Gregory's men overwhelm promotion rivals

Keighley Cougars 8 Salford 45
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The Independent Online
Salford dramatically improved their chances of being the one side promoted to the Super League at the end of summer by supplanting Keighley at the top of the First Division yesterday.

With more than half the season to play, Salford and their coach, Andy Gregory, will be making no glib assumptions, but there was evidence at Cougar Park yesterday that they have responded to their exclusion from the top flight by building a side capable not only of getting there but of competing with a number of the teams already in residence.

Keighley, the club that would have gone up had it not been for the introduction of Super League, have also reacted positively, going unbeaten through their first eight matches.

Without a specialist scrum-half half against Salford though they never got started. After taking the lead with an early penalty, the Cougars were simply swept aside by some inspired attacking play that brought their visitors four tries in 15 minutes and effectively decided the match.

The first was a gift for Phil Coussons after Matthew Foster failed to take Mark Lee's kick and then Steve Blakeley made one for Fata Sini and scored one himself.

Failure to clear up another Lee kick allowed Sam Panapa to touchdown and Salford were out of sight. Even when Martin Wood got one back for Keighley, Darren Rogers latched on to a clever pass from Richard Webster to emphasise Salford's superiority.

Rogers' run created another for Scott Naylor early in the second half - a try that caused so much excitement in the Salford section of the crowd that a length of fencing collapsed - with Nathan McAvoy laying on the second and third tries of a hat-trick for the Samoan winger Sini.

Lee added a drop goal to go alongside the six conversions landed by Blakeley, one of the numerous Salford men who decisively outplayed their opposite numbers, in his case the likely England stand-off Daryl Powell.

n The Keighley and England coach, Phil Larder, has confirmed that Wigan's Shaun Edwards will be his scrum-half for the European Championship in place of the St Helens captain Bobbie Goulding who has a hairline fracture of the collar bone.

Keighley: Dixon; Wray, Pinkley, King, Critchley; Powell, Cantillon; Parsons, Ramshaw, Hall, Fleary, Whakarau, Wood. Substitutes used: Foster, Larder, Hill, Berry.

Salford: Rogers, Coussons, Naylor, McAvoy, Sini, Blakeley, Lee, Blease, Edwards, Eccles, Forber, Savelio, Panapa. Substitutes used: Davys, Burgess, Angell, Webster.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).