The way the league is structured these days you can play the same team home or away twice. That was the case on this occasion with Leeds visitors to the AJ Bell Stadium for the second time in 2022. The two sides met here two months ago when Salford stormed back in the second half to win 26-12. Since then the Red Devils have lost six straight matches however recent brave performances away at Wigan and St.Helens will certainly give the players some belief and confidence.
Leeds have faired better in their last six games with victories over Hull Kingston Rovers and Toulouse at Headingley and a draw against Huddersfield.
The Rhinos have a new coach in Rohan Smith and Zak Hardacker has returned to the club.
Salford’s squad was stretched to the limit last time out at St.Helens. For today’s match the side was boosted by the return of key players. Joe Burgess, Ryan Brierley, Tim Lafai, Marc Sneyd and Elijah Taylor. Harvey Livett made a welcome return after a lengthy time out with injury.
Zak Hardacker made the Leeds lineup with the Rhinos starting with Kruise Leeming and Blake Austin in the halves.
In an explosive start to the match both sides had chances. Salford took the lead in the tenth minute after a flowing move was finished by top try scorer Ken Sio. The Red Devils took full advantage from the restart making it back to back tries. Livett put Lafai away and Burgess backed up to coast in to double the lead. Sneyd thumped the conversion over to put Salford in control 10-0.
Burgess came up with a howler at the other end throwing a real hospital pass to Ken Sio. From the scrum Leeds went in to score from winger Ash Handley.
Burgess then forced a drop out after he chased his own kick to trap Leeds in goal. On the next set debutant Tyler Dupree was denied a try for a double movement by referee James Child.
Leeds enjoyed plenty of first half territory but Salford really stood up in defence. Brierley and Sneyd stopped a certain try when they managed to get under Cameron Smith to hold him up over the line.
Salford’s third try came from a super Croft kick. The ball hit the post and in a slice of good fortune Andy Ackers touched down to extend the lead.
Kallum Watkins saved a try just before the break with a great piece of textbook defence as Salford took a deserved 16-4 lead at half time.
The Rhinos seemed to get a grip of second half and managed to repel most of the onslaughts Salford threw at them. With just thirteen minutes remaining Sneyd very wisely dropped a goal to nudge his side thirteen points clear.
The Red Devils brought the home supporters to their feet with another fantastic team try. Man of the match Croft dropped his shoulder and cruised threw a gap before finding the support from Brierley who raced in under the posts.
Croft was sensational with ball in hand but his defence deserves all the accolades too. He did the tough stuff all afternoon, his work rate and dedication are a joy to watch.
Andy Ackers was sent to the sin bin with five minutes remaining with Leeds scoring a try on the back of that. The day though belonged to Salford. After huge efforts with no rewards recently today could be the turning point in the season. With Castleford visitors to the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday it’s the perfect opportunity to build some momentum.
Salford 23 Leeds 8.
Thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos