Salford coach Paul Rowley had the luxury of playing an unchanged side in this playoff chasing fixture at Huddersfield. Both sides were in the hunt for the top six and both knew that defeat in this fixture would be a significant blow with only half a dozen matches left. Rowley and his opposition coach Ian Watson were both finally working with settled spines so an exciting game was expected.
The pitch was in immaculate condition almost like a bowling green as both sides marched out for kick off. Their was plenty of nervous tension in the air and the match started in a caging fashion. This hampered both sides as the opening quarter was littered with errors. Knock on’s and forward passes kept the match scoreless but Salford enjoyed the majority of possession and attacking territory.
The opening try came against the run of play really. Luke Yates broke through but Kallum Watkins intervened with a terrific ankle tap. On the next play the ball came loose and another former Salford player Jake Bibby was on the spot to touch down. Referee Liam Moore consulted with his in goal judge before awarding the try. Oliver Russell converted to put the Giants 6-0 up.
Salford’s response was immediate. Brodie Croft delayed a pass to perfection and Ryan Brierley received it to charge over for a brilliantly worked try. Marc Sneyd converted to level the score at 6-6.
The Giants had Tui Lolohea in the halves with Jake Connor at fullback. Both players rarely threatened Salford. Joe Burgess was tested on numerous occasions with Connor’s huge high kicks but everyone he gobbled up as cool as you like.
At thirty five years old Chris Hill is still one of the best props in the country and he worked tirelessly for the Giants. Both Hill and Salford prop Brad Singleton played the majority of the first half working there socks of in the pack.
Russell nudged the home side in front with a penalty goal but Salford didn’t deserve to trail at half time. The Red Devils were rewarded for their persistence when back rower Sam Stone showed lovely footwork before having the presence of mind to reach out and score six minutes before the interval.
Both changing rooms would of made interesting ear wigging at the break after a stop start first half but whatever Paul Rowley and Kurt Haggerty said definitely sunk in.
Salford attacked down their right edge and Brierley raced away but somehow lost the ball in a super cover tackle. Kallum Watkins looked set to score but just over ran the pass. The warning signs were there for the home side and when they committed the cardinal sin of letting a high kick bounce Salford made it count. Stone played to the whistle collecting the loose ball to score. Sneyd converted to give Salford a ten point lead 8-18.
The game was still very much in the balance. The Giants are a side that like to complete well and pin you in your own half with a measured kicking game. At times that kicking game was off the mark and a fraction too long going over the dead ball line therefore giving Salford a seven tackle set. The Red Devils dug in relentlessly. Oliver Partington was magnificent in defence tackling the Giants to a standstill. Connor and Lolohea seemed to run out of ideas and Salford cashed in.
The rain was now coming down making the pitch greasy. A perfectly measured kick provided Ken Sio with his one hundredth Super League try.
Chris Atkin came off the bench to spark Salford a touch more and it was Atkin who scored the try of the night to wrap the match up. Watkins and Deon Cross were instrumental in teeing up Atkin for the visitors fifth try of the night. Sneyd made it five from five with the conversions and as the full time hooter sounded Sneyd tagged on a penalty goal after a moment of frustration from Connor.
The Red Devils are now back up to sixth in the league table with a home fixture against bottom club Wakefield next Friday. Every point is vital now in the run in and Trinity will be desperate next week having lost at home to relegation rivals Castleford this weekend.
Every club in the Super League has something to play for in what is becoming one of the most exciting seasons for a long time.
This win could work wonders for Salford’s confidence. They were dogged and committed. Giants coach Watson was complimentary to his former team saying they were the better side and wanted it more. Paul Rowley and assistant Kurt Haggerty were as humble as ever but delighted with the hard work and spirit there side produced.
Huddersfield 8 Salford 32.
Big thanks to Steve McCormick for the photos.