Salford City Reds 28 Celtic Crusaders 16: Alker's example helps Reds halt Crusaders comeback

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The Independent Online

A spot of internal dissension did not seem to have done Salford much harm as they put on an impressive display of on-field unity last night. Several Reds players were disciplined after reports of brawling and boozing at a pre-season camp in Jacksonville, but there was nothing wrong with their approach here.

"There's a good spirit within the team and that showed today," said Shaun McRae, their coach, who watched his team score three converted tries in the first 12 minutes.

With the imposing props Ray Cashmere and Craig Stapleton setting a solid platform and Richie Myler and Jeremy Smith establishing a rapport at half-back, the Reds were unstoppable. Malcolm Alker, who was deposed as captain after the club's in-fighting in Florida, was also at his sharpest and it was his link with Karl Fitzpatrick that set Stapleton up for their first try, after five minutes.

Smith's high kick got away from Tony Duggan three minutes later and from the scrum Smith sent Myler through a huge gap for number two. Alker then figured twice in the build-up to a debut try for Mark Henry. John Wilshere kicked all three conversions, plus a penalty for offside.

The Crusaders captain, Jace van Dijk, then kicked through. The ball took a couple of ricochets and Peter Lupton was able to score. That was the only blemish on a first 40 minutes that Salford dominated.

The Welsh side's revival was largely the work of Duggan, whose two tries brought up a century for the club. He cannot have got on the end of many better moves than the one that brought his 99th – a sweeping cross-field attack completed by Luke Dyer turning the ball back inside.

A cleverly delayed pass from Damien Quinn sent Duggan over for his second and the Crusaders were in contention until an equally good ball from Smith sent Ian Sibbit striding through for a try which was again converted by Wilshere, who also kicked a penalty.

It had been a brave fightback but it completed a troubled weekend for the Crusaders, who lost another administrator when their operations manager Gerald McCarthy followed the chief executive, David Thompson, out of the club.

"We can't keep giving sides a 20-point start. It's too much of a lead to reel in," said the Crusader's coach, John Dixon. "But we're still adjusting to playing at this level."

In France, Huddersfield beat the Catalan Dragons 30-8. The Rugby Football League are in talks with the London Development Agency about using the Olympic Stadium after 2012, possibly for the 2013 World Cup. The New Zealand forward Greg Eastwood has been refused a visa to play for Leeds because of a driving conviction.

Salford City Reds: Fitzpatrick; Wilshere, Littler, Talau, Henry; J Smith, Myler; Cashmere, Alker, Stapleton, Adamson, Parker, Swain. Substitutes used: Leuluai, Paul, Sibbit, Nash.

Celtic Crusaders: Duggan; Dyer, Hannay, Dalle Cort, Blackwood; Quinn, Van Dijk; O'Hara, M Smith, Bryant, Peek, Mapp, Lupton. Substitutes used: Budworth, Tangata-Toa, Chan, Beasley.

Referee: T Alibert (France).

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