Alker, Jewitt, Edmondson, Littler, Finnigan. Substitutes used: Korkidas, Haggerty, Adamson, Brocklehurst.

Leeds: Webb; Donald, Toopi, Senior, Gibson; McGuire, Burrow; Bailey, Diskin, Leuluai, Lauitiiti, Ellis, Sinfield. Substitutes used: Scruton, Jones-Buchanan, Tansey, Thackray.

Referee: I Smith (Oldham).