Salford efforts rewarded

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

DAVE HADFIELD

Salford 33 Featherstone Rovers 12

Salford became one of the elite group of clubs to ensure a place in the last 16 of the Silk Cut Challenge Cup yesterday, first performing the small miracle of getting The Willows fit for play and then proving too resilient and resourceful for Featherstone.

First Division champions in the final winter season that has, in theory, just ended, Salford showed plenty of Cup-fighting potential as well. A tie at The Willows in the fifth round is one that few embryonic Super League teams will relish.

A Featherstone side much improved by the acquisition of Deryck Fox and Roy Powell in mid-season led through the first try of the match, from a side-stepping run by Martin Pearson, before Salford hit their stride.

It took a driving run from their Western Samoan, Lokeni Savelio, to bring the home side level and then a dreadful mistake from the Rovers full-back, Damien Mackie, to give them the lead.

Mackie was perfectly placed to drop on to a speculative kick though, but let it run past him for Nathan McAvoy to pick up and move on to Peter Edwards with a clever overhead pass to set up the try.

The visitors had plenty of possession before half-time, but failed to take advantage of the opportunities provided by some hard running in the forwards and the constant scheming of Fox.

Salford were much more adept at seizing their chances, as when Scott Naylor raced through some weak tackling three minutes into the second half to release McAvoy, the third of Steve Blakeley's seven goals giving them a 12 point lead.

Featherstone responded with a smartly worked try, set up by a run-around move between Fox and Powell and finished by Pearson, who scored all his side's points.

Another period of pressure threatened a Rovers equaliser, but when Steve Hampson - a veteran Cup campaigner and Salford's man of the match - intercepted Warren Wilson's pass near the try-line their last real chance evaporated.

Neil Roebuck was sin-binned for deliberate offside and, in his absence, Blakeley's penalty, Hampson's drop-goal and a try by Mark Lee from a scrum won against the feed put the result beyond doubt.

Paul Forber's try made it look rather simpler than it had been, but for Salford it had been worth shovelling all the snow in order to stake their early claim in round five.

Salford: Sampson: McAvoy, Naylor, Martin, Rogers; Blakeley, Lee; Young, Edwards, Eccles (Davys, 70), Forber, Savelio (Burgess 59), Panapa.

Featherstone Rovers: Mackie; Rombo, Wilson, Rodger, Simpson; Pearson, Fox; Molloy, Roebuck, Angell (Hughes, 65), Powell, Naidole, Slater (Gunn, 53).

Referee: A Bates (Workington).

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