Rugby League: Rhinos charge after slow start

Leeds Rhinos 50 Salford Reds 16
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The Independent Online
LEEDS OVERCAME a hesitant start and a six-point half-time deficit to score 40 unanswered points in a fluent second-half display which boosted their top-five aspirations.

Leeds, looking for a win to take them back to third, met unexpectedly stern early resistance from a Salford side whose victory over Sheffield last Sunday gave them a vital three-point cushion ahead of the bottom clubs, Hull and Huddersfield. Both sides were without five regulars through injury, with Leeds also lacking the suspended Adrian Morley.

It was Salford, marshalled by the experience Martin Crompton, who shocked the Headingley crowd by building up a 12-0 lead inside 14 minutes. Crompton's inside pass sent Phil Waring crashing over and prop Neil Baynes' superb off-load allowed Australian centre Paul Carige to streak clear and inside Francis Cummins's challenge from half-way. Warren Ayres added two goals.

A spectacular 80-metre try by Cummins, normally a winger but playing at full-back, revived Leeds, and Daryl Powell and Karl Pratt combined to send the 16-year-old centre Chev Walker over from 30 metres to reduce the arrears to two points. However, the South African winger Mark Johnson reacted first to a Waring grubber kick for a third Salford try that gave the visitors a deserved 16-10 interval lead.

Hooker Lee Jackson's introduction from the bench mid-way through the first half had given Leeds much-needed direction and craft. Jackson's sharp pass gave Powell the chance to send Andy Hay over on the left before his scuttling break from dummy half set up a second try for Cummins.

Powell and Kevin Sinfield then created a deserved try for the supporting Jackson, and Iestyn Harris laid on another for Brad Godden. Four Sinfield conversions sent Leeds into a commanding 34-16 lead with 15 minutes still to play.

Walker, with his second try, and Paul Sterling supplied incisive finishes on either flank before Hay's rampaging run set up an ninth Leeds try for Harris.

Sinfield's seventh goal enabled Leeds to reach the half- century mark, but the scoreline gave little credit to Salford's brave and battling first- half show.

Leeds Rhinos: Cummins; Rivett, Walker, Godden, Sterling; Powell, Pratt; Masella, Newton, McDermott, Fleary, Hay, Glanville. Substitutes used: Harris, Sinfield, Jackson, Mathiou.

Salford Reds: Thompson; Johnson, Broadbent, Carige, Hayes; Waring, Crompton; Baynes, Ayres, Bradbury, Morley, Southern, Highton. Substitutes used: J Faimalo, Makin, Littler, Lee.

Referee: S Pressley (Castleford).