Rugby League: Gloom lifted by Blakeley

Salford Reds 31 London Broncos 14
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The Independent Online
STEVE BLAKELEY showed what a key man he could be in a Salford revival as they ended their run of 14 Super League matches without a win.

The England stand-off did not always look the happiest of players under the Andy Gregory regime, but with Salford poised to confirm John Harvey as their new coach today he demonstrated the rugby of which he is capable when his mood is right.

Blakeley ran in three excellent tries, made another and landed five goals and a drop goal for a personal tally of 23 points that was enough to beat a flat and weary London on its own.

Salford caught the Broncos at exactly the right time. After two creditable performances in the wake of Wembley that could have brought them more than their single point, they looked like a team at the end of a 50-match season rather than partway through a 30-match one. They even had the boost of an early try when Dominic Peters went over in the corner, but they were always second best after that.

A run from the influential Darren Brown set up Blakeley for his first try and Brown then supplied the ball for Stuart Littler that led to Mark Johnson claiming Salford's second. When Blakeley found another gap before half-time, they had a commanding lead. Even an improved defensive performance, they still had a few alarms, notably when Martin Offiah collected Karl Hammond's kick to the margin back to eight points.

But Blakeley's break allowed Bobby Thompson to reply immediately and even when Greg Fleming capitalised on Martin Crompton's absence in the sin-bin to grab another London try, the Reds had plenty in reserve.

It was only fitting that Blakeley should round it off, taking David Bradbury's pass out of the tackle and completing his hat-trick three minutes from time.

"He's an excellent player and he came up with the goods," said Salford's caretaker coach, John Foran. "But I am delighted for all the players after the hard work we've put in this week. That was our third match in eight days, but they really dug in. That lifts a big cloud from over Salford."

Foran knows he will be standing down as soon as Harvey can get his work permit. "My job is to make sure when he comes we're not bottom of the league," he said.

Salford Reds: Thompson; Johnston, Littler, Broadbent, Carige; Blakeley, Crompton; Makin, Alker, Southern,Brown, Bradbury, Hulme. Substitutes used: E Faimalo, J Faimalo, Smith.

London Broncos: Fleming; Peters, Ryan, Timu, Offiah; Hammond, Air; Cram, Beazley, Millard, Seibold, Toshack, Gill. Substitutes used: Callaway, Spencer, Salter, Wynyard.

Referee: N Oddy (Halifax).

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