Rugby League: Crooks leads Castleford canter

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Castleford. . . .36

Salford. . . . . .4

SALFORD'S best and, as it turned out, only hope in this Silk Cut Challenge Cup tie was that Castleford would still have their heads in the clouds after their Regal Trophy triumph last week.

Once they had sweated out the remains of their hangover in the first 10 minutes, however, Castleford made short work of a Salford side sadly lacking in both pattern and purpose.

Had they shown the same killer instinct they exhibited against Wigan eight days earlier, they would have amassed a lot more points, so poor was the opposition yesterday.

The opening stages proved awkward, with a flat-looking home side penned in their own 25. Once they had broken out, through a long run from their effervescent winger, St John Ellis, they rarely looked back.

Salford managed to haul Ellis down, but for the first time, if not the last, their defence was bunched and Tawera Nikau was able to send in Grant Anderson for the first of his hat-trick of tries.

Lee Crooks, who also kicked five goals from as many attempts, produced a pass of breathtaking subtlety to provide Ian Smales with Castleford's second. Ellis scored his 24th try of the season, shrugging off a series of half-hearted tackles on his way to the line.

With the game essentially won with little more than 20 minutes played, it was understandable that Castleford should go off the boil and the rest of the first half and the start of the second were more notable for some ill-tempered feuding than for the stylish rugby of which they are capable.

But Anderson got them back into the groove when he underlined his value with two more tries. The first was created by Crooks's pass and Graham Steadman's well-judged kick ahead and the second was the product of smart handling between Richard Russell and Richie Blackmore.

Castleford could afford the luxury of taking their most skilful forwards, Nikau and Crooks, off the field and Salford briefly showed a flash of fighting spirit when Chris Tauro, their Australian forward, ran powerfully to set up Steve Blakeley for a try which David Young could not convert.

But Castleford still had the last word, Tony Morrison putting in a short kick when he was tackled before the try-line and Russell winning the race for the ball.

Castleford: Steadman; Ellis, Blackmore, Anderson, Middleton; Kemp, M Ford; Crooks (Sampson, 69), Russell, Ketteridge, Morrison, Smales, Nikau (Hay, 59).

Salford: Jack; O'Neill, Critchley, Williams, P Ford; Blakeley, Gregory; Young, Lee, O'Connor (Marsden, 40), Forber (Gilfillan, 73), Tauro, Burgess.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).