Rugby League: Hassam puts paid to record run

Salford 20 Leeds 33
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An unblemished home record stretching back 17 games and almost 15 months fell at The Willows as Leeds consolidated third place in Super League yesterday.

In a match full of rugby of a calibre to justify its top-four status, it was Leeds who lasted the pace the better, with their centre Phil Hassam, scoring two long-range tries in the second half to clinch the outcome. Hassam, one of the most improved players in the League this season, started Leeds on their winning surge when he took a pass from Gary Mercer at the base of the scrum to go 80 yards and break a 14-all deadlock.

A Graham Holroyd drop-goal and a try from Ryan Sheridan put Leeds further ahead before Hassam killed Salford off with an equally spectacular effort. Taking the ball this time from Iestyn Harris, he was again too fast for the home defence. A late touch-down by their best performer, Fata Sini, put a more respectable gloss on proceedings for Salford.

For a long time, Salford had a full share of a match of genuine quality. Leeds scored first through their bargain basement buy from Hull, Paul Sterling, but tries from Ian Watson and Paul Forber put Salford ahead.

Sterling's second, from a precise Harris cross-kick, and Harris' own try from dummy-half gave Leeds a narrow advantage at half-time, but that was soon wiped out by Nathan McAvoy.

But a purposeful pack of forwards, expertly and energetically led by Mercer, gradually gave Leeds control and Hassam's long-range opportunism did the rest.

Salford: Broadbent; Sini, Naylor, McAvoy, Rogers; Blakeley, Watson; Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Forber, Faimalo, Hulme. Substitutes used: Randall, Martin, Savelio. Substitutes not used; Southern.

Leeds: Gibson; Sterling, Blackmore, Hassan, Cummings; Harris, Holroyd; Masella, Collins, McDermott, Morley, Farrell, Mercer. Substitutes used: Sheridan, Mathiou, Newton. Substitutes used: St Hilaire.

Referee: D Campbell (Widnes).

n The Lions wing John Bentley has signed an extension to his Halifax contract until 1999. Bentley, a dual international, agreed another 12- month deal with Halifax as compensation for missing six weeks of the season when he tours South Africa with the Lions. Leeds were last night completing the signing of a second-row forward, Andy Hay, from Sheffield Eagles. As part of the same deal, Richie Eyres, the former Great Britain forward, is to go to Sheffield, initially on loan.