Salford Red Devils were eliminated by Hull KR in the quarter-final of the Betfred Challenge Cup.
As expected, the atmosphere inside a packed Craven Park was intimidating and a classic cup tie was in the offing.
After such a high-scoring affair in the last round, Paul Rowley’s side looked to create scoring opportunities from the opening set, but a nice passing sequence between Sam Stone and Marc Sneyd ended with the ball being stolen from our number seven.
KR made nice metres in their set and a knock-on by Salford allowed the Robins to score their first points of the game.
Ryan Hall crashed over on the left, despite some sprawling efforts by Ryan Brierley and Deon Cross.
The Red Devils tried to respond quickly and a strong tackle from Oliver Partington afforded us a full set just 10 metres out.
Marc Sneyd tried to make things happen – dancing past multiple bodies – but his attempted offload was deflected and Elliot Minchella was first to the loose ball.
After a few half-breaks, George King pierced a hole and bumped off Brierley 20 metres from the try line. Looking certain to score, Kallum Watkins made an incredible, superman dive to deny the forward a certain try.
Back in the team, Joe Burgess was making things happen on the left and almost scored a brilliant try when he shook off a few bodies.
The next play looked promising, but a loose pass presented KR possession.
Brodie Croft was the next to try his look with a high bomb, but the referee almost instantly blew for offside on Brierley.
Going straight down the other end, some neat, short passing between Tom Opacic and Tanguy Zenon sent the former sliding under the sticks.
The next 15 minutes was error-filled for both sides, with Minchella seeing yellow after a scuffle between the two teams.
It presented Salford a golden opportunity, but Chris Atkin’s short pass to Adam Sidlow was knocked-on.
KR – buoyed by their defensive efforts – struck just before half-time. Mikey Lewis scurried from dummy-half and broke the Salford line, but was stopped in stunning fashion by Brierley.
A quick play-the-ball allowed the Robins time to create an overload and Kane Linnett was the one to crash over in the left corner.
HALF-TIME: Hull KR 18-0 Salford Red Devils
Our cup journey was slipping away and we needed a fast start to the second-half.
Croft, Burgess and then Lafai kept the ball alive with some incredible tenacity, creating an opening for the Samoan to power over in the left corner.
Sneyd’s conversion was wide, but our play in attacking areas was now creating KR issues – particularly on the left edge.
Burgess, Croft and Sneyd all tried to carve an opening with the boot, but each one was thwarted by Hull’s defence.
The boot of Adam Milnes was the difference down the other end. His grubber kick was claimed by Shaun Kenny-Dowall to stroll under the sticks and all-but secure progression for the Robins.
It was a try that gave the hosts confidence, with Dean Hadley the next to capitalise on a mistake and cross for the Robins.
Burgess grabbed a consolation with a minute to go, but the full-time hooter signalled the end of our Challenge Cup journey for 2023.
FULL-TIME: Hull KR 28-10 Salford Red Devils
Photo credit: Steve McCormick