Salford Red Devils perfect record in The Qualifiers came to an end in controversial fashion at the Emerald Headingley Stadium as a last-minute penalty goal gave Leeds an 18-16 victory.
It was a back-and-forth encounter which saw Leeds go into the break with a narrow lead as Tom Briscoe and Jimmy Keinhorst scored either side of Niall Evalds’ effort. However, Salford twice levelled in the second half through Greg Burke and Derrell Olpherts. Briscoe grabbed a second for the Rhinos.
But, in the dying stages James Child awarded a penalty for a swinging arm on former Red Devil Richie Myler and Liam Sutcliffe won Leeds the game with a 15m penalty from in front of the posts.
It was Leeds who opened the scoring after just seven minutes. Keinhorst managed to wriggle a hand free in the tackle before flicking the ball out to winger Tom Briscoe who finished well.
However, their lead only last a matter of minutes as Salford scored with their first opportunity in Rhinos territory. Rob Lui and Josh Wood – who came into the side for the suspended Jackson Hastings – linked up well before Niall Evalds dummied and sliced his way through Leeds’ defensive line.
The Rhinos had the better of the first half but some resolute defence from Salford kept them at bay until the final moments of the half. Liam Sutcliffe broke from his own 70m line and found Keinhorst in support who would race to the corner to give the hosts a four-point advantage going into the break.
Leeds were reduced to twelve men for ten minutes in the second half as Brett Ferres was penalised for a crusher tackle on Tyrone McCarthy. Salford took advantage a few minutes later as Greg Burke powered his way over from close-range following a handful of sets on the Leeds line.
But, the Rhinos again pulled themselves ahead when Briscoe went in for his second of the evening. Ian Watson’s men didn’t go down lying and applied more pressure to the Leeds try-line with Rob Lui coming close.
The Red Devils did eventually go over again as Evalds broke from deep before finding Jansin Turgut who couldn’t reach the line. On the play after the ball was shipped wide and found its way to Derrell Olpherts who finished well. Ed Chamberlain slotted the touchline conversion under pressure to level the scores.
In the final minute of the game, referee Child awarded a penalty to Leeds for an apparent swinging arm on Myler. Sutcliffe converted and won the game for the hosts with the last kick of the game as Salford’s hoodoo at Leeds goes on.
Leeds: Walker, T. Briscoe, Keinhorst, Moon, L. Briscoe; Sutcliffe, Myler; Crosby, Dwyer, Singleton, Ferres, Jones-Buchanan, Thomspon. Interchanges: Parcell, Cuthbertson, Peteru, Smith.
Salford: Evalds, Bibby, Chamberlain, Welham, Olpherts; Lui, Wood; Tasi, Lussick, Lannon, Jones, McCarthy, Flanagan. Interchanges: Kopczak, Murray, Burke, Turgut.
Leeds Tries: T. Briscoe (7’, 64’), Keinhorst (36’). Leeds Conversion: Sutcliffe (37’, 65’, 80’)
Salford Tries: Evalds (11’), Burke (55’), Olpherts (69’). Salford Conversions: Chamberlain (56’, 70’)
Leeds Sin-Bin: Ferres (53’) – crusher tackle.
Referee: James Child.
Touch Judges: Richard Thomspon & Andrew Tolley.