In the grand scheme of things this match was a playoff four pointer. Prior to kick off Salford sat in the top six with Leeds just outside. The Rhinos were in good form and looking a dangerous side going off recent weeks. Leeds had won three games on the spin after two disappointing loses to Castleford and Wakefield last month.
Salford were desperate to get back on track after three poor performances.
Once again the weather prior to kick off was warm and sunny but a thunder storm was certainly threatening.
The Rhinos were missing Blake Austin after he picked up a one match suspension. Salford welcomed back Andy Ackers, Brodie Croft and Ryan Brierley from injury. Alex Gerrard started alongside Jack Ormondroyd in the front row with Danny Addy filling in at second row.
Salford looked a lot more settled in the early stages compared to last weeks fiasco at Wakefield. The shape and dimension was back and they looked a threat again on attack.
That said, Leeds posted the first points when Cameron Smith went through a huge gap taking advantage of a mis-read in the Salford defence.
Out of nothing the Red Devils fashioned a chance for Brierley but he was thwarted by some excellent goal line defence from the visitors.
Tim Lafai and Joe Burgess linked well and looked dangerous down the left edge every time they had the ball. Croft measured a delightful kick and Lafai pounced to grab a nice try. 4-6.
Richie Myler always seems to perform against Salford and his perfect pass found Ash Handley who raced over to extend the Leeds advantage. Rhyse Martin missed the conversion but he kicked a penalty goal to give Leeds a 4-12 lead at the break.
Whatever Salford coach Paul Rowley said at half time certainly sank into his players as they started the second half in rip roaring fashion. The elusive Lafai scored on the first set on the back of another super Croft kick. The try was more or less identical the Lafai’s first half effort.
Leeds were struggling to live with Salford’s intensity! The Red Devils were fast, ferocious and direct. Within ten minutes of the second half the home side turned the game on its head and took the lead for the first time. Another Croft kick was taken superbly by the ever reliable Ken Sio. The Salford winger raced through traffic to delight the home crowd. Marc Sneyd had picked a knock up on his leg at the back end of the first half leaving Ryan Brierley with the kicking duties and the Salford fullback pulled this one wide. 14-12.
The match was end to end and despite the fairly low score you couldn’t take your eyes off it. Pulsating at times and the out come certainly now lay on a knife edge.
If you think back to the previous meeting at Headingley in May there was a fair amount of niggle and that crept in to this game too. Leeds tried their best to knock Salford off their game and when a mass brawl broke out the blue touch paper set alight.
Chris Atkin and Mikolaj Oledzki were sent to the sin bin, Oliver Partington had his shirt ripped to shreds and ended up walking round like Tarzan before Leeds were awarded a relieving penalty.
The Rhinos seemed to get away with a very messy play the ball and that was a crucial decision before they gained a penalty which Martin had no hesitation in converting to level the scores. 14-14.
The Salford supporters felt hard done to and they certainly had a case as the penalty count stacked up against the Red Devils and some pretty big 50/50 calls went against them.
Ryan Brierley got caught out by a Leeds kick as the Rhinos forced a drop out and Sneyd came up with a huge error kicking the ball out on the full. This handed Leeds a penalty under the sticks which Martin converted, 14-16.
Salford failed to gain the composure needed to snatch the win and ended up wondering how they’d lost this match.
The Red Devils are back in action next Sunday when they face Leigh in what is another huge match. At the moment Paul Rowley’s side stay sixth in the table with Leeds, Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull breathing down their necks!
Salford 14 Leeds 16.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.