Rugby League: Bishop feasts at top table

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The Independent Online
Halifax. . . . .20

Salford. . . . .12

THE LAST unbeaten record in the First Division survived at Thrum Hall last night, even if Halifax were often far from convincing, writes Dave Hadfield.

They looked anything but candidates for the top of the table in the early stages when Salford enjoyed the majority of possession and used it with enterprise.

Their crisp, purposeful handling could have brought more reward than a try after seven minutes. Their loose forward, Mark Burgess, did the damage, finding a gap in the Halifax defence in midfield and drawing the full-back, Steve Lay, to send Steve Blakeley under the sticks.

Blakeley added the simple conversion but Salford could not gather the further points that their all-round superiority deserved. Two penalties, both awarded for holding down and both struck over without fuss by Paul Bishop, brought Halifax into the game.

Although Salford continued to exert more pressure, the home side created the best individual try-scoring chance, Phil Ford just managing to collar John Bentley after a dangerous break.

As ever, the question with Salford was whether they could sustain their good work for the full 80 minutes. The second half was hardly under way before the answer began to suggest itself.

Their player-coach, Garry Jack, was tackled into touch as he fielded an awkward, bouncing kick. From the scrum, Halifax stretched Salford's defence and when the ball was worked back inside Bishop found a gap for a try to which he added the goal.

Halifax had chances to pull away but failed to capitalise on fumbles by Jack and Tex Evans. Their luck ran out when a series of long passes put Lay on the outside of their cover and he touched down by the corner flag.

Bishop missed that kick but with 10 minutes left excellent passing from Michael Hagan and Gary Divorty sent in John Schuster to give the kicker an easier task.

Salford's response could not change the flow of the game, althought Ford's try, taking him 50 yards from a standing start, was a memorable one.

Halifax: Lay; Bentley (Sharp, 71), Schuster, Hallas, Preston; Hagan, Bishop; Harrison, Southernwood, Lord, Perrett (Harland, 56), Boyd, Divorty.

Salford: Jack; Evans, Critchley, Gilfillan, Ford; Blakeley, Neil (Brown, 61); Young, Lee, O'Connor, Stazicker, Blease (Randall, 40), Burgess.

Referee: I Ollerton (Wigan).