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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Salford book European slot

SALFORD secured their return to European competition for the first time in nearly 20 years when they beat National League play-off rivals Ruislip Eagles 32-24 on Sunday.

The victory keeps Salford top of the play-off table and extends their unbeaten run to 23 games. It also ensures they will finish in the top three, thereby giving them a spot in the European Challenge Trophy.

Salford's coach Bill Baillie said after the game: "This was a great result for us. Not only has it kept our place at the top of the league but it has also given us a great confidence boost for our next match against reigning league champions London GD. The fact that it has also secured our return to European Competition is just a massive bonus and reflects on all the hard work that has been put in this season.”

Any game against Ruislip is a tough test. Having been leaders of the southern section for much of the season and having defeated Salford on their last three meetings, Ruislip would go into the game as favourites. However, Salford were keen to exorcise past demons and come out of the game with the win they needed to secure a much prized European spot.

The game started off close with both sides swapping early goals, after 10 minutes Salford had managed to retain a slender one goal lead at 4:3. As the half progressed the crowd were entertained by some attractive handball from both sides. But, the strength of the Salford defence combined with their speed and creativity in attack meant that Salford never relinquished their early lead.

With 25 minutes gone Salford were four up, but some late mistakes in the half allowed the southerners to come back to within two at half time, Salford going in ahead 14:12.

The second half started well for Salford as they extended their lead to five goals. However, Ruislip weren't going to give in without a fight and brought the score back to within three. But that was the closest they were to come.

The strength of the Salford defence just proved too much for the Ruislip attack. Every goal scored had to be hard won. The Salford defence was unyielding, so much so that only four shots on the Salford goal came from the six-metre line.

Ruislip's attempts to break through being akin to King Knute trying to stop the tide. A sterling team effort combined with probably the performance of the day from Salford's Matt Lee made sure that just wasn't going to happen.

After 40 minutes of the game the constant pressure told and Salford managed to further extend their lead. After 50 minutes it was back out to 5 goals and by the end of the game the gap had grown to 8. Salford ending up deserved winners by 32 goals to 24.

Notable performances on the day came from Salford's Rafik Tahraoui and Ruislip's Ludovic Cros who both scored eight goals. But, as already mentioned, the performance of the day came from Salford's defensive stalwart Matt Lee.

* In other play-off action, London GD maintained second spot with a 31-20 victory over Manchester, while Cambridge won the clash of the bottom two, beating Leeds Hornets 29-13.

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