Rugby League: Salford's rise leaves Sharks at the bottom

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The Independent Online
Salford Reds 38 Hull Sharks 18

SALFORD OPENED up what could prove to be an invaluable gap between them and the foot of the Super League table yesterday by running away in the second half to leave their successors as relegation favourites in even deeper gloom.

The Reds revival since the sacking of Andy Gregory has gathered pace nicely with five points from the last three games and Hull only briefly threatened to halt that little run.

Their already threadbare squad badly affected by injuries, they fielded four teenagers in their starting line-up and always struggled against the know-how of players such as Martin Crompton and the hugely influential Darren Brown.

Brown handled no less than three times in the move that saw Gary Broadbent go in for Salford's first try after 11 minutes, although two of Hull's youngsters combined for an equaliser, Paul Cooke putting him a precise high kick for Craig Poucher to leap and score.

Crompton's interception and smart handling from Brown and Bobby Thompson sent Joe Faimalo over to restore Salford's lead and Malcolm Alker's strength took him in for another before half-time.

With both sides reduced to 12 men when Hudson Smith and Matt Schultz was sent to the sin-bin after a mass brawl, Salford made the match safe in a heady five-minute burst of scoring.

A try from Mark Johnson, who could not get a game under Gregory, was followed by two from Brown. There was some brilliant handling involved in all three, especially when David Hulme and Paul Southern got marvellous passes away to set up Brown's first.

Although Salford have improved enormously on the efficiency of their defence under the temporary stewardship of John Foran, they showed a few lingering signs of the other side of their character by immediately conceding two tries, one when Hull's teenage half-backs linked up for Richard Horne to send Cooke in and when Fili Seru went 80 yards after picking up a loose pass.

But it all ended happily enough with Smith rampaging down the wing and Brown arriving in time to complete his first hat-trick since 1991.

His return from injury has been a major factor behind the change in Salford's fortunes, but he also paid tribute to the work of Foran.

"John has done his job really well," he said. "We are starting to play some football now and when the new coach, John Harvey arrives, John can be proud of what he's done. We are off the bottom now and the pressure is on someone else."

That someone else is Hull, who desperately need to get their optimum team on the pitch if they are to have any hope of survival.

Their caretaker, Steve Crooks, is still working on a week-to-week basis, but might be asked to carry on until he end of the season.

Salford Reds: Thompson; Johnson, Littler, Broadbent, Carige; Blakeley, Crompton; Makin, Alker, Southern, H Smith, Brown, Hulme. Substitutes used: Casey, J Faimalo, E Faimalo, Highton.

Hull Sharks: Prescott; Poucher, J Smith, Campbell, Seru; Cooke, Horne; Harrison, King, Craven, Booth, Schultz, Purcell. Substitutes used: Lee, Barrow, Fletcher, Jackson.

Referee: R Connolly (Wigan).