End of season matches can sometimes been quite disappointing with nothing really on the line. This one though had everything to play for with both sides at different ends of the table. A win for Salford would guarantee fourth place but depending on the Warrington result The Red Devil’s could even snatch third from the Wolves. Hull Kr were one of four teams level on twenty points desperately fighting to avoid relegation. For the final round of the regular Super League season their were still so many permutations to how the final table would look.
Gil Dudson was missing for Salford after an injury picked up last Friday at Headingley. The Welshman has been ever present this season so far, becoming a huge favourite with the supporters. Hopefully he will be back in action for the playoffs.
Dudson’s absence paved the way for Josh Johnson to return to a side bristling with confidence. It’s well over forty years since Salford won seven top flight games on the spin. Looking back over those matches most of them haven’t just been won, they’ve have been emphatic, with Ian Watson’s men taking their opponents apart!
It’s hard to describe how on loan Salford prop Daniel Murray was feeling prior to kick off. Murray lined up for the Robins against his parent club. On the flip side Ryan Lannon started on the bench for Salford on loan from Hull kr. To their credit both have been thoroughly professional about the situation and deserve huge praise for their performances in this match.
The opening stages were very cagey, Rovers played the percentage game trying not to show their hand. Jackson Hastings came close but was held up over the line by some stout defence.
The first points went to the visitors, Josh Drinkwater raced in after Salford were bust up down the middle. Ryan Shaw converted 0-6.
The Red Devil’s finally crossed for a try in the 32nd minute. Danny McGuire was sin binned for a professional foul as Hastings and Niall Evalds broke clear. McGuire held Evalds back from an offside position.
On the next set Hastings produced a wonderful pass to set Jake Bibby up to touch down out wide. Krisnan Inu dragged his conversion slightly wide, 4-6.
On the stroke of half time Shaw added a penalty goal from around 35 yards out to edge Rovers further in front at 4-8.
The Robins fully deserved the lead having battled hard in defence and chanced their arm in attack.
Salford struck first at the start of the second half. Tui Lolohea scoring a nice try close to the posts. Inu made a porridge of what looked a fairly simple conversion. 5 minutes later Inu confidently booted home a penalty goal from 40 yards out to give Salford the lead for the first time in the match.
Rovers wouldn’t lie down though and it was former Salford forward Weller Hauraki who’s neat flick pass produced another thrilling break. This time centre Kane Linnett raced to the line to score with Shaw again accurate as ever with the kick, 10-14.
With ten minutes remaining Shaw added another penalty goal that looked to have finally sunk Salford. Moments later Rovers went for a drop goal to make the game safe but somehow it was charged down.
After a modest and somewhat mediocre 70 minutes Salford started to spring into life. The pressure mounted on the visitors with repeat sets. Clinging on for their Super League lives Rovers did everything possible to repel the onslaught.
With just forty seconds remaining Joey Lussick charged at a very weary defence to crash over. The south stand roof almost came off with the huge roar and frantic scenes of celebration. Inu had to kick to draw the scores level and he made no mistake, 16-16.
Golden point extra time followed, two halves of five minutes with first team to score winning the match. The first five minutes were a stalemate. Both sides keeping a poker face. As the clock counted down in the second period of extra time Inu calmly slotted over Salford’s first drop goal of the season to snatch the victory 17-16.
Eight wins on the trot now for the Red Devil’s and a regular season league position of third place. Our highest league finish since the 1975/76 championship winning year. A remarkable achievement for such a small squad.
Salford will now visit Wigan Warriors in the playoffs next week. A fixture that coach Ian Watson is relishing. “ We need to be tough next week, it won’t be for the faint hearted put it that way”. Speaking about the first half Watson said, “we were flat, they were first to everything, their last plays were better than ours, their kick chase was better and all the little effort areas. Keeping it simple in the second half the boys turned the tide and got the result.”
Wigan Away next Friday promises to be another fantastic away trip with Salford supporters sure to be travelling in big numbers, another match not to be missed in this wonderful season.
Salford 17 Hull kr 16