Salford Red Devils made it four wins from four in The Qualifiers despite being reduced to twelve men for a large period – and eleven in the final minute – in a heated affair against Canadian side Toronto Wolfpack at the The Salford Stadium.
Ian Watson’s men ran into a 20-0 lead before half-time with Ed Chamberlain, Rob Lui and Jackson Hastings all scoring with the second score coming while Red Devils prop-forward Lama Tasi was in the sin-bin.
Toronto tried to mount a comeback in the second half with Adam Sidlow, Matty Russell and Andy Ackers all crossing in quick succession but a neat try from Ryan Lannon and two goals from Chamberlain were enough to see off the Wolfpack. Luke Burgess and Jackson Hastings were both sent from the field for high tackles while Chase Stanley did ten minutes in the sin-bin for a spear tackle.
It took just six minutes for Salford to open the scoring with Chamberlain going over in the corner. Lui and Niall Evalds linked up well before finding the former Widnes winger who finished well. Chamberlain also followed up with the conversion.
Evalds looked to have scored himself a few minutes later however video referee James Child chalked it off for an obstruction. While the Red Devils were on top in the early stages this almost changed in the 14th minute as Tasi was sent to the sin-bin following a high tackle on former Salford man O’Brien.
But, Salford didn’t relent and Lui – who has been in terrific form since The Qualifiers began – barged his way over from close-range. Chamberlain extended the lead from the touchline before slotting over a penalty seven minutes later to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
With five minutes of the first half remaining, Salford scored a spectacular effort to further their lead. Evalds hit an inside ball and made a half-break before Lui shipped it out wide to Kris Welham. The centre raced sixty metres before some quick hands inside from Lui, Evalds and George Griffin put Hastings under the posts. Chamberlain maintained his 100% record with the boot.
While Ian Watson’s men went into half-time with a comfortable lead, Toronto fought back in the second half. Former Salford forward Sidlow powered his way over before O’Brien converted.
Former Warrington winger Russell would score shortly after as he used his pace to latch on to a low kick to the corner. O’Brien failed to convert meaning there was ten points between the sides, but the job got harder for Salford as Burgess was soon red carded for a high tackle.
The Wolfpack took advantage as Ackers snuck over from close-range. O’Brien’s conversion brought the difference down to just four points. But, it wasn’t long until Toronto also received a card as Stanley was sent for ten minutes following a spear tackle which saw Junior Sa’u finish on his head.
And, Salford immediately punished the visitors as Lannon managed to jink and force his way over the line in front of a raucous South Stand. Chamberlain’s conversion restored the hosts ten-point lead.
Tension was high heading into the final fifteen minutes, but Salford dug deep and with five minutes remaining Chamberlain notched a stunning 45-yard penalty goal which moved the Red Devils further in front meaning Toronto needed two converted tries to draw level.
With the final play of the game, Hastings – who did miss a drop-goal attempt – would see red following a late shot on O’Brien as he took a high kick. However, the Red Devils moved to eight points in The Qualifiers despite finishing the game with eleven men.
Salford: Evalds, Chamberlain, Welham, Sa’u, Bibby; Lui, Hastings; Tasi, Wood, Burgess, Jones, Griffin, Lannon. Interchanges: Kopczak, Lussick, Flanagan, Burke.
Toronto: O’Brien, Russell, Stanley, Caton-Brown; McCrone, Wallace; Lussick, Beswick, Sims, Dixon, Paterson, Buchanan. Interchanges: Ackers, Sidlow, Krasniqi, Emmitt.
Salford Tries: Chamberlain (6’), Lui (16), Hastings (35’), Lannon (62’). Salford Goals: Chamberlain (7’, 17’, 24’, 36’ 63’, 74’).
Salford Sin-Bins: Tasi (14’). Salford Red Cards: Burgess (53’), Hastings (80’).
Toronto Tries: Sidlow (47’), Russell (50’), Ackers (57). Toronto Goals: O’Brien (48’, 58).
Toronto Sin-Bins: Stanley (60’).
Referee: Robert Hicks.
Video Referee: James Child.