Salford Red Devils progressed to the next round of the Betfred Challenge Cup after a crazy night of rugby league at the Salford Stadium.
There’s always a buzz when the cup rolls into town, but supporters were treated to an absolute points-fest, with both defences leaking points at will.
The scoring began straight away, and it did not slow down from then on. King Vuniyayawa powered us forward with a strong carry and from the next tackle, some tidy combination play between Joe Burgess and Matt Costello sent the former over in the left corner.
Ryan Brierley was hit late in our next set from the restart and Marc Sneyd’s kick into the packed East Stand pushed us even further upfield. On the third tackle, Alex Gerrard was the man to spin his man and scurry over to the left of the sticks.
The next ten minutes were quiet on the scoring front, but we still continued to show our intent, with Costello and Brierley both forcing repeat sets with some dogged work on the last.
Like throughout the contest, we sprung into life close to the Giants line and lovely, deft grubber kick from Brodie Croft sent the skipper, Kallum Watkins charging through and extend our lead.
We were on fire, and a nice move just minutes later gave Rhys Williams the chance to bare down on the Huddersfield line. Our number 22, after a few shimmies inside and out, crashed over in the right corner.
Sneyd – who finished seven from seven with the boot – was adding to the Giants misery with a few pinpoint conversions from out wide.
But suddenly, the game flipped in an instant.
Sam Hewitt was the first to score for the Giants, running a good line, at the right time, to stroll under the sticks.
Salford were penalised for offside on their own try line just four minutes later and Luke Yates – who was a difference-maker off the bench – made the break to score again.
We attempted to refocus and rally back to our best in attack, but a nice move involving Costello, Burgess and Atkin ended with the referee pulling back the try for a forward pass.
From that set, former red, Jake Bibby closed the gap with a finish in the right corner, right on the half-time hooter.
HALF-TIME: Salford Red Devils 24-16 Huddersfield Giants
Paul Rowley’s side know they had to tighten-up in the second forty and were given another scare when Tui Lolohea kept the ball alive on the last. He released Yates, who broke through and score and bring the Giants within two.
Salford really needed a break and were afforded the field position when Brierley was hit high by Kevin Naiqama.
Sneyd sent a high bomb on the last and miscommunication in the Giants line allowed Burgess to grasp the loose ball in the right corner, with the simple task of touching down.
It was the same source who created the same problems for our next try – but this time in the opposite corner. Williams the happy recipient of a fumble to score his second of the night.
Our number seven – who really is Challenge Cup royalty – was at it again a few minutes later, but this time with his hands rather than his feet.
Deon Cross made a lovely break through the centre and offloaded to Sneyd, who had open grass ahead of him to charge through and score.
That may have looked like game set and match, but three tries in the final ten minutes for the Giants made it very, very nervy in the final minutes.
Lolohea was the first to cut the gap with a scoot from dummy-half, with Jake Connor quickly adding the extras.
Naiqama was the next when he used his electric speed to shimmy past the Salford line and slide over to the right of the sticks.
Yates – and Connor’s conversion – cut the gap to just two yet again when he bagged his third, but despite a late scare by Will Pryce, Salford clung on to their lead and a place in the quarter final.
FULL-TIME: Salford Red Devils 44-42 Huddersfield Giants
Photo credit – Steve McCormick