Salford pushed to the limit by confident Paris

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The Independent Online
Rugby League

Salford 8 Paris St-Germain 4

Paris's Foreign Legion went desperately close to a Challenge Cup upset that would have reverberated throughout the British game at The Willows yesterday.

Treated as a joke for much of last season, Paris survived in Super League by abandoning much of their freewheeling French approach to the game and adopting a more structured English pattern.

Under their new Australian coach, Peter Mulholland, and with a new batch of Australian players, they play Australian rugby at its most methodical and gave Salford a tremendous fright. But for two crucial decisions that went against them, it could be Paris in the bag for the quarter-final draw today.

A team that has only played together twice and lacked a number of its key members through injuries and suspensions showed from the start that it was going to be hard to break down. Only the handling skills of John Cartwright gave them any real cause for concern in the first half and even then they always managed to re-group in defence to keep Salford out. They led through two penalties from their stand-off, Jeremy Robinson, and their hosts were becoming increasingly frustrated.

The first of the decisive moments that took the game away from them came five minutes into the second half when they failed to cover their left wing, and Fata Sini pounced on Mark Lee's cross kick to level the scores.

Paris went close to going back in front when Jamie Olejnik got over the try line but was bundled into touch. Then, just after the hour, they had Wayne Sing sinbinned for a debatable holding offence at the play-the-ball and Ian Watson kicked a simple penalty to put Salford ahead.

If that was a controversial ruling by the referee, Salford's other points were a gift presented to them when Deon Bird put a drop-out straight into touch.

Most controversially of all, Tony Wall was denied a try two minutes from time when a pass was ruled forward.

Salford: Rogers; Sini, Naylor, McAvoy, Coussons; Watson, Lee; Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Forber, Cartwright, Hulme. Substitutes used: Faimilo, Savelio.

Paris St-Germain: Bird; Wall, Keough, Olejnik, Evans; Robinson, J Martin; Taylor, O'Donnell, Sands, Sing, Hancock, Lomax. Substitutes used: Bellamy, Durkin, Jaavuo, Bergman.

Referee: S Presley (Castleford).