RUGBY LEAGUE: Smyth's error sinks London

Salford 23 London Broncos 20
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Salford 23 London Broncos 20

PAUL HIGHTON'S first try for a 12-man Salford three minutes from time dramatically lengthened the odds against the London Broncos making the Super League play-offs.

A blunder by their winger, Rob Smyth, means that London can now, in all probability, order the ice-cold cans for their end of season barbecue.

They clawed their way back into the lead at the Willows yesterday only to see all their effort negated when Smyth dropped the ball in a tackle and Salford worked it to the right for Scott Naylor to provide the scoring pass for Highton.

Salford, with Steve Blakeley back in the side for the first time in two months, started impressively, with Darren Rogers' try from a cross- kick by their ex-Bronco Josh White and two goals from Blakeley giving them an eight-point lead.

London, with Shaun Edwards at the heart of everything, fought back with a try from John Timu but let it slip once more when Naylor jinked past Grant Young for Salford's second try, again converted by Blakeley. White stretched the lead a little further with a drop goal.

London tries on either side of half-time transformed the contest. Smyth had a moment of glory to almost match his later despair when he took Peter Gill's pass and went 80 yards to score.

When Edwards scored after some typical support play, Tulsen Tollett's conversion gave the Broncos the lead for the first time.

With 12 minutes to play, Blakeley's boot regained the lead for Salford, only for Goodwin to snatch it back when Martin Crompton was sent off for a high tackle on Tollett. Blakeley's high tackle on Edwards allowed Tollett to stretch that lead to three points, but London's chance of hanging on to that lead and moving level on points with Bradford were shattered when the ball escaped from Smyth's grasp in a two-man tackle.

Smyth was adamant that it had been stolen from him illegally. "There was definitely a hand on it, but that's the way it goes," he said. And that, in all likelihood, is the way London's season goes as well.

Salford: Broadbent; Martin, Naylor, Hassan, Rogers; Blakeley, White; Southern, Hulme, Eccles, Highton, J Faimalo, Randall. Substitutes used: Crompton, E Faimalo, Savelio.

London: Timu; Smyth, Tollett, Toshack, Goodwin; Air, Edwards; Young, Williams, Carroll, Millard, Retchless, Gill. Substitutes used: Dunford, Spencer, Salter.

Referee: R Smith (Castleford).